Review by C.J. Bunce

When Lando Calrissian showed up on the doorstep of Han Solo and Leia with a toddler Ben in tow, Han knew the outcome couldn’t be anything good.  In Daniel José Older‘s novel Star Wars: Last Shot–A Han and Lando Novel, it’s Lando that causes angst for Han, but it also gets him away from a home life where it’s just not happening for the former smuggler and decorated General of the Rebellion.  Someone has set off some assassin droids and if your name was ever on the title for the Millennium Falcon, you’ve been marked.  The mastermind behind the droids is a character inspired by H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau, a medical student plucked from his good life and plunged into a maddening existence where he begins to merge men with machines.  For Fyzen Gor, droids are the more advanced form and he will stop at nothing until the galaxy knows it.  Enter Han, Chewie, Lando, and Ugnaught, an Ewok tech guru or “slicer,” an attractive Twi-lek who Lando has his eyes on, and a young hotshot pilot, and you have a Seven Samurai/The Magnificent Seven story plucked from the pages of classic Marvel Comics.

But that’s the present, or at least the present time as it existed a few years after the events of Return of the Jedi, where only part of the story takes place.  Both partners Han and Chewie, and Lando and companion droid L3-37 have each encountered Fyzen Gor and his enigmatic Phylanx device before–once before Lando loses the Falcon to Han during Solo: A Star Wars Story, and once afterward.  Star Wars: Last Shot presents three parallel stories all culminating with the present search and confrontation with Gor to learn the secret of the device.  L3-37’s theme of droid rights is a significant element in this tale, and further expands L3’s influence on the future beyond being merged with the Falcon’s computer.  Despite several key cyborgs in the Star Wars galaxy (not the least of which being Luke and Darth Vader), this novel is Star Wars taking on cyborg themes not usually found in the franchise outside the early comics, themes you’d find wrestled with previously in other sci-fi properties.

The prequels live on.  Adding to the surprise presence of Darth Maul in Solo: A Star Wars Story, writer Older resurrects many bits and pieces from the Star Wars prequels, including a Gungun who makes clear that Jar Jar Binks was not emblematic of the alien race.  We also encounter many names, aliens, and places from past stories, like aliens reflecting the likes of Bossk, Hammerhead, Ewoks, Ugnaughts, and Cloud City from the original trilogy.

Some of the feel in the story is a bit off, like the idea of watching Han and Leia bickering, sewing the seeds of their eventual divorce, the prospect of Leia packing Han’s clothes for him, the idea that Han’s bad parenting may have led to Ben aka Kylo Ren eventually murdering Han in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Han’s unnecessary hate for Mon Mothma.  Some of the dialogue is a bit modern and is difficult to hear the actors recite in your inner radio broadcast, like Han saying, “You know why?  Because fate.”

Unlike Solo: A Star Wars Story, this novel is more action-chase story than space Western.  The three timeline stories bounce around plenty, and even with chapter headings stating whose story the text is returning to, the reader may still need to read a few paragraphs before getting the mindset to be back in the right story (sometimes the chapter shifts to a new timeline, sometimes the next chapter is in the same timeline, and it uses frustrating headings such as “About Twenty Years Ago” and “About Fifteen Years Ago”).  No doubt the nature of Star Wars’ back and forth movie creation and timeline based on the original film as the center point makes establishing timeframes with no calendar a bit clunky.

If readers can look past the shifting three-story approach, fans of the classic Han and Chewie Brian Daley novels and Marvel Comics stories will be able to revisit both that frenemy relationship of Han and Lando from Return of the Jedi and get a bigger sense of the style of the early Lando Calrissian from around the time of Solo: A Star Wars Story. 

Each copy of Star Wars: Last Shot includes two flip book jackets, one featuring Han and one featuring Lando.  Get your copy of Star Wars: Last Shot from Del Rey Books now here at Amazon.

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