Saturday, May 21, 2011

Shepherd492 reviews: Star Wars: Tales From The Mos Eisley Cantina

Star Wars: Tales From The Mos Eisley Cantina (Various Authors)




Note that, because this is a collection of sixteen different stories, I will be reviewing this in a different format than usual, each story is worth six points, with twenty additional points for the book as a whole. I will only write around a paragraph for each story instead of the usual breakdown.

We Don't Do Weddings: The Band's Tale (Kathy Tyers)
The story of how the Bith musicians came to be employed at Chalmun's Cantina, We Don't Do Weddings is entirely forgettable, the band taking a passive role in all of the conflicts. The only interesting aspect of this novel is the first person narrative (a rarity in Star Wars literature), however the character is not particularly interesting, so I can't say that it adds anything to the story.
Sub Score: 1/6

A Hunter's Fate: Greedo's Tale (Martha and Tom Veitch)
This story is about Greedo's life and upbringing all the way from birth on a planet hidden from the rival Rodian clans, to his fateful encounter in the Mos Eisley Cantina. Fairly interesting even if Greedo is repeatedly made to be the clumsy, stupid thug that he is. You probably won't like him any more after reading this but you may grow a deeper understanding of him. A sub-plot stemming from Greedo's death is also kind of clever and an unexpected way to tie the beginning of his life to the end. There was only one technique that I didn't like about this story, firstly, anytime somebody speaks in an alien language, it is translated in the next sentence, an example is on page 57 when Greedo, encountering Han Solo in a restaurant on Tatooine, the second of three attempts to get the money he owes for Jabba, says "Rylun pa getpa gushu, Solo?" Since we aren't Rodians, the next sentence explains what he said "Enjoy your breakfast, Solo?" While I don't mind a bit of alien dialogue to add mystique and an alien sense to the universe, this is the wrong way to do it. Instead of translating blatantly, the authors should have given context clues in Han's next sentence that gives the reader the gist of what is going on, something like how Chewbacca was handled in the movies (and earlier in this novel, for that matter). Overall this is one of the better tales in this collection, even if it is contradicted by later works (through no fault of its own).
Sub Score: 5/6

Hammertong: The Tale Of The Tonnika Sisters (Timothy Zahn)
The initial sequence assaulting the Imperial compound was excellent, with some interesting tactics and weapons demonstrated by the Mistryl team, in addition to plenty of obstacles and conflicts presented by the Imperial defenders. The plot somewhat slackens from there, as the Mistryl assume the identity of the Tonnika sisters to attempt to find a spacer to help them take the Hammertong off the world of Tatooine, where they have crash landed. I didn't really get why they needed the disguises, except as an excuse to write them into further trouble, it doesn't seem overly likely that they would have trouble in their regular guise. The reveal of Hammertong's purpose was handled well, and it certainly set up a possible sequel to this story. Overall it was great at the beginning, somewhat slow in the middle, and decent at the end.
Sub Score: 5/6

Play It Again Figrin D'an: Kabe and Muftak's Tale (A.C. Crispin)
Though the contrasts between Kabe and Muftak were perhaps too overdone and made the tale too much like a bad "buddy cop" movie at times, Muftak's quest to find out more about his species and homeworld was very intriguing, and the raid on Jabba's safehouse in Mos Eisley was well written, even if it felt alittle too easy in places. A good tale, the ridiculous contrast of the two main characters works at times, is horrible at others, but mostly entertains in one of the lightest tales in the collection.
Sub Score: 4/6

The Sandtender: The Hammerhead's Tale (Dave Wolverton)
The Hammerhead's conflict with the Imperial Lieutenant is the highlight of this novel, and while I enjoyed their dialogues and the Hammerhead's inner struggle concerning how to resolve the conflict, and while the conclusion was fitting, I would've liked a fight between the two. This would've tested Hammerhead's will much more than having him lie, and have the lieutenant inadvertently get killed. The Ithorian culture was also very interesting and the idea of an oasis just outside of Mos Eisley was neat, if somewhat hard to believe.
Sub Score 5/6

Be Still My Heart: The Bartender's Tale (David Bischoff)
This tale is basically one big riff on Wuher's (the bartender) hatred of droids. While that is a decent idea, this tale was amazingly bad. Especially the dialogue, with this line coming from Doctor Evazan (the scarface guy that bullies Luke in the cantina) "Take it from me-Doctor Evazan. I've had many drinks in all twelve systems in which I've obtained a death sentence and these drinks here pass muster!" pretty much summing up the awful dialog.This, coupled with the bartender's overly eloquent, sensitive thoughts towards the end of the tale make it far too implausible to enjoy on any level.
Sub Score 0/6

