With Infinity War finally behind us, geek eyes the world over are now turning to this summer’s next big movie, Solo: A Star Wars Story. While the young Han movie is still a few weeks away from release, the tie-in novel Star Wars: Last Shot by Daniel Jose Older is out now and sports a reversible dust jacket which can be flipped to either the red Han side or the yellow Lando side. The audiobook edition is also out and is narrated by Star Wars audio veterans Marc Thompson, January LaVoy, and the author.
Last Shot is rather sprawling when it comes to its placement in the official Star Wars canon. The official Del Rey timeline has it listed between Aftermath: Empire’s End and Bloodline, but it has chapters set at multiple times throughout Star Wars history. There are two periods it concerns itself with most: “now” and “about ten years ago.” Those equate to a few years before the Battle of Yavin and a few years after the Battle of Endor (approximately 3BBY and 7ABY for those familiar with the galactic timeline).
We first meet Han on Chandrila in the “now” era and discover that he is struggling to settle into his role as a husband and father now that the galaxy is (relatively) at peace. Han feels as if he is getting everything wrong and tries to ignore a constant itch to get back out into the galaxy and fly free. While he is struggling with these thoughts, Lando appears one evening to inform Han that he has been attacked by droids hunting down an object known as the Phylanx Redux Transmitter which was obtained “by the owner of the Millennium Falcon” ten years ago. The droid’s master, Fyzen Gor, has returned and wants his creation back.
This meeting sets up the main narrative of the story, which boils down to a novel-length MacGuffin Hunt for the Phylanx. Credit where credit is due, however, the Phylanx is a very interesting MacGuffin. In fact, it is perhaps one of the most unique and interesting objects in the Star Wars galaxy so far and a terrifying prospect once its capabilities are revealed. Its creator, Fyzen Gor, is a unique character too, although I felt that his motivations for creating the Phylanx in the first place are never fully explained. This is a shame because I wish I could have better understood the thought processes that led him to create such a device. Regardless, it is refreshing to have a Star Wars novel featuring someone other than the Empire or First Order as its primary villain.
Lando is the other key figure in Last Shot, as he should be given that the book’s cover refers to Last Shot as “a Han and Lando Novel.” We’ve seen relatively little of Lando in the new canon, making this one of his biggest roles since The Empire Strikes Back. We get to learn a lot about him, including more about what he was doing around the Rebels era, his current employment, and his love interest, a Twi’lek named Kaasha Bateen. I was slightly dubious about bringing in a love interest for Lando at first, but this relationship ended up becoming one of my favorite parts of the book. The relationship felt right for his character and added more depth to Lando rather than changing what we already knew about him. Kaasha is another great character from the relatively little we see of her and I hope we get to see more of in the future—I’d particularly love to see her team up with Hera Syndulla. All that being said, my favorite revelation about Lando in Last Shot were these two words: “cape closet.”
Unfortunately, I did have several pretty big issues with Last Shot. One of the biggest is that the book constantly jumps between time periods. This narrative technique can be employed very effectively—Phasma is a great example of that—but here it simply became messy. This is most likely because the book was jumping between at least four different time periods, several of which had the same characters doing similar things and chasing down the same bad guy, so it became hard to keep track of which time period I was in at any given moment.
Another issue I had was the liberal alien language used throughout the book. Now, of course, Star Wars is set in another galaxy where not everyone speaks Basic/English and the odd use of alien language is a fun reminder of that fact. However, in Last Shot, there were far too many sections that were just alien language followed by another character having to translate what they said for us, and it soon became repetitive and annoying. The addition of an Ewok slicer character also required some significant suspension of disbelief given that two years previously the entire species appeared to be living in wooden huts and literally worshipped a droid when they spotted it, but I let that one slide given how much fun the character of Peepka was.
I struggled to love Last Shot. Having read several of the Han Solo novels from the Legends canon, I was expecting a thrill-a-minute adventure with my favorite smuggler and a bunch of his underworld cohorts. Instead, I found the book a slog to get through, at times repetitive, and with an ending where I walked away still not entirely sure about what had been going on. All that being said, the book did give me an interesting villain, fun glimpses into Han and Leia’s life as a married couple with a young child—an era yet to be explored elsewhere—and some entertaining new characters in Kaasha, Peepka, Taka, and Aro. Oh, and it’s pretty darn funny too.
Last Shot wasn’t what I was hoping for, but it’s a likable enough romp through the Galaxy Far, Far Away that will no doubt be enjoyed by a lot of fans.
GeekMom received this book for review purposes.