I’ve had a Star Wars itch lately. It might be because I was listening to Professor Fears talk about the fall of the Old Roman Republic, giving way to the Empire. The parallels, in terms and sometimes beyond that, are pretty obvious. Or it might be because Asimov’s Foundation books made me nostalgic for another galaxy with humans on every planet and an enormous empire spanning the systems.
I’ve also had a bit of a memory itch. Some time very long ago I read a book about Lando Calrissian. There was a robot in it, they were in the ruins of an ancient civilization, and at some point they got separated and time started moving at different speeds for each of them. And that’s pretty much all I remembered.
My Star Wars itch made me decide it was a good time to try to hunt down this vague book memory, and fortunately it wasn’t nearly as hard as you’d expect. L. Neil Smith wrote a trilogy, The Lando Calrissian Adventures, and the first one, Lando Calrissian and the Mindharp of Sharu, involves a search for an ancient artifact. I decided to gamble that was the one I remembered, and sure enough–there’s Vuffi Raa as his android sidekick, and that bit about time moving at different speeds was exactly the way I remembered it.
This was a really fun idea for a book series. I can only comment on the first one, but it starts well. Lando is not really in the original movies all that much, and I haven’t seen him in other books a lot either. But he’s got that charming rogue thing going on that Han Solo has working for him too. He clearly has plenty of adventures in his past, so why not some books about them? This trilogy (or at least the first book) is set well before the original movies. Lando recently won the Millenium Falcon in a game of chance, and if he’s met Han yet, it hasn’t come up.
Other than the ship, and of course Lando himself, there’s minimal connection to anything recognizable from Star Wars. The technology and the universe structure is right, but there are hardly any references to the Empire and I can’t remember a single one to the Jedi (which makes sense, as during this period they were wiped out). For a Star Wars fan, this is an interesting delving into a supporting character, and for a non-Star Wars fan, I think this could easily be read as an independent sci fi book. Apparently this was written very early on, which explains a lot.
I really enjoyed the characters here. Lando is a gambler, not a fighter. He’s a rogue and a conman and he can fight if he needs to, but he’d rather avoid trouble when he can. Vuffi Raa, as frequently happens with Star Wars droids, is the most endearing character. He’s a mix of programming and independent thought–for instance, he’s programmed to be unable to commit violence, but he occasionally finds a work-around when the situation calls for it. He’s very loyal, has a sense of humor, and has deep compassion for other machines (which baffles Lando, prompting a stern and insightful lecture).
The plot, as mentioned, is about a search for an ancient artifact belonging to a lost race. It’s a decent quest, though the characters, the ruins (which are on an impossibly large scale) and the mystery of the lost race were what grabbed me. In a funny way, this felt more like a Star Trek book than a Star Wars one. I’ve always thought it was all about that last word for each of them, and this book is more about the journey than the battles–and, like Trek, about the characters and the alien races. That doesn’t mean there aren’t fight sequences, and there’s good tension and climactic moments. It wrapped up a little quickly, but that’s a minor criticism.
All in all, a very good book I think I could recommend to a wide variety of sci fi fans–the dedicated Star Wars fan, the tentative Star Wars fan, a Star Trek fan, or anyone who’s feeling a bit of a Star Wars itch!