Tales from Jabba’s Palace edited by Kevin J. Anderson (1995, Bantam)
If you’ve read Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina or Tales of the Bounty Hunters (or at least my reviews of those volumes), you can probably guess at what you’ll find in Tales from Jabba’s Palace. This is the second of three books featuring short stories by a variety of authors about incidental or background characters from the films (I chose to review them in chronological, rather than publication, order).
This collection contains nineteen stories and comes in at 420 pages. Because discussing each of these stories in depth would make for a very long review that would take a very long time to write—and because I should really be doing schoolwork right now—I’m going to go over what I consider to be the highlights and then talk about the collection as a whole.
I haven’t read a ton of Kevin J. Anderson’s work; only the stories in these Star Wars anthologies and a Starjammers mini-series he wrote for Marvel back in 2004. In general, I’ve found that body of work to be perfectly readable, but nothing earth-shattering. While I wouldn’t call “A Boy and His Monster: The Rancor Keeper’s Tale” an “earth-shattering” story, either, I would call it the best example I’ve seen of Anderson’s writing and one of the better stories in this anthology. He quickly makes Malakili sympathetic through his compassion for the rancor, and even engenders some sympathy for that vicious monster in the process. Anderson really made me want Malakili’s plan to escape Jabba’s palace with the rancor to succeed, despite knowing all along that it was doomed to failure.
This ridiculous creature has long been a favorite among my friends. I saw Return of the Jedi for the first time over a decade and a half ago, but I still can’t look at Salacious Crumb without, at the very least, an amused smirk. My pal Chris does a near spot-on imitation of Crumb’s cackle; perhaps I’ll record him doing it and put it up sometime if he’s amenable.
Anyway, Esther M. Friesner’s “That’s Entertainment: The Tale of Salacious Crumb” follows a stodgy professor called Melvosh Bloor who is seeking an interview with Jabba the Hutt for an academic paper on the crime lord. Instead of meeting with his arranged contact, however, Bloor runs afoul of everyone’s favorite Kowakian lizard-monkey, and sadistic—and highly amusing—antics ensue. The story functions as a wonderful satire on the politics of academia.
Timothy Zahn is possibly the only expanded universe author to create a character whose name is known even to many casual Star Wars fans. While I wish that were the case with more EU characters, Mara Jade is certainly worthy of her notoriety. In “Sleight of Hand: The Tale of Mara Jade,” the Emperor’s hand is dispatched by her master to Jabba’s palace in order to kill Luke Skywalker (what else?). A number of circumstances conspire to rob Mara of her goal, but at least she gets to see her future husband and current assassination target kill Jabba’s rancor.
Tales from Jabba’s Palace was published before the Return of the Jedi Special Edition was released, so my arch-nemesis, Joh Yowza, is blessedly absent from the line-up of the Max Rebo Band in the somewhat redundantly titled “And the Band Played On: The Band’s Tale.”
John Gregory Betancourt gives the reader an entertaining band dynamic on par with that presented in Kathy Tyers’s story about Figrin D’an and the Modal nodes in Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina. Sy Snoodles is actually the brains of the outfit, Snit (A.K.A. “Droopy McCool”) is the quiet one, and Max loves to eat. It’s a lot of fun.
“Of the Day’s Annoyances: Bib Fortuna’s Tale” is notable not only for its exploration of the Twi’lek Bib Fortuna, Jabba the Hutt’s Machiavellian scumbag of a majordomo, but also of the B’omarr monks, a religious order dedicated to seeking enlightenment through the shedding of their bodies. To this end, their brains are extracted and placed in droid walkers. M. Shayne Bell weaves a gritty tale of cloak-and-dagger intrigue as Fortuna attempts to use the monks to further his own ends, only to have the tables turned on him. There are a number of twists that keep things interesting, and I found the story’s conclusion extremely satisfying.
Several of the stories in this collection revolve around, or at least mention, a series of killings in the palace by an unknown culprit with no conclusive motivations. I was quite pleased to discover that the killer was Dannik Jerriko, the pipe-smoking Anzati brain-vampire from the Mos Eisley Cantina. Jennifer Roberson, author of the Dannik Jerriko story from Tales of the Mos Eisley Cantina returns here to write “Out of the Closet: The Assassin’s Tale,” which mostly consists of Jerriko prowling around and pontificating on various qualities of “soup” (that is to say, “brains”).
Han Solo, whose soup Jerriko has been craving for four years now, slips through his fingers again, and he throws a tantrum, killing several folks at the palace. What surprises me is that this is the last we hear of him. I love this guy, and really wish somebody would use him in a book. I wanna see him and Han throw down, dammit!
J.D. Montgomery has the distinction of chronicling Boba Fett’s triumphant escape from the Sarlacc pit in “A Barve Like That: The Tale of Boba Fett.” This gets a little more metaphysical than one might expect in a story about Fett. The bounty hunter, trapped and temporarily paralyzed, speaks to the Sarlacc’s first victim and now controller, Susejo, and other still-(quasi)living people who had also become Sarlacc snacks. The story’s narrative structure is built around long conversations between Boba Fett and Susejo and the mournful testimonies of other Sarlaac victims, including a millennia-old Jedi.
The denizens of Jabba’s palace are less interesting to me than those of Chalmun’s Cantina in Mos Eisley. This may be in part because of the simple fact that the camera’s eye lingers on the bar patrons in A New Hope longer than it does on the creatures found in Jedi. Nevertheless, this book has a sense of cohesion among the stories, references to this volume’s predecessor, and some very funny moments and ideas (see “The Great God Quay: The Tale of Barada and the Weequays”) to its credit. This collection is a worthy entry in the Tales series, despite not being quite as good as its two trilogy-focused counterparts.