STAR WARS: LAST SHOT - A HAN AND LANDO NOVEL (8 out of 10) Written by Daniel José Older. Published by Del Rey Books. 368 Pages. Find it wherever books are sold 4/17/2018.
Some of my favorite books in the history of Star Wars have been the triple shots of adventures starring Lando Calrissian and Han Solo, published in the late 1970s and early 1980s. With Solo getting written by Brian Daley and Calrissian written by L. Neil Smith, the books were short, fun, and had an adventurous vibe that maybe some of the other more serious books in the canon lacked.
It's been a while since we've had a book like that.
Daniel José Older gives it to us in spades. This novel is split into three different timelines for our heroes. The timeline that dates the furthest back belongs to Lando and his droid L3-37 and evokes all of the same spirit as the original Lando books. L3 even feels very much like Vuffi Raa at times, Lando's droid companion in those. She's a droid concerned with things other droids typically aren't and might even be something else entirely. The middle chapter involves Han Solo after he took possession of the Falcon. He's with Chewie, naturally, getting in over his head with Sana Starros and a bizarre job that involves kidnapping a tiny crime boss and stealing a...thing. The present, set after the events of Chuck Wendig's Aftermath trilogy and the Battle of Jakku, brings Han and Lando back together as they sort through a villainous plot that involved both of them, however obliquely, in those previous timelines.
That villain is Fyzen Gor, a Pau'an butcher of a surgeon with a plan so mustache twirling that he seems immediately cut from the same cloth as Lando's Legendary arch-nemesis, Rokur Gepta.
As Han, Lando, and Chewie work to unravel Gor's plot, they take on a motley crew of help, including a Twi'lek that Lando is involved with, a surly ugnaught, a kid of a pilot who plays their music too loud, and an Ewok who happens to be one of the best tech-slicers in the galaxy.
They proceed to fumble and bluff their way through everything until the climax that reminded me in many ways of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but not in a bad way. Lando definitely gets to be the Spock character, jetpacking across space into a hairy situation where an artificial intelligence has gone against its programming.
I'll admit, this book isn't going to be for anyone who insists that they have to take their Star Wars too seriously. It's fun. There were honestly moments in the book I was laughing out loud, which is rare for me as a reader. But that doesn't mean it doesn't have its small touching moments as well. In fact, it cut right into me to see Ben Solo as he is portrayed in this book. Hearing "Uncle Lando" call him "Little Starfighter" damn near brought a tear to my eye.
Another thing I loved about the book was that it was heavy in the prequel references. We get a Gungan supporting character, a Pau'an villain and another of other moments to tie all three eras of Star Wars together.
In recent years, I've loved how the hero's journey stories that we get in Star Wars have matured to a point where it's not just about crossing out of adolescence, but also how to be the adult you need to be. It's relatable to see Lando struggle with commitment, with settling down. It's doubly relatable to see Han's self-doubt about being a father. How does a scoundrel who barely see worth in himself, despite his arrogant bravado, become a good father?
Ben's treatment here gives us clues to his eventual fate as well. His parents, while trying their best, feel absent. And they're willing to be absent for what they view as a greater duty. Everything that takes them away from Ben is in service to the New Republic. In this book, Ben is he's left with (potentially murderous) droids as caregivers while Han deals with Fyzen Gor and Leia deals with a crisis in the New Republic. Even though Ben's reasons might be entirely in his unconscious, this absence gives a compelling reason for his hatred of the New Republic and all it stands for. It's the thing that took his parents from him, even when they were there.
Naturally, there are a lot of years between toddler Ben here and the Ben who so scares Luke Skywalker so much that he considers the unimaginable, so anything can happen between here and there. But the groundwork for this idea is there.
This book is a lot of fun. It's absurd in all of the right ways and captures the spirit of reading an entire trilogy of those short books from days gone by. Older brings a charm to the prose that feels both contemporary and nostalgic to those old books. The Han and Lando we see here are rendered faithfully and the universe gets a little weirder and more wonderful for it. I'm actually excited to re-read this book after seeing Solo: A Star Wars Story, because I have no doubt there will be connections and conversations to be had about it. And, as an introduction to L3-37, it's a great one. She's a fascinating character that I wish I had more time with in the book.
It's well written, it's breezy fun, and it put a smile on my face. What more do you need from an old-school Star Wars book? It doesn't change the universe, but it certainly makes it weirder and more wonderful. That's why I'm giving it an 8 out of 10.
You can get it now on Amazon or wherever books are sold.