Lit The 181st Imperial Discussion Group: Lando Calrissian and the Starcave of ThonBoka!

Discussion in 'Literature' started by Grey1, Dec 2, 2012.

  1. Grey1 Host: 181st Imperial Discussion Group

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    And we're up for the third and final Lando novel by L. Neil Smith. Wizard!

    - Some elements, especially Vuffi Raa's development and Gepta as the main villain, help make this series of books a trilogy. Do you feel like the books should have been more connected, or maybe less?

    - The other books featured semi-villains that supported the evil guys but were actually quite decent themselves. Police officers doing their job of beating up people they were dragging in for a talk. Here, I think we have a different take on characters. We do have Centrality navy characters who are on Gepta's side, but who are really just simple guys doing their jobs, not going out of their way to abuse power (except for taking bribes, but that's non-violent). Even the commander has to be blackmailed by Gepta, having his family threatened, to keep in line with the planned genocide of the Oswaft. Then we have the Renatasians, who get a face with Shanga, a guy who seems pretty decent except for his streak of violent revenge. Do we have a much more straightforward distinction of black and white here? People not being accomplice, but doing their jobs as long as they seem normal or going into shaky alliances without trust? The true evil guys - Gepta and Whett - show themselves to be utterly irredeemable.

    - Gepta - how do you like how he turned out? Since the second book established that he could take on any form, it's a nice twist to have his original form be something really strange and unexpected. Then again, wasn't it a big deal that he was hit in the eye in the last book? Shouldn't have hurt as much as being stomped on a toe, but who knows how that magic of solid and unsolid illusions truly works.

    - Lando and Vuffi against Gepta in a fairly traditional duel, isn't that really strange for an ancient wizard? Would a more metaphysical struggle of a wizard's power against a gambler's luck have been more or less rewarding?

    - Now, for the best part, the one that actually opens the novel: Lehesu. Isn't it great how we start with such an alien point of view? How do you like what Smith did with the Oswaft, how he executed the concept of huge manta in space?

    - Nitpicking: Why would such a strange lifeform that lives secluded from any other form of life be expert in decoding languages? Nitpicking mode off.

    - There's always a stranger fish: Vuffi Raa's race. Who come around in a kind of deus ex machina way. Would you have preferred them to be more integrated into the story, and not just come around as a kind of epilogue that "forces" Vuffi and Lando to split, effectively ending the series? Saving our little robot in one of many life-threatening spots?

    - Expanding a bit on the novel, what do you think about the place Vuffi's race got in canon? As the Silentium, fighting the fight that made the Vong the technophobic radicals they are? Since that implied retcon only came after the end of NJO, would you like new sources (e.g. novels) to expand on this idea, maybe by having a sect of Vong during the war find the Silentium's presence in this galaxy as a sign that their battle on this place is right, even destined? Or by having a (warrior caste) group find out later on and cause trouble again?

    - And finally, let's connect this to the August discussion of Dark Forces: Apparently, Vuffi did return to cruise with Lando again, since the two of them were to be found two years later on the luxury cruiser transporting Kyle after graduation. Nice end of the story? Necessary evil coming out of some author mixing his timetables up (IIRC, Dietz only mentions a droid, the audio drama identifies him as Vuffi)? If we have this precedence, should Vuffi come around and visit more often? Nearly anyone else reappears in canon.

    But, now, let's start this discussion before I bury you in starter questions! Any other discussion point is welcome.

    - Oh, almost forgot that one - real world reference! Explaining concepts by saying what people in our world would call them! What's your take on that? Lazy author, interesting literary take alerting the consciousness that it's all just a fairy tale that has happened "a long, long time ago"?

