Kevin J. Anderson, editor,
Star Wars: Tales
from the Mos Eisley Cantina

(Bantam Spectra, 1995)

The Mos Eisley cantina is the setting for only a single brief, if pivotal, scene in the first Star Wars film. (That's A New Hope for those of you who weren't around when it opened in theaters the first time.) It is there we first see the formidable fighting skills of Obi-Wan Kenobi, get our first glimpse of the hirsute Chewbacca and witness the cunning ruthlessness of Han Solo (at least in the original version; George Lucas applied revisionist history to the recent re-release, spoiling a good scene by making Solo play nice with the bad guy). It also provided us with a quick glimpse of the many diverse lifeforms that populate the spacefaring regions of the Empire.

Star Wars: Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina provides a peek into those lives via 16 short stories, each intertwined in some way with the characters and events of that brief movie scene. Each character has little beyond a split-second cameo in the film, a flash on the screen to demonstrate the cutting edge in alien makeup. Now, each has a story.

Each also gives readers a slightly different perspective on the droids' failed entrance into the cantina, and each has a different angle on Kenobi's fight at the bar and Greedo's demise. The stories unfold like a great Tatooine tapestry.

In "We Don't Do Weddings," writer Kathy Tyers explains how the Bith jazz band came to be playing in such a seedy establishment. Tom and Martha Veitch relate the events leading to Greedo's short-lived career as a bounty hunter in "A Hunter's Fate." And Timothy Zahn's "Hammertong" introduces another kind of rebel.

"Play It Again, Figrin D'an" by A.C. Crispin is the tale of two honorable thieves whose own needs and greeds aid the Rebels. Dave Wolverton's "The Sand Tender" is about the plant-loving Hammerhead and the bitter losses that drive his enmity for an officer of the Empire. "Be Still My Heart" by David Bischoff exposes the sentimental side and secret ambitions of the cantina's gruff bartender, and reveals the final fluidic fate of poor Greedo.

Barbara Hambly, in "Nightlily," expounds on the loathsome machinations and seductions of the Mos Eisley taxman, and reminds us that sex means different things to different species. In "Empire Blues" by Daniel Keys Moran, we make the acquaintance of the devil-horned information broker, killer and jazz connoisseur.

In "Swap Meet," editor Kevin J. Anderson uncloaks the mysterious dwarf-like jawas through the eyes of the revolutionary but ill-fated Het Nkik. Rebecca Moesta follows that up with "Trade Wins," a tale of the rat-like Ranat who bests the jawa in a hasty deal.

Doug Beason, in "When the Desert Wind Turns," unmasks one of the Empire's own stormtroopers, a man who's not so drone-like as his comrades. Jennifer Roberson's "Soup's On" explores the strange hunger of the arrogant, pipe-smoking assassin and luck eater Dannik Jerriko.

Remember the space-suited pilot who talked with Kenobi before Chewbacca? Turns out his name is BoShek, a Han Solo-wannabe, and Jerry Oltion's tale "At the Crossroads" takes the pilot's life in a new direction after that chance encounter with the aging Jedi. Kenneth C. Flint's "Doctor Death" turns Dr. Evazan and Ponda Baba -- the scar-faced human and snaggletoothed walrus man who accosted Luke in the cantina -- into an alien Dr. Frankenstein and his henchman.

M. Shayne Bell, in "Drawing the Maps of Peace," writes a story only marginally connected to the cantina. The diary of a young, optimistic moisture farmer takes a dramatic turn when the Empire and several xenophobic neighbors muddle his efforts for peace among humans, jawas and sandpeople.

Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens wrap up the book with "One Last Night in the Mos Eisley Cantina," a time-spanning love story of a wolfman and a lamproid bound together by the Force, love and four scenes from the first three films.

All in all, it's a grand collection for Star Wars enthusiasts, filling in small gaps in the saga with characters largely overlooked in the movies and the large body of subsequent fiction. The stories are crafted so well that it's easy to ignore the slight contradictions and inconsistencies among them; it's a marvel that Anderson was able to weave them together so well. There was obvious collaboration between many of the writers, who shared with the others the details of their individual plots.

If you like Star Wars, pick this one up.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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