Han and Lando team up for an all new adventure (across a couple timelines) in the latest novel, Last Shot. Between the spot-on characterizations and pure fun factor, it's definitely worth picking up. Come inside for my full review!
Let me kick this off by telling you up front that, as always, this is going to be a spoiler free review. There are a ton of neat tidbits in Last Shot that I can't wait to dive into, but will do so later in a more spoiler filled post. So if you plan on reading Last Shot (which I'll also tell you up front, you should), you can check out my review without fear of major plot points coming out...Let's get to it!
Daniel José Older's Star Wars: Last Shot picks up a couple years after the Battle of Jakku (as portrayed in Chuck Wendig's Empire's End novel), where the Empire is (seemingly) no more and the New Republic is still sorting things out. Han and Leia have settled into a life of meetings, routine, and parenthood. The peaceful (albeit boring) life is interrupted when Lando Calrissian arrives on their doorstep bringing news of an old enemy, Fyzen Gor, with connections to both of their pasts returning.
Fyzen Gor is looking for something that was stolen from him a long time ago...stolen by the owner of the Millennium Falcon. This puts both Lando and Han in the hot seat as Gor's mysterious ability to turn any droid into a murderous bot puts them all at risk. As they journey together along with a motley crew (which includes an Ewok hacker) to track down the object, the mystery of how Gor links their pasts comes into focus along with the real threat he poses to the galaxy.
The story itself unfolds across four different timelines. While the main story being told takes place in the "present," the flashbacks offer some great insight to the story, Gor's motives, and how everything became so complicated along the way. Through these we get the chance to encounter some cool characters fans might already know, while giving us our first taste of L3-37's (Lando's droid companion in the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story movie) personality.
There's genuinely a lot to love about Last Shot, and it has a massive fun factor. The writing is incredibly well done, managing to hook you in from the very first page to the last. It's a very fluid style in which the narrative seems to unfold naturally without relying on a bunch of heavy exposition to set the tone. The action is smooth and easy to follow (there's also a surprising amount of it) that will keep you turning the pages and telling yourself, "just one more chapter."
I was impressed with how well this translated to the flashback chapters. The novel jumps around time frequently, with only the chapter heading telling you which time period you're in. With all that's going on, it seems like it'd be easy to get confused; but it never happens. The flashbacks mesh so well within the current story being told, I rarely noticed the jumps. While each section of time (one follows Lando and L3, another a younger Han and Chewbacca, with the last providing Gor's backstory) tells their own little story, they serve to enhance the bigger picture in significant ways.
On a minor note (because I don't want to dive into spoilers), there are some really cool connections the book makes with ALL of the existing canon so far. From other book characters popping up, to a notable comic character, plenty of connections to the new movies, and even some old Expanded Universe nods, there's a lot for fans to enjoy. They're subtle as well and even if you haven't read/know about the other stuff, you won't feel lost or like you're missing vital information for the current story being told.
The part of Last Shot that worked best, however, are the characterizations of the on screen heroes. Han and Lando are perfect. I mean, there's no other word for it. Older really captures the essence of the characters we fell in love with on the big screen and puts them onto the page. This is the most significant amount of post-ROTJ time we've seen for Han and Lando (with them being the focus) and it's neat to see how they are adjusting to the new normals of life after the war.
This isn't the remorseful Han (who's lost everything) we see in The Force Awakens, nor is he completely the brash scoundrel from the original films. He's in between, trying to figure out how to be "settled" and deal with a respectable job with a wife and kid. films...perhaps even more so than the old EU. Witnessing the dynamic between him and Leia was great, and made for some of the most emotionally resonating moments in the book. That's not to mention the fact we get to see a toddler Ben Solo! There's some moments that really pull at the heartstrings knowing how THAT relationship ends up.
What Doesn't Work So Well
Last Shot is a lot of fun, but there are some minor quibbles. Their comes a point where the flashbacks stop, but the points at which they do aren't entirely satisfactory. Sure, they're mostly there to feed you info on the current timeline plot, but the smaller stories they tell are engaging enough that I wanted to see more. I get it, some of the stuff can't be discussed more as that could step on the figurative toes of the Solo movie...Still, it was a tad frustrating.
The story, while fun, also feels a tad too simple at times. For all the setup, multiple timelines, and emphasis on gathering a crew I expected something more than the straightforward plot that it ended up being. That doesn't mean it's bad, far from it, and I was still actively engaged in all the action and plot beats that went down; I just expected something a tad more convoluted. Maybe that's not the best way to phrase it, but considering how I was able to blow through the book in just a couple days because I was having so much fun, it's definitely a minor thing.