Nightlily: The Lovers' Tale (Barbara Hambly)
Although it started off slow, the ending was, while lightly foreshadowed throughout, still surprising. The main character is written very well in terms of his thoughts on his bride-to-be, but unfortunately his constant elitist attitude (pretty much all he thinks about for the duration of the story is how much better he is than everybody else) makes it somewhat of an annoying read, could've definitely done without it.
Sub Score 4/6

Empire Blues: The Devaronian's Tale (Daniel Keys Moran)
This story manages to create an excellent voice from its main character, a music loving spy that betrayed his comrades in a civil war on his homeworld. It has plenty of human, relate able features, but it also retains an alien sense in references to his home world culture and musical tastes. One of my favorites from the anthology even if the plot was somewhat lacking.
Sub Score 6/6

Swap Meet: The Jawa's Tale (Kevin J. Anderson)
The idea of a brave Jawa was kind of interesting, and the insight into Jawa customs and culture was appreciated, but his method of trying to change the inter-species dynamics on Tatooine was dull and uninspired. Would've liked something more fitting for a Jawa, or really just something that showed any level of creativity. I also didn't understand why the Jawa would randomly give the Ranat his blaster while he was inspecting the talisman, rationale behind that would've helped the ending tremendously.
Sub Score 3/6

Trade Wins: The Ranat's Tale (Rebecca Moesta)
A companion piece to Jawa's Tale, this story is a bit of insight into the culture of the Ranats, and also an insight into the fate of the Jawa in the aforementioned tale. Weak on its own, slightly better when tacked on to the end of the previous piece.
Sub Score 1/6

When The Desert Wind Turns: The Stormtrooper's Tale (Doug Beason)
Overall very good, with informative depictions of stormtrooper training and the like, was also interesting to learn that a flaw in the AT-AT's design was exposed, but was quickly covered up under the assumption that the rebels would never know to exploit it. Felth's (the main character) defection to the Rebellion explains how they knew to use "harpoons and tow cables" in Empire Strikes back, though I really didn't like his reasons for shooting his superior officer. For all he knew the poor guy was just doing as he was instructed.
Sub Score 5/6

Soup's On: The Pipe Smoker's Tale (Jennifer Robeson)
An extremely weird character study of an Anzati (think vampire with concealed proboscis instead of fangs), the writing style here was excellent and the author did an amazing job of getting into this very strange character's head while also filling you in on what type of being he is. The only drawback is that there isn't much in the way of a plot.
Sub Score 6/6

At The Crossroads: The Spacer's Tale (Jerry Oltion)
Reveals the story of BoShek, the character Obi-Wan is seen talking with at the beginning of the cantina scene. Their conversation is actually rather unexpected, and his struggle to understand the force is handled well until the end, where it seemed he learned to harness it skillfully without explanation, and under duress.
Sub Score 4/6

Doctor Death: The Tale of Doctor Evazan and Ponda Baba (Kenneth C. Flint)
This story is a fairly cliche rendition of a mad scientist movie. Evazan is portrayed as being far too intelligent than what we saw in the movies, though his pet companion was somewhat enjoyable. Ponda Baba isn't given much of the spotlight here, and the lack of interaction between the two is a major hindrance to the overall plot. The atmosphere of the story, along with some very good fight scenes, make up for some of its character issues.
Sub Score 3/6

Drawing The Maps Of Peace: The Moisture Farmer's Tale (M. Shayne Bell)
This tale of reconciliation between the Sand People, Jawas, and Moisture Farmers is easily among the best in the collection, even if the protagonist isn't even a part of the cantina scene. The end of this tale is truly tragic. especially because of the writer's talent for making the character and his struggles connect with the reader.
Sub Score 6/6

One Last Night In The Mos Eisley Cantina: The Tale Of The Wolfman And Lamproid (Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens)
One of the most poignant, beautiful tales in the collection, this story details both the fates of these two minor characters and the inner workings of the Force. Though the wolfman is a highly derivative character and the lamproid looks extremely weird (basically a toothed worm with four arms), their relationship is still incredibly compelling and the flashbacks were very well done. The wolfman's final choice was understandable though something of the story was lost when his final sacrifice turned out to be in vain.
Sub Score 6/6

Conclusion
When viewed as a whole, the collection holds up rather well. The continuity and references from one story to another (The Jawa's tale being mentioned in at least three other stories I can remember, for example) really help to bring Mos Eisley alive and intertwine the stories in a way that makes them feel like part of a greater tapestry instead of sixteen self contained works. With so many stories, there are some problems with referencing the events of Episode IV, you will read the same scene over and over again, and although it is generally in a different context each time, it does get old. I would've also liked stories from a different variety of characters, and I didn't understand why two characters on the cover of the book weren't featured in the collection at all. Overall a very solid set of stories with only a handful of below average works.
Sub Score 15/20

Final Score
79/100

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