Star Wars: Last Shot gives fans of Lando and Han real insights into their characters to the point that it makes watching, say, Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi or The Force Awakens again even more fun.
Imagine, for an instance, if Disney had bought Lucasfilm for $4 billion but Solo: A Star Wars Story had never been made, yet as a Star Wars fan you were still curious about what a younger Han Solo and Lando Calrissian were like, both at the beginning of their scoundrel careers as well as in the aftermath of Return of the Jedi. Daniel Jose Older’s excellent novel Star Wars: Last Shot provides a vivid picture into both.
Aside from Han, Lando and Chewbacca, as well as Sana Starros who was first introduced in the Star Wars comics by writer Jason Aaron, other new characters include Taka the non-binary human pilot, Peekpa the Ewok slicer, Florx the Ugnaught mechanic, and Kaasha the Twi’lek whom Lando can’t seem to figure out whether he’s in love with. (You also find out what really turns a Twi’lek on. Chances are, Star Wars: Rebels cartoon shippers will have a field day fanficcing Kanera once they read Star Wars: Last Shot. Unless, of course, Older merely made that fanfic canon now.)
Early in Star Wars: Last Shot there is a reference to an unnamed someone that most likely appears in the Solo movie, but it’s a relatively fleeting moment that the rest of the book doesn’t dwell on again. There’s also a Gungan side character that doesn’t talk like a typical Gungan.
L3-37 is a rock star
If you want to stay totally unspoiled for the Solo movie (particularly about the new characters in that film), then hold off reading Star Wars: Last Shot until after watching the movie. For me, it’ll be interesting to see whether L3-37’s character in the movie jives with what I read in the book.
Whether or not L-3 lives up to expectations in the movie, there’s no doubt that reading Star Wars: Last Shot before seeing the movie will color your perception of her. She’s the strongest droid character put to page.
“Just enter it. Drive the Falcon right up into the middle of the shattered ice moon.”
“Correct. That is what I’m asking you to do, Captain Calrissian.” After a moment, and very quietly, L3 said: “Please.”
L3 never said please. Lando cast a dubious glance at the slowly spinning frozen shapes in the darkness ahead…
The main plot of Star Wars Last Shot is a quest to find the Phylanx Redux Transmitter, the power of which Daniel Jose Older doesn’t reveal until the last third of the book.
When reading the inner jacket cover description, particularly the section that says “They’ll have to journey across the stars — and into the past — before Gor uses the device’s power to reshape the galaxy,” one would think that the author is going to use flashbacks as a narrative tool. He doesn’t. It’s not Lando telling Han, “Don’t you remember that time, old buddy, when we blah blah blah” and it cuts to that memory.
Instead, Older just jumps around a lot between “now,” which in this case is post-Return of the Jedi with Han and Leia as parents of a two-year-old Ben and Lando back at his old job of running Bespin’s Cloud City, and the past, which can be anywhere from 10 to 20 years earlier. While Star Wars: Last Shot isn’t completely, chronologically linear, and some readers might have trouble keeping up with which “time zone” they’re in (even though each chapter clearly states it). Older’s eventual narrative climax does bring all the disparate parts back together in an ultimately satisfying way.
Four different intertwining stories permeate Star Wars: Last Shot: younger Lando, younger Han, younger Lando and Han, and post-Return of the Jedi Lando and Han. You get more than one instance of Han or Lando sweet-talking their way out of a jam, or even downright swindling someone of a prized possession, both as their younger and older selves.
Another cool thing about the book: the hardback comes with a flip-over cover, one side of Han, the other of Lando.
Readers with young children will find a connection with Han when he interacts with — or even thinks about — his two-year-old son Ben. Han’s intense doubts about his qualities as a father particularly stand out. He’s happy when he’s out spacefaring yet extremely guilty for leaving his son at the same time. Older also shows how Han and Leia begin the process of compromising to give each other space, the culmination of which you see when older Han and Leia reunite on Takodana in The Force Awakens.
She wasn’t even doing it to make him feel bad; that was the worst part. She really did understand that he needed to go. Which made him not want to go at all, but didn’t change the fact that he had to. And it didn’t mean he was suddenly going to be a good father, either.
As for Lando, Older deftly describes the Cloud City administrator’s struggle to make an emotional commitment to someone else.
Aaaand there went the words, clean out of his brain. But the feeling was there. It was there every time he thought about Kaasha, even when she was mad at him. . . . It was joy, and it had overthrown him entirely without even asking permission.
(His capes, on the other hand? He treats them better than he does some humans!)
Older also gives a sympathetic introduction to the book’s villain, Fyzen Gor from Utapau, when he was young. When the true scope of Gor’s evil plan becomes clear, there’s one very short chapter toward the end of the book that helps to bring the real nature of his character home.
Star Wars: Last Shot has a vibe similar to Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot, although it took 273 pages to come through. Older’s writing elegantly touches on the interaction between droids and their “organics”:
“The droids are holy visitors among us. We organics and even semi-organics, we are corrupt from the point of conception. A fouled and brash collection of mutilated flesh, deteriorating always and propelling ourselves with our own sinful insolence toward extinction.”
Star Wars: Last Shot also has a few easter eggs here and there to both previous canon and Legends books, specifically one particular ship name that Legends fans will geek out over.
Star Wars: Last Shot gives fans of Lando and Han real insights into their characters to the point that it makes re-watching, say, Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi or The Force Awakens even more fun.
Daniel Jose Older’s writing is brisk, you never feel like you’re bogged down anywhere, each chapter is short enough that you might think, “Yeah I can finish this chapter and go to sleep.” But Older gives both Han and Lando’s characters room to grow, both independent of each other and when they’re together, and it’s glorious.
John Liang is a producer for the Beltway Banthas, a Star Wars and Politics podcast on the Retrozap Podcast Network. He has appeared on panels at Star Wars Celebration and DragonCon related to politics and the military in Star Wars. A journalist since 1994, John has covered the U.S. military for the past 20 years. He saw A New Hope at age eight when it first came out in theaters in 1977, but didn’t become a fan until reading the novelization two years later. He’s been a Star Wars book geek ever since.