    We're not 100% set on what we'll discuss next month, but it'll probably a special Read Squadron set up discussion of Tales of the Jedi. Watch this place for further information!
    Last edited by Grey1, Dec 2, 2012
  2. Gorefiend Chosen One

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    *triple cheer*

    It actually flows together surprisingly well, though afaik I read ages ago that it was originally meant to be 5 novels, though the StarCave would likely to always have been the last

    I always felt that the Navy personal basically was just the Imperial navy doing their job, whilst the Renatasians pretty much are a Rebel Alliance stand in, including the rough around the edges character and their willingness to die for the cause.
    Wasent Whett willing to sacrifice himself to stop Gepta, beings plagued by his concessions for what he had done in the past?
    I like it a lot, especially as it clearly plays on that force users can be pretty much any form. His ambition to take over the galaxy and replace the Emperor also makes him kind of nicely Vader-esque.
    I think it had something to do with reading the patterns in radiation and thats how they could also could figure out languages.
    It does come kind out of nowhere; though it was clearly always planed as the ending for Vuffi, though of course there are hints throughout the last novel that something is watching Vuffi and the Falcon.
    They properly are way to powerful to directly challenge so I am fine with them just kind of drifting among the stars and watching, having separated themselves pretty much from the “lesser” cultures.
    The Essential Guide to Droids does mention that Vuffi did come back several times to visit Lando, but then there are a few million potential Lando short stories that badly need to be told, like him winning Rystall from Xizor during a Sabacc game or him ruining an Imperial governor with a trade union scam.
    I kind of like it, as it does indeed capture the “fairy tale” that happened somewhere long ago and translated for us feel SW should have.
    Last edited by Gorefiend, Dec 2, 2012
  3. Grey1 Host: 181st Imperial Discussion Group

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    Quickly picking out a first topic, I think this was pretty interesting. I'm pretty sure comparisons like this weren't made too often if at all in the first two books, at least they didn't have a lasting impact on me (maybe Vuffi being described as a starfish, did that mention our world?). Here, it really surprised me, and I'll admit that it was on the verge of being vaguely annoying because it's so unusual. In an EU that has hot chocolate (and maybe ducks) as the worst offender regarding real-world references, it's really a different style.

    I enjoy the fairy tale association, although I can't help but think that it might have something to do with the fact that Smith wrote pretty regular Sci-Fi stories here that just happen to be branded as Star Wars. Rename Lando and the Falcon, for safety lose the rare direct mentions of the Empire, and you have a stand-alone universe. Captain Lance of the Ebony Eagle then might come directly from Earth and see things as mantas or starfishs and drink hot chocolate.

    Wait a second, if Zahn is really smart, he'll claim that he had Lando of all characters import hot chocolate as a homage to Smith's real world references! o_O Or has he already done that?

    Anyway, I'd be surprised if any author could pull off a style like that these days, SW is too much of its own universe. Stover brilliantly mirroring ROTS to things that might happen in our world to the fact that this was the culmination because it's the climax of Palpatine's plan and also the epic cinematic end of the SW myth (well... back then) is the closest I can see being done, even though Stover is often going for pretty unusual takes like the "it's all the holo version, it didn't happen like that" twist.
    Last edited by Grey1, Dec 3, 2012
  4. Grey1 Host: 181st Imperial Discussion Group

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    Just wonderin', has anyone except for Gorefiend actually read the book?
  5. Iron_lord Chosen One

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    I have- but I've read most of the SW novels, excepting Young Adult ones- and a few of those.

    I thought the Lando trilogy in general was good- real change of pace from most of SW.
  6. Grey1 Host: 181st Imperial Discussion Group

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    It reminds me of times when I actually bought every book as soon as it hit the shelves. And, of course, that initial time when not much new stuff had come out yet and the old 80s stuff was released to meet the demand.

    Also, I must admit that I didn't remember a lot of detail on the books, especially not the second one. But the Oswaft and Vuffi Raa's origin revealed, those were the elements that I remembered best. How about you, have you read the books a long time ago, and if so, how much detail do you think do you remember?
  7. CT-867-5309 Force Ghost

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    I've read the trilogy in the last few years. What I remember most are the smoky sabacc rooms, the feeling of a huge, alien galaxy and Lando referring to Vuffi as "You old -insert kitchen appliance here-" every single page. Yes, I get it, Lando said "you old pirate" in ROTJ.

