Book Review – Journey to ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ – ‘Canto Bight’

Authors: Saladin Ahmed, Rae Carson, Mira Grant, John Jackson Miller
Cover Artist: Matt Taylor
Publisher: Century (UK); Del Rey (US)
Release Date: 5th December 2017 (UK & US)
Available Formats: Hardback (320 Pages), Hardback Barnes & Noble Exclusive (320 pages + 8 pages of colour photos), eBook (320 pages) and Audiobook (2 CD)
Timeline: 34 years ABY (After Battle of Yavin)

Synopsis;

Soon to be seen in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, welcome to the casino city of Canto Bight. A place where exotic aliens, captivating creatures, and other would-be high rollers are willing to risk everything to make their fortunes. Set across one fateful evening, these four interconnected stories explore the deception and danger of the lavish casino city.

• An honest salesman meets a career criminal as a dream vacation turns into the worst nightmare imaginable, in a story by Saladin Ahmed.

• Dreams and schemes collide when a deal over a priceless bottle of wine becomes a struggle for survival, as told by Mira Grant.

• Old habits die hard when a servant is forced into a mad struggle for power among Canto Bight’s elite, in a tale by Rae Carson

• A deadbeat gambler has one last chance to turn his luck around; all he has to do is survive one wild night, as told by John Jackson Miller.

In Canto Bight, one is free to revel in excess, untouched from the problems of a galaxy once again descending into chaos and war. Dreams can become reality, but the stakes have never been higher—for there is a darkness obscured by all the glamour and luxury.

Review;

I really do like the cover by Matt Taylor. The choice of colour is complimentary and it does jump out when on the bookshelf. The lettering pops for me with red, but a subtle trace of the illustrations behind seeping through. The illustration itself helps introduce some of the main players in the groups of stories of which some are taken from promotional shots that have been released.

Multiple authors and stories in one bind is not new, but as a lead into a major film, this is a great idea. There are 4 stories told by 4 great writers, but it is the way the characters and small parts of the storylines interact with each other and the film is very clever. I’m sure this was part of the brief for each writer from the Disney-Lucasfilm story group.

The first novella is entitled ‘Rules of the Game’ and is written by Saladin Ahmed. This is a classic telling of a story of the strong using the weak and naïve to their advantage. Bright lights, big city is a phrase we all use often when going somewhere new and I have experienced this first hand over the years. When you visit that place of wonderment your guard is dropped and all of a sudden you start to believe things that you’d normally question or laugh off in your usual surroundings. Kedpin Shoklop falls foul of this scenario and ends up being the patsy in a gangland assassination attempt. A good story to start with and sets the stall out nicely for what is to come.

Second out is ‘The Wine in Dreams’ by Mira Grant which is about the purchase of a mystical bottle of wine. Derla Pidys is a sommelier of notoriety who is chasing that bottle for a client. It is owned by twin sisters Parallela and Rhomby Grammus, but local club owner Ubialla Gheal also wants in on the action. I love a glass of red wine, but for me this wasn’t a story for me. I struggled with it as I did not think the story flowed as well as it could. That may also be down to me or the author having to get so much content and movement into such a short story. I did not understand the Grammus twin’s actions and motives that well, so a re-read will be required for me in the not too distant future.

Third story is written by Rae Carson and goes by ‘Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing’. I really do like the lead character of Lexo Sooger. A great little back story with his past and his human daughter and the story just shows how far a parent will go to protect their family. A masseuse with a reputation to relieve the greatest of tension in any species, but this job has given him the knowledge of the weaknesses on most beings skeletal makeup. A character I would like to see a bit more about in the future, not on screen, but possibly a spin-off short story or comic book would be pretty cool.

Finally, closing the book is ‘The Ride’ by John Jackson Miller and my favourite story in the book. Kaljach Sonmi is a paid gambler who plays for the casino against their patrons, but his job has got the better of him and he has debt to pay with a limited time to do so. I really enjoyed the interaction between Sonmi and the Suerton brothers Thodibin, Dodibin and Wodibin. These are the reptilian looking characters that feature on the front cover and to me are like Canto Bight’s very own Marx Brothers who have a system for gambling mixed with array of luck that can win big or fail miserably. The story is easy to read and keeps a great pace throughout. A great amount of tension, but has John Jackson Miller put a moral story in there? Was it intentional? I don’t know, but if you ever want to start to understand gambling and its path to addiction and financial ruin, I think this story holds an insight into the boundaries that many people unfortunately cross when in a casino or trackside at the races.

I really didn’t know what to make of this book when I first started to read it. Being released so close to Star Wars: The Last Jedi, it didn’t give me time to read it all before seeing the film. This made it, not necessarily a difficult read, but in some ways it confused me slightly as it introduces a whole new world to the Star Wars galaxy which is unlike anything we’ve seen before. Saying that, I didn’t fully understand some of the Canto Bight scenes with the film until I’ve now completed reading the book.

Overall it was a great read. A brilliant accompaniment to the film itself and an insight into Canto Bight. Personally, I would like to see more multi author tie-in’s like this in the build up to film releases. One thing I would be grateful of though, is for them to be released a few weeks earlier, so they can be read before seeing the film.

A variant of the book can be found via Barnes And Noble and this includes 8 pages of colour photos from Star Wars: The Last Jedi featuring Canto Bight and it’s patrons. Also, if a copy was pre-ordered a limited edition pin resembling a Cantocoin was available which was delivered with the book.

Availability;

Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Canto Bight was released on 5th December 2017 and is available at all good book stores and through online retailers including Amazon with a RRP of £20. It is also available in eBook and Audiobook formats.

Steve Galloway
Steve was 5 years old when he saw Star Wars for the first time during its first UK cinema release. He considers himself a first generation Star Wars fan and in his own words is a ‘Child of 77’.