The Lando Calrissian Adventures are a fascinating slice of Star Wars history. It was 1983 and Return of the Jedi had just hit theaters. Star Wars novelizations had taken a break after The Han Solo Adventures and the only consistent inter-movie tie-ins were the Marvel Comics ongoing series.
All of a sudden, a new trilogy of pre-movie adventures hits, centering around dashing gambler, future Baron-Administrator of Cloud City, and Colt 45 spokesman, Lando Calrissian.
Tasked with writing them was L. Neil Smith (the L stands for Lester). Smith was an early adopter of Libertarianism, joining the party in 1972 and becoming very active in it and running, unsuccessfully, for office several times. This includes an awkward run for President in the 2000 election where he was only on the ballot in Arizona thanks to a dispute with the leading national Libertarian candidate, Harry Browne.
Failed presidential bids aside, his first published sci-fi novel was The Probability Broach in 1979-1980, an alternate history story in his North American Confederacy series. After four of those, Lando Calrissian and the Mindharp of Sharu was his fourth novel.
The book features a young, fresh-faced Lando as the new owner of a beat up transport named the Millennium Falcon. He doesn't really know how to fly. He doesn't even have his signature moustache yet. What he does have is exceptional skill at the game of sabacc. Lando wins a droid from an academic during one such game, but he has to travel to the Rafa system to claim it.
Once there, the droid turns out to be the chipper, helpful, oddly starfish-shaped Vuffi Raa. Lando also runs afoul of the local governor, Duttes Mer, who strongarms him into searching for a lost artifact, the Mindharp, which once belonged to the long-lost Sharu race that populated the system. Supervising Mer is the sinister robed figure of Rokur Gepta, the last Sorcerer of Tund, a Dark Side Force tradition that I can best describe as “flamboyant insane space wizard” and I love it.
After a few misadventures, run-ins, and a psychedelic trip through space and time inside an ancient pyramid, Lando finally finds the Mindharp and, naturally, its more than it seems.
A couple observations. The Libertarianism really shows. Lando is a freewheeling adventurer with no patience for the government or taxation. Lando also doesn't kill anybody, which contrasts him nicely with the Han Solo Adventures where Han & Chewie solved most problems guns blazing. Lando's a talker, Han's a fighter. While the Han Solo Adventures had their share of comedy, here, Lando is frequently the one cracking jokes, usually in sardonic response to something Vuffi Raa says.
Lando without his moustache is just...wrong
Not that there aren't action sequences. Even the sabacc game at the beginning is written as exciting as a made-up card game with constantly changing cards can be.
It also sets a precedent that would carry through with Lando throughout the Expanded Universe. Since Lando's more of a face than a brawler, he always seems to end up in weird situations where shooting his way out is impossible, or at least, not ideal.
Lando Calrissian and the Mindharp of Sharu is an oddball story that doesn't have the pulpy action movie heritage of the Han Solo Adventures, but works as a slower burn of weirdness. I liked it, because a) I really like Lando, and b) its really funny, but I can see why not everyone would be into it. That said, I do recommend it as Expanded Universe reading material.