    Oh, and as usual, sabacc was portrayed as almost entirely luck, with little to no skill involved. Lando literally just sat there hitting pure sabacc over and over. He even had to fold a few good hands just to comfort his opponents, making it seem like he was just that good when he was really ridiculously lucky. How is someone supposed to make money on a game like that?
  8. RC-1991 Force Ghost

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    I'll be reading it once finals finish ;)
  9. Grey1 Host: 181st Imperial Discussion Group

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    Outing myself as someone who didn't buy into the Poker craze from a few years back (when even the croupiers at Casino Royale switched to Poker), what would be a good strategy for what's essentially a cross between Poker and Blackjack? Honestly, the only "strategy" I've heard of involving Poker would be to make sure you know when to quit so you only lose little while winning big.

    But I'll agree that Lando really had a bit too much luck going on here. Which, however, works - intentionally or not - in setting him up as foil for Gepta's supernatural powers of a very different kind. Almost like Zayne Carrick's "karmic luck", seeing how often Lando gets beat up or gets stuck with bad cargo over the course of the series.

    And smoky Sabacc rooms must be a high point of the entire EU!

    Hm. I'm not so convinced that Gepta's ego would call for a fair fight and a clear win. If anything, he wants to put Lando into an extremely controlled situation, seeing how Lando always tends to come out on top when he's got time to get a plan together. In this situation, he has the advantage that Lando would try to deal with Gepta in a conventional way - shooting him into a vital body part, not the foot that isn't needed in zero gravity (snake in the boot, hehe). Gepta, on the other hand, cheats by not being vulnerable in those parts of his illusion. So while he seems to level the playing field, he's actually stacking the cards in his favour.

    In addition, Gepta would want to do the job himself to finally be sure of Lando's demise. But the problem of Gepta apparently meeting Lando as a peer gets complicated by Gepta actually giving orders for the case that he loses. A millennia-old wizard going into a fight thinking he might actually lose? I'd bought that if his fear had been because of Vuffi Raa and some knowledge about the droid's true identity and powers. But Lando? The gambler actually pulled off a perfect bluff without knowing it, which is in vein with him somehow attracting just the right cards in Sabacc.
    Last edited by Grey1, Dec 5, 2012
  10. Iron_lord Chosen One

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    Maybe it's that pessimistic attitude to the limits of his own powers that allowed him to get to be millennia-old in the first place?
    Last edited by Iron_lord, Dec 5, 2012
  11. Gorefiend Chosen One

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    Afaik he once mentioned having read them... so who knows [face_dunno]

    Some of the German SW translations I picked up back in the days were rather fond of this and other translation atrocities. ;)

    Gepta was a Nihilist, so he did expect to die at some point, though apparently as the last being in the galaxy (he has a rather fun monolog on this in the 3 book), though he does seem to get ever more obsessed with Lando and somewhat irrational towards him.
    Last edited by Gorefiend, Dec 7, 2012
  12. Grey1 Host: 181st Imperial Discussion Group

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    Wait, which ones? I bought German books from 92 till 99 or something, and I can't remember any jarring applications of this style. Did they just sprinkle that in when they couldn't find a good way to translate the adjectives?
  13. Gorefiend Chosen One

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    In German the Black Fleet crisis afaik actually mentions earth at least once, there is likely more strange stuff but it was ages ago for me, though if you want some really fun translations go for the Han Solo Adventure books, where Jabba becomes a place and warships become lightships.
  14. Grey1 Host: 181st Imperial Discussion Group

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    Light cruisers probably... [face_thinking] I actually remember Jabba die Hütte. [Funnily enough, Conan O'Brian just had "Kevin Smith's version" of SW, and in it one character mused that the Hutt species name came from them being hut-shaped.]

    Lando is quite a puzzle for him. This guy has stomped down the sorcerers of Tund, and has probably bested uncountable foes. Why of all people does a secondary character whose primary talents are gambling, owning business installations, and hitting on Leia have the power, the abilities to resist him? Not just surviving, but actually foiling Gepta's plans?


