In Retro-Review: Star Wars: Last Shot

This will satisfy your desire for new Star Wars stories, but the villain and the chase were not great.

Star Wars: Last Shot by Daniel José Older

Published by Del Rey on April 17, 2018. Hardcover of 350 pages at $28.99. Also available as an eBook and an audiobook.

The cover: This is interesting right from the start. There are two covers and either can be turned inside out to showcase the other. One features a silhouette of Han with his gun up and a schematic of the Millennium Falcon within him doing a nose dive. The title of the book falls across the center and the author’s name is at the bottom. This frontpiece is in dark red. There’s a sticker on my copy that says “Flip for Lando Cover.” Turning the cover inside out Lando’s silhouette is on a mustard yellow. His back is to the reader and the same Falcon schematic is on his back. The text is located in the same positions. This is a clever way by jacket designer Scott Biel to have readers purchase the cover they like the most. Or, even better for the publisher, purchase one of each. I like this. Overall grade: A

The premise: From the inside front cover, “THEN: It’s one of the galaxy’s most dangerous secrets: a mysterious transmitter with unknown power and reward for its discovery that most could only dream of claiming. But those who fly the Millennium Falcon throughout its infamous history aren’t your average scoundrels. Not once, but twice, the crew of the Falcon tries to claim the elusive prize — first, Lando Calrissian and the droid L3-37 at the dawn of an ambitious career, and later, a young and hungry Han Solo with the help of his co-pilot Chewbacca. But the device’s creator, the volatile criminal Fyzen Gor, isn’t interested in sharing. And Gor knows how to hold a grudge…NOW: It’s been ten years since the rebel hero Han Solo last encountered Fyzen Gor. After mounting a successful rebellion against the Empire and starting a family with an Alderaanian princess, Han hasn’t given much thought to the mad inventor. But when Lando turns up at Han’s doorstep in the middle of the night, it’s Fyzen’s assassins that he’s running from. And without Han’s help, Lando — and all life on Cloud City — will be annihilated. With the assistance of a young hotshot pilot, an Ewok slicer prodigy, the woman who might be the love of Lando’s life, and Han’s best and furriest friend, the two most notorious scoundrels in the New Republic are working together once more. They’ll have to journey across the stars — and into the past — before Gor uses the device’s power to reshape the galaxy.” This sums up about the first fifty pages of this book. There are no spoilers in this, save Lando on Han’s doorstep. I like both rogues, I like Elthree (Too soon!), and I’m all for reading a Star Wars novel. Let’s go! Overall grade: A

The characters: Lando is living the life of a retired man on Cloud City. He’s oversees his droid production facilities and promotes them and his city whenever he can. The attempt on his life has him heading to Han to start their team up. He’s an incredibly smooth talker, and I wouldn’t have him any other way. His story in the past is good and I love his interaction with L3. Han is starting to get fidgety at home: he’s got a two-year-old son and a wife, but he yearns to be getting into trouble out among the stars. The problem is, once there he misses Leia and Ben. He doesn’t know what to do until Lando needs help and then he’s dashing about. I liked seeing this peek at the Corellian before he ran off between Episode VI and VII. Younger Han gets into much more trouble than his older self, with him seeming unable to please fellow scoundrel Sana Starros. I was surprised to see her in this book, as I’ve only read about her exploits in the Marvel comic books. She was fantastic. New characters in this book include Kaasha, a Twi’lek who once had a relationship with Lando and is trying to decide if she wants to rekindle it — leaving Lando to wonder if she’s the one for him to stay with, Florx the Ugnaught who’s one of Lando’s best droid repairers — he’s not in a lot of the book, Peekpa the Ewok, the best slicer the New Republic has to loan the old pirates, and Taka Jamoreesa, the pilot that’s hired to fly their ship, since they can’t be recognized. What Taka has for a pet was brilliant. The main villain of the book is Fyzen Gor. It was a little difficult keeping track of him, because he’s being pursued in three different timelines. His goal is a terrific twisted scheme, though by the end he comes off as a typical mad scientist throwback to the 1950’s. There are several other lesser antagonists, with some better than others. I will say that the characters that have unique additions to themselves just didn’t fit in with the Star Wars Universe. When all is said and done, the heroes are fantastic and the villains are meh. Overall grade: B-

The settings: Where doesn’t this book go? With up to four different plots running at the same time, only lessened when Han and Lando are working together, there are several locations visited. I won’t say where, because familiar worlds will trigger reactions from readers who more than proficient in their knowledge of the SW galaxy and what waits on each world. There’s a lot of space travel, so ships become key, with the Falcon being a major setting. It was neat to see the contrast between Lando owning the ship and Han having it under his care. Suffice to say, anywhere a crook or thief would hide is where the characters go. My favorite location involved a prison, and I’ll leave it at that. Overall grade: A

The action: This element of the novel was choppy because of Older going back and forth between dates and locations. Sometimes a chapter would follow the events of the one before it, other times it would pick up from action from one to three chapters earlier. I had forgotten what had happened in this case, taking me a minute or more to catch up. I enjoyed the actions of Han in the past, because he’s still green, and all of those in the present simply because of all the characters that were involved, creating some of that classic Star Wars chaos. Overall grade: C+

The conclusion: The threat is stopped, but not in any epic way. The inclusion of the MacGuffin being able to speak was not a great addition to the story, especially so late in the book. It was an anti-climatic ending. However, I was reading the book for the character interactions at this point more so than waiting for the antagonist to be thwarted. Overall grade: D+

The final line: This will satisfy your desire for new Star Wars stories, with some incredibly strong character work, but the foe and the chase were not great. The pair of stories from the past were outstanding, leaving me wanting to see more stories in books from those time periods. Just an average Star Wars outing. Overall grade: C+

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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