Before I start this review, I must admit I was not very thrilled with the idea of new Han Solo content. Star Wars has an incredible expanded universe that goes beyond the films, and it’s filled with characters just as captivating as Han. Why mess with one of the most iconic fictional smugglers in history? I didn’t think anyone could do him (or Lando) justice.
That is, until I read Daniel José Older’s Star Wars: Last Shot. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe other Star Wars characters deserve a chance in the spotlight. But Older managed to give fresh new voices to characters that have been around for decades and reminded me why I loved them in the first place.
The novel follows the galaxy’s most renowned scoundrels: Han Solo and Lando Calrissian, as unresolved matters from their younger years return to cause them trouble. Most of Last Shot takes place two years after the events of Return of the Jedi, but several chapters are flashbacks that provide readers with just enough context to follow the present story.
When we first encounter Han and Lando, they are out of their element and it shows. A domesticated Han struggles with fatherhood and marriage, while Lando finds himself in love with a Twi’lek rebel strategist. Surprisingly, the story does not rely on major event references or familiar faces. Fan-service is definitely present, but the new characters are the ones stealing the show. And while Star Wars has always been political, Older effortlessly incorporates important themes that reflect our current social climate.
We are introduced to Aro, a Gungan who challenges stereotypes against his kind. Taka, the human pilot whose gender-fluidity is never questioned, and even uses gender-neutral pronouns. Peekpa, the adorable yet brilliant Ewok slicer who is also Chewbacca’s number one fan. And Kaasha Bateen: the badass Twi’lek woman who helps Lando navigate what romantic consent really means.
As with most Star Wars stories, this book was straight up fun. Understanding the timelines was a bit complicated at first, but once I did, the story wasn’t hard to follow. One major highlight was definitely the novel’s villain: a menacing Pau’an named Fyzen Gor. His motives are clear and he poses a real, unprecedented threat to the galaxy. Several chapters are actually about his backstory, told from Gor’s own point of view. This gives readers an almost sympathetic introduction to the character and makes his rationale somewhat easier to understand.
My favorite part about Last Shot was being able to see how Han and Lando interact with the world. Older perfectly captures the essence of their relationships–not only with each other but with everyone else around them. The glimpses of a middle-aged Han struggling to bond with two-year-old Ben solo are priceless, but we also get some real insight on his post-war relationship with Leia. While this is a Han and Lando novel, we do get great moments that emphasize Han and Chewie’s friendship. Their interactions remind readers that the Wookie is one of Han’s closest friends instead of just a sidekick.
Lando’s bond with his droid L3-37 was surprisingly sweet, and I wish we had gotten to explore more of it. I guess I’ll have to watch Solo: A Star Wars Story for that! Overall, he experiences some serious growth that never feels forced or out of character. Following the two smugglers as they sweet-talk and cheat their way out of sticky situations was just as fun as I had expected, with the added bonus of some seriously heartwarming moments.
Read an excerpt from Star Wars: Last Shot here.