In the recent Star Wars novel “Last Shot” by Daniel Jose Older, Han Solo and Lando Calrissian team up on a mission vital to the galaxy’s well-being decades in the making.
What more do you need to know?
The novel was released as a tie-in to Solo: A Star Wars Story, and it does indeed give the reader an introduction to L3-37, as well as provide bookends for the film in many ways: the book has four stories in one, cutting in to the main storyline with frequent flashbacks to Lando, Han, and Fryzen Gor (the villain) in the years prior to Solo. The main story, of course, takes place a few years after the Battle of Endor. So the book is really supposed to provide bookends for the movie, introducing us to the characters in the pre-Solo world, and then also telling us about the characters in the post-ROTJ world. There aren’t spoilers about Solo, but it does tie in at least in that regard.
The book is an easy and very enjoyable read about several of the most beloved characters in the Star Wars franchise (as well as Han and Lando, Chewbacca and Leia Organa play very important roles) in a time period fans are itching to explore further. I highly recommend it.
The premise of the book finds Han Solo and Lando Calrissian on the hunt for the Phylanax Redux Transmitter, a device that the fiendish Pau’an Fryzen Gor, who hopes to use the transmitter to cause every droid in the galaxy to turn against their masters and kill them. Gor knows that the owner of the Millennium Falcon stole the transmitter a decade earlier and hunts down Calrissian on Cloud City… but Lando wasn’t in possession of the Falcon at that point. So he heads to Chandrilla to find Han, who he ropes into helping find the transmitter and stop Gor. As the book progresses, Older intertwines plenty of interludes that give us more information on the characters many years earlier: there are plenty of chapters about Han Solo’s adventure with Chewbacca and Sana Starros a decade earlier as they steal the Phylanax; there are plenty of chapters about Lando Calrissian’s adventure with L3-37 as they embark on a mission dear to L3’s heart and come in contact with Gor in the midst of his plans; and there are chapters about Fryzen Gor’s tragic backstory: a brilliant medical student on Utapau who through a series of events comes to realize that it is wrong for humans to get droid parts and not vice versa, since humans are so finite compared to droids.
For the most part, the interlude style worked. It was quite interesting to go between these four primary stories, as the three flashback stories give the reader progressively more information that gives Han and Lando’s current adventure more meaning, as we know that both have separate histories with the transmitter and with Gor. There were some instances, however, where the pacing just didn’t work. And if I had one main complaint with the book, it would be that at times the interlude/flashback chapters detracted from the main storyline and threw off the pacing of the book.
Additionally, the timeline for these interludes is off. The book is set when Ben Solo is two years old, which means that it is three years after the Battle of Endor and thus around seven years after the Battle of Yavin. The Han interludes are set ten years prior to this storyline, meaning it’s set three years before A New Hope – when Han was 32 years old. So at the time of these interludes he’d be 29, but he introduces himself as “well into my early twenties” (62). That may just be Han bluffing, but the timeline of the Lando interludes confirm that it’s simply an erroneous timeline put forth by Older. The Lando interludes are set fifteen years prior to this main storyline, putting it about eight years prior to A New Hope. The problem, however, is that Lando wasn’t piloting the Falcon at that point nor was L3 his first mate – since Solo takes place ten years prior to A New Hope. None of that takes away from the enjoyment of the story itself (though as already mentioned the interlude format does at times), but it’s something that should be corrected in future printings.
Anyway, the main storyline of the book sees a very interesting teamup, led by Han and Lando. The two of them get involved because of their histories with Gor and the transmitter, and they recruit the young pilot Taka Jamoreesa (who is later secretly revealed to be a New Republic agent working for Leia), Lando’s Twi’lek girlfriend Kassha, the Ewok slicer Peepka, the Ugnaught Floryx, and the loyal Wookiee Chewbacca (who, upon Han and Lando’s arrival on Kashyyyk, is sent by his people to investigate the disappearance of several Wookiees). The characters of the novel are the lifeblood of the book. The story is fine – a maniac with a plan to destroy the galaxy by elevating droids and using humans to serve them must be stopped by Han and Lando. Older ties together the threads well enough to make the story interesting, though it’s nothing special as far as Star Wars stories are concerned. What really carries the book is the characters, and the group that sets out on the mission give plenty of room for development and are quite interesting.
But, of course, as you’d expect in a Han and Lando novel it’s really those two who steal the show. There’s no mistaking it: the book unabashedly focuses on these two beloved scoundrels, and it’s a true joy to read about them teaming up post-Endor. There’s plenty of banter and relationship between the two, but the most profound aspect is the book focusing on the maturation of these scoundrels. Lando Calrissian has never been one to settle down, but the book shows his progression as he loves Kaasha – and at the end tells her: “I’m a hero and a scoundrel, Kaasha, and I always will be. I can’t stop being what I am. But what I can do, what I’ve never done before, is be your scoundrel” (343). Whether they live happily ever after is for future stories to tell, but the book sees Lando settling down with one woman whom he loves. While Lando’s journey is a scoundrel settling down, Han’s journey is different: an already settled-down scoundrel trying to figure out his new life. Han feels like he doesn’t know how to be a good father to two-year old Ben, or a good husband to Leia either. He doesn’t like the life of meetings (he’s in charge of the New Republic Pilot’s Commission) and longs to be on adventures, but as he’s on the adventure he realizes how much he cares for and misses his wife and son. The stories are made more tragic because we know what happens to his relationship with his son, but nonetheless it’s heartwarming to see this new side to Han. Both Han and Lando go through maturation and development throughout the course of the book.
Overall, the story is interesting enough, but it’s really the characters – primarily Han and Lando – that drive this novel forward to make it a truly enjoyable read. It’s not perfect – again, the interlude format is hit-or-miss at times – but for Star Wars fans longing to read more of Han Solo and Lando Calrissian (and who isn’t?) this is a tremendous book that is highly recommended.
My grade: 8.2/10