    In that regard, how much sense does Gepta's original plan for the mind harp make now that we know what we know about him from books two and three? Could he use the power to bring about the end of the world (and be the last one in it)? Or was it just another one of those things he did to pass the time during the millenia of his life?
  15. Gorefiend Chosen One

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    In Landos case it really seems to be Luck as he somehow just keeps stumbling into it and of course back out. After all he is never out to foil Geptas plans, Geptas plans just seem to keep getting Lando stuck in the middle of them.
    I always felt that that it is hinted at that he was looking for the technology of the Sharu, which would be more advanced than the other stuff in the GFFA.
  16. Grey1 Host: 181st Imperial Discussion Group

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    It's obviously luck/"The Will of the Force" that gets Lando through most of this, except for having Vuffi as backup in the second book, maybe. But does Gepta think that way? If he does think that way, is it from a stubborn POV like "only luck helps against my superiority" or from an intrigued POV like "so much luck is unnatural, why does Clarissian have it"? The way I see it, it would rather be the first one, but even then, Gepta having nihilistic back up plans in the third book hints at the fact that Gepta isn't simply shrugging Lando off.

    As for the Sharu technology, I can't see any need for acquiring it except for boredom. But wouldn't a long living entity think in long-term goals?
  17. Gorefiend Chosen One

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    Might be both, though with his plan to overthrow the Emperor and kill every living thing in the galaxy some nifty new tech that he might even be able to pass off as magic would certainly help.:)
  18. Grey1 Host: 181st Imperial Discussion Group

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    It's the middle of the month. Has anyone else finished a sleigh ride of nostalgia through this tale of camaraderie and interstellar fish?
  19. Grey1 Host: 181st Imperial Discussion Group

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    Final call for Lando Calrissian and the Starcave of ThonBoka...
  20. RC-1991 Force Ghost

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    Right, so I've finally had the opportunity to read through most of this. The Oswaft are a fantastic addition to the EU, and really add to the sense of wonder and fantasy that the modern EU often lacks. In any other series, Lando teaching Sabacc to the Oswaft elders would be just kind of dumb, but here it fits perfectly with the rest of the trilogy and comes off as perfectly Lando-ish.

    The Oswaft and the Silentium in particular show how Smith is great at introducing rather fantasy/high sci-fi concepts to the EU in a manner that works with the existing canon- and that the current canon could use more of. They really enhance the sense of scope, of adventure, and of otherworldliness that the modern EU often lacks.

    Also, fun fact- LotF established that Admiral Daala is Renatasian. Which makes her single-minded aggression vaguely reminiscent of Klyn Shanga.

    A few last thoughts, will probably post some more later- I suspect that Vuffi appearing in Dark Forces is merely a timeline error. It would be neat to see how the Vong would react to finding out about the Silentium- I imagine that would cause them to fight with even greater fervor. And of course, that retcon helps to further explain why Vuffi is such a pacifist. I don't mind how loosely connected the novels of the trilogy are- I enjoy these sort of one-off adventures that loosely connect, in the same way that some of Clive Cussler's novels- and of course, the Bond Franchise- connect.
  21. Grey1 Host: 181st Imperial Discussion Group

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    Yeah, the Sabacc teaching scene would have been an eye-roller if written from 2000 on, and written in the 90s, we'd paid no thought to it but tear it to shreds today (also, it would probably have been written by KJA). Here, it's great, because everything is simpler and open to weirdness. Sometimes I think we're much more stuck up today, especially when I compare today's movies that try to give you more realism than is good for the fantasy to the silly stuff of one or two decades ago.

    I'll stand by my claim that the Lando books truly expanded the universe by showing places and situations that had nothing to do with what we see in the movies. I enjoy the basic sequel stuff, too, of course. But if they'd ever gotten something like the Lando books to work on a larger scale, there'd truly be no limit to what they could do with the license. And funnily enough, even with most of the stuff seemingly going the easy route of looking for simple hooks, you get something like Shadow Games that (may it be good or not, I wouldn't know) doesn't seem to have a lot going for it to sell it to the mainstream audience.