Book Review: Canto Bight
This week, I read Canto Bight! It's a collection of four novellas taking place in, you guessed it, The Last Jedi's Canto Bight. I found the characters we follow in these stories pretty interesting, and loved getting more of Canto Bight- not just the glamorous parts and the high-stakes gambling, but also learning about the people in Canto Bight without money, who are making their way in this town and working hard to make it so luxurious. It's a really great little collection of stories, and one I'd highly recommend.
Spoilers ahead for Canto Bight by Saladin Ahmed, Rae Carson, Mira Grant and John Jackson Miller.
The first story, "Rules of the Game" by Saladin Ahmed is about an adorable character named Kedpin Shoklop, who is thrilled to have won a trip to Canto Bight by being salesperson of the year. Kedpin is really sweet and so excited to be in Canto Bight, though his naivety ends up getting him swindled and scammed and in all sorts of trouble over and over again. I felt bad for Kedpin, but it was funny and endearing to read about him bumbling through Canto Bight, getting scammed out of his luggage and his credits yet still staying positive and just being excited about his vacation. Meanwhile, a soon-to-be retired bounty hunter Anglang Lehet has been hired to take out a brutal police officer in Canto Bight. His plan is to pick an unwitting target, frame them with some fake spice and plant a bomb on them so he can blow them up when they're alone with the officer. The target he lands on is poor Kedpin Anglang gets all the way through getting Kedpin to drink a glass with the bomb (and a listening device) in it and plant the spice, and getting Kedpin arrested... but when Kedpin is getting roughed up by the officer and still refuses to rat Anglang out, Anglang can't go through with it. He rescues Kedpin, though they get jumped by the gang that hired Anglang for the job. Kedpin can't fight, but he tries anyway, and gives Anglang the distraction he needs to win. After that, they form a weird friendship, and decide to get a drink together. It's a sweet ending to the story, and I really enjoyed this one a lot. I thought both the main characters were very well fleshed-out, especially for the relatively short length of the story, and I think it was a great introduction to the Canto Bight book.
"The Wine in Dreams" by Mira Grant is the second story. It's a bit of a weirder one, following a woman who worked at a hotel in Canto Bight, who was hired on by a pair of strange twin sisters who claim to be from another dimension. We also follow a woman who is famous for selling wines, who studies the art and history of them, taking samples and analyzing them closely to make sure she knows who they are and aren't safe for, what they're best to do with, etc. She has a deal to meet with the twins so that they can sell her a bottle of their extremely famous wine that people talk about from all over when they bring it to them. However, the jealous owner of the club they are meeting in also wants a bottle, and ends up trying to sabotage the meeting so that she's the only one with the wine. She thinks she wins, but thanks to some clever maneuvering from the twins and their new assistant, the wine seller gets a bottle of the wine for her studies and catalog. It was an interesting story, and the most memorable part of it was how peculiar the twins are. Whether they're from a different dimension or not, and different characters disagree on it, they certainly have their own way of being, between their obsession with everything being mirrored and in even pairs and their weird way of speaking.
"Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing" by Rae Carson was probably my favorite story. It's about a famous alien masseur in Canto Bight's spa, Lexo Sooger, and his adopted human daughter who works in the fathier stables. Lexo used to be an assassin, but left that life behind long ago and isn't proud of it, and refuses to get involved in the more shady businesses of Canto Bight. However, a crime boss named Sturg Ganna wants to use Lexo's connections through massaging so many of the powerful people of Canto Bight, but Lexo refuses. Ganna kidnaps his daughter, Lula, and Lexo then fights to get her back. He breaks all of his rules about not getting involved, even returns to his shameful past as an assassin by completing a job for a countess who promises him information about where his daughter may be in exchange, and Lexo is successfully able to rescue her. Ganna confronts them, but while rescuing her Lexo found some details of his plans in the city to rule it all, and sends them to his detective friend so that he has insurance, and Ganna is forced to not only let them go free, but to pay of Lula's debt to the stables and pay for her fathier-riding lessons (because she does really, really love fathiers). It was such a sweet story with a happy ending, and the strong familial bond made it connect with me the most.
The Ride by John Jackson Miller is the last story in the book, and it was actually pretty tense. You follow a prop gambler named Kal who plays for the house in Canto Bight to make sure that anyone can play a game at any time, even if no other guests are willing to play with them. He studies numbers and has a very strong system, his knowledge of the cards and game rules make him a very good opponent. However, he breaks down when he works hard all night for a sure win, only for an extremely unlikely draw of cards from another player grants them a win over him. We meet "The Lucky Three," a trio of brothers with almost impossible-appearing abilities to beat the odds and continuously win games, yet there is no proof that they're cheating at all. When Kal loses his job after his breakdown, he learns he owes 800,000 credits to the crime boss Sturg Ganna, yet has almost nothing to his game. As fate would have it, he ends up following the Lucky Three, trying to piggyback off of their luck and make his money- and fails spectacularly, making a little bit of money but losing it all. After long and very funny hijinks, Kal settles at a card table to make his money, and ends up- though great luck and strategy, working his way up to 800,000 credits, right at the time his money is due. He pays off his debts, and continues to play happily in the casino with the Lucky Three. It was a happy ending to a story that I thought at times might not go well for our protagonist, and I really appreciated it. It was a fun story to read, and I definitely liked reading this one a lot.