Tales from Jabba’s Palace: Book Review

Cropped version of the cover of Tales of Jabba's Palace

This time I’ve got the second of the Star Wars short story collections with Tales from Jabba’s Palace.

Tales from Jabba's Palace Book Cover

Stories (Not Exatly In Order):

  • “A Boy and His Monster: The Rancor Keeper’s Tale” by Kevin J. Anderson
  • “Taster’s Choice: The Tale of Jabba’s Chef” by Barbara Hambly
  • “That’s Entertainment: The Tale of Salacious Crumb” by Esther M. Friesner
  • “A Time to Mourn, a Time to Dance: Oola’s Tale” by Kathy Tyers
  • “Let Us Prey: The Whiphid’s Tale” by Marina Fitch and Mark Budz
  • “Sleight of Hand: The Tale of Mara Jade” by Timothy Zahn
  • “And Then There Were Some: The Gamorrean Guard’s Tale” by William F. Wu
  • Old Friends: Ephant Mon’s Tale” by Kenneth C. Flint
  • “Goatgrass: The Tale of Ree-Yees” by Deborah Wheeler
  • “And the Band Played On: The Band’s Tale” by John Gregory Betancourt
  • “Of the Day’s Annoyances: Bib Fortuna’s Tale” by M. Shayne Bell
  • “The Great God Quay: The Tale of Barada and the Weequays” by George Alec Effinger
  • “A Bad Feeling: The Tale of EV-9D9” by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens
  • “A Free Quarren in the Palace: Tessek’s Tale” by Dave Wolverton
  • “Tongue-tied: Bubo’s Tale” by Daryl F. Mallett
  • “Out of the Closet: The Assassin’s Tale” by Jennifer Roberson
  • “Shaara and the Sarlacc: The Skiff Guard’s Tale” by Dan’l Danehy-Oakes
  • “A Barve Like That: The Tale of Boba Fett” by Daniel Keys Moran (under the pseudonym J.D. Montgomery)
  • “Skin Deep: The Fat Dancer’s Tale” by A. C. Crispin
  • Epilogue: Whatever Became Of…?

Edited by Kevin J. Anderson.

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Plot Notes

I’d compare this book’s plot to the plot of the film Traffic, as it follows each of various members of Jabba’s entourage leading up to the events of Return of the Jedi, and the fateful voyage of Jabba’s sail barge to the Sarlacc, with a few additional stories carrying over to the aftermath in Jabba’s Palace.

The events of Return of the Jedi themselves, with a couple of exceptions, generally stay on the fringes of the story – mainly because, with a couple of exceptions, most of these characters are engrossed in their own plots, often with the intent of assassinating Jabba the Hutt. However, because they’re not coordinating and are working at cross purposes, or with cross aims, they end up undermining each others’ plans. Further, because everyone is trying to kill Jabba, Luke and Leia’s plan flys under the radar until it’s too late.

Everyone assumes that their plan is the only one that will work, and in the course of carrying out their plan they undermine someone else’s plan, which forces that person to change their plan which undermines someone else, and on and on in a weird perpetual motion domino chain. Also, none of them believe the Jedi exist.

Consequently, because a lot of these characters are on Jabba’s Sail Barge during Jabba’s death (and the barge’s explosion), a lot of these characters are killed there. Of those who aren’t, many more are killed in the aftermath at Jabba’s palace, as pretty much everyone makes a break for freedom, or treasure, or revenge. That, or people get effectively killed by the B’omarr monks, who decide to start just grabbing members of Jabba’s court and taking out their brains to put in jars.

Worldbuilding

We are introduced to the B’omarr monks, who believe in isolating themselves from feeling and emotion, ultimately by removing their brains from their skulls and putting them in nutrient jars, which they occasionally would use to travel around inside spider-droids. Well, they claim they believe that – the fact that they would go on to forcibly recruit a whole slew of members of Jabba’s court, including Bib Fortuna, after Jabba’s death, would imply that there is a certain degree of intellectual dishonesty at play.

We also see Weequay society and… um… this is really bad – like I can’t tell what the hell they were going for on this – whether this is meant to be a parody of bureaucracy, or if this is some atheist writer trying to do an over-the-top mocking parody of religion so they could pat themselves on the back over how clever they are as opposed to “Those Morons”.

Character Development

  • Bib Fortuna: One of many people plotting to kill Jabba, his plan utterly fails, and before he can take control of Jabba’s empire, he’s captured by the B’omarr and “recruited”.
  • Boba Fett: We see how he got out of the Sarlacc, through a combination of luck, cunning, and being good at riling people up.
  • Mara Jade: Ultimately, she fails at getting on Jabba’s sail barge due to basically running into about half of the murder plots in the palace.

Final Thoughts

I did not like this book very much at all. This is a very bleak story, with each story basically being its own tail of sorrow, hopelessness, and despair. If Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina worked well because of the variety of the tone of the various stories, this fails because of the uniformity. In short, the only way to get a break from the hopelessness is to stop reading the collection and read something else for a bit.

Ultimately, this made the book something of a slog to read. If these stories were originally collected in, say, a Star Wars magazine, and interspersed with stories from the other collections, I’d be down for it. As it stands, I just can’t recommend this book. The humor is kind of mean spirited, and only one of the stories, the story of Yarna d’al’ Gargan, the “Fat Dancer” ends on any kind of hopeful note. Give this book a miss.

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