Now that Solo: A Star Wars Story is about to hit theaters, the world is primed for more Han and Lando adventures—
—no, wait, I have to stop myself. The world has always been primed for more Han and Lando adventures. And thanks to Daniel José Older’s Last Shot, the world can have what it rightly deserves.
If you’re at all familiar with Older’s work, you’ve likely been excited to get your hands on a copy of this book—so stay excited because this is the most fun I’ve had reading about the galaxy’s greatest scoundrels since… well, Timothy Zahn’s Scoundrels. The book is set after the events of Return of the Jedi, and the plot revolves around a transmitter that Lando and Han have to team up and find before someone very nasty gets their hands on it. There are flashbacks regarding the first time that each of them encountered this transmitter, as well as flashbacks to its creation at the hands of a particularly disturbed Pau’an named Fyzen Gor. While peering back into the past, we keep an eye on the present as the former-smuggling duo assemble a new team to take on this unprecedented and particularly strange threat.
[Some spoilers for Star Wars: Last Shot]
Lando and Han are going through some changes as this is all going down as well. Lando is having a crisis of the heart, having realized that he might have feeling feelings for a longtime Twi’lek friend named Kaasha. While he tries to figure out what it means to confront these deeper emotions, Han is having trouble imagining that he’ll ever be any good at parenting or at being a husband to one of the most competent humans in the universe. On Lando’s end, this romantic development is a welcome surprise; it may be the first time that he’s ever been truly interested in someone beyond his usual flirtations, and that’s counting the old Legends books. For Han, we get a much-needed window into his new roles now that the New Republic is up and running, finding out how rough it is adjusting to a life that’s so different from the one he used to lead. (It’s also always fascinating to see Ben Solo as a kid knowing how that’s going to work out one day…)
In addition to our well-loved familiar friends (Han, Lando, Chewie), we also have a few new ones who are equally delightful and frequently outshine the leading men. Florx, Lando’s Ugnaught buddy from Cloud City is a stubborn and unpredictable presence, who smartly wants to spend most of his time sleeping. And then there is Peekpa, an Ewok slicer—the Star Wars version of a hacker—who adores Chewbacca and has zero time for The Han and Lando Show she finds herself thrust into. Both Peekpa and Florx speak in their own languages throughout the book, which desperately made me wish that I could pick up an “Ewokese for Beginners” guide.
A moment for Taka Jamareesa, the pilot for this mission who also happens to be non-binary and uses they/them pronouns. Another moment for how no one acts like this is weird, or suggests that they’ve never encountered a non-binary person before. Taka is one of many characters to adore in this book, so incredibly skilled with clearly excellent taste in music, and I hope to see much more of them in the future (maybe in an adventure with Leia pretty please?) And let’s take another moment for finding out the Sinjir Rath Velus and Conder Kyl—of Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy—are married and I might die now, I have too many emotions, please help. Y’all, my deeply sappy queer heart cannot take it. I have needed these characters in Star Wars all my life.
One of the characters that we’ll see in Solo gets an intro here: L3-37 (Elthree), Lando’s pilot droid buddy, is a piece of the flashbacks sequences for Calrissian’s part of the tale, and we find out a bit more about her motivations and personality. As a person who is frequently bothered by how the Star Wars galaxy treats its droids, it was particularly happy-making to find out that Elthree is all about droid liberation and berates Lando for not caring about the cause. She also appears to be autonomous; Lando doesn’t own her and she clearly does as she pleases. There are other delightful droids connected to her that show up in this book and I hope to see more of them everywhere the Star Wars universe can fit them in. Droids, they are my weakness. That and non-binary pilots, apparently.
The book is action-packed in all the right ways, and the plot is a fascinating one, too. It brings a lot of weighty galactic issues to light, particularly where the treatment of droids is concerned as mentioned above. The narrative manages to be full of life-threatening twists and turns, even with an antagonist who is not related to the large schema of the galaxy. That’s a pretty major step forward for Star Wars books; the majority of the Legends canon were novels that showed our favorite heroes fighting leftover shards of the Empire or gigantic, seemingly unstoppable big bads. Last Shot has more in common with the highly underrated standalone books of the Legends era, creating a threat that is far-reaching, but not the sort that will mobilize every big player in the galaxy. Because Fyzen Gor isn’t that kind of villain, he also serves as a potent reminder of just how flipping weird the Star Wars galaxy can be. On that note, be prepared for some genuinely terrifying visuals in this book.
The hops in time didn’t always work for me, particularly since we were being introduced to so many new or lesser-known characters, and there were several eras and timelines intersecting. A couple of those jumps pulled me out of the action, but it’s honestly a small quibble when compared to everything I loved about the book, which was basically everything else.
Speaking of everything else, an extremely rowdy shoutout to how Older keeps coming back to everyone’s clothes, Lando’s specifically. Fashion is an oft overlooked aspect of genre fiction (and most fiction to be honest), which is absurd when you think about how much clothing tells you about a person. We get careful peeks at everyone’s wardrobes, but Lando’s most of all, as he is clearly a clothes horse with the highest sense of drama. The outfits that Older describes are delightful in the extreme, pure imagination candy. I would like to see mock ups of all of them. (I also have a whole side rant about how, between this book and Solo, we can clearly see that Lando used to be even more outrageous with his vestments when he was younger, and his looks on Cloud City and during the Battle of Endor are him toning it down—but that’s not a thing I need to get into here…) I would also like 100% more dialogue where Han is clearly getting his feelings a little hurt over Lando thinking that he’s “sloppy.”
There’s also a brief period in the book that I will forever refer to as “Justice For Gungans” in which Han makes the mistake of being a jerk (in the “let’s punctuate everything with ‘meesa’” way) to a Gungan security guard and is instantly called out. Said Gungan, name of Aro N’Cookaala, proceeds to tell Han off for drawing his entire species with one ill-informed brush, talks about how the Naboo are still mistreating his people, and then proceeds to vent about not being able to afford an apartment on his home planet. (YES.) He proceeds to make friends with the crew, particularly Peekpa, and helps them navigate their way out of his creepy workplace and avoid Imperial shenanigans, and I think I strained a muscle in my face from grinning because finally someone gave the Gungans a space to talk about how terrible the Naboo are to them and also get in jabs about the gentrification of their homeworld in the post-Trade Federation dustup and it took twenty years to get here but THANK YOU FOR THIS.
And there’s more, too, from a cameo by Maz Kanata and an appearance from Sana Starros (who fans of the Star Wars comics will recognize), to Han’s genuine inability to understand that a woman being annoyed with him is emphatically not a sign of a woman liking him, which explains so many of his issues in his attempts at flirting with Leia and—you know what, I’m gonna stop, I’ve said plenty, go read.
Star Wars: Last Shot is available from Del Rey.