As a recent convert to audiobooks when my Wife told me she had a spare credit on her Audible account I leapt at the chance to get ‘Last Shot’ by Daniel Jose Older, read by Marc Thompson, Daniel Jose Older and January LaVoy.
I really want to say I loved this book. I really want to say it’s in my top five canon novels but I just can’t do it.
It’s really good but, for me it took too long to get into the meat of the story, about a third of the way through and it really kicks off but by that point I was starting to lose interest and I struggled to get back into it after a break.
The story covers four time periods, three years after Return of the Jedi where the bulk of the story plays out with Han and Lando putting a team together to find a mad scientist, Fyzen Gor, who has a device that will turn all droids into murderous machines when he connects it with a transmitter called the Phylanx.
Then “About Fifteen Years” before with Lando and L3 that has L3 dragging Lando away from a party to enter an ice asteroid field so L3 can investigate a laboratory full of mutilated droids before finding the Phylanx and scanning it before returning to the Falcon.
Then “About Ten Years Ago” with Han and Chewie teaming up with Sana Starros to find part of the Phylanx and sell it for profit.
And finally “About Twenty Years Ago” detailing how Fyzen Gor, a promising medical student became interested in splicing droids and biological creatures and starting his grand scheme to rid the galaxy of sentient biological beings to make way for droid dominance.
Firstly, the Lando and L3 segments are placed incorrectly in the overall timeline. 15 years prior to the main narrative would have the events happening AFTER Solo: A Star Wars Story. At the time of release this has not been corrected by anyone at Lucasfilm. I can only assume this is a huge oversight or the timeline was altered whilst Solo was filming and a change was made and couldn’t be changed in time, but isn’t this why the Story Group exists? But in my head-canon I place it roughly 17 – 18 years before the main narrative. The rest of the timeline fits correctly but I guess they can get away with it by saying “About” Fifteen Years Ago. But still, not great.
The Lando and L3 story starts well and builds to what could be an amazing end but actually ends very abruptly. The same could be said for the young Han and Chewie segments, the ending of which feels very anti-climactic.
The main story, set after Return of the Jedi starts well and slows down to let the team get put together before becoming a well paced adventure. I really feel that had the book had more to do with this than jumping around the timeline and had the backstory told more succinctly it would have worked better for me and rather than having whole sections dedicated to Fyzen Gor’s history it could again have been told much better as part of the main narrative or exposition than a handful of forced flashbacks that really detract from the story.
I said I liked the book, and I really did but it has a lot of issues, but also a lot of great parts. Firstly, we get to see Han as a family man who feels like he’s getting it all wrong at being a husband and a parent.
As a father to a one-year-old daughter I could really relate to Han in his moments of parenting doubt. He feels like he can’t get it all right all the time and I’ve been through that. I still go through that. And sometimes it’s nice to see the issues we deal with in our heroes (fictional or otherwise) because it helps us relate to them. His final conversation with Leia is touching as she helps him realise he’s actually great at what he does with her and Ben and that’s a conversation my wife has had with me on occasion.
I loved having Takodana in the book in Han’s younger years which establishes his relationship with Maz in Force Awakens.
Having Sana Starros appear was a great nod to the comics, further integrating different mediums together to make a more cohesive universe, although we still have yet to find out the job they pulled where they got fake married.
We got more L3. Who doesn’t want more L3?
The new characters, Kasha, Lando’s maybe-girlfriend who has known Lando for years and they are only now getting together works well and gives Lando a decent amount of character growth.
Peekpa, the slicer Ewok. Hilarious. Love the idea and it’s well executed.
Taka, the pilot who Han and Lando hire who turns out to be a New Republic agent is great fun who winds Han up to no end at first but by the end we get to see the paternal side to Han coming out and we get a glimpse into a possible future he could have hand with Ben.
But the problems. Oh the problems.
Firstly the deus ex machina was a bit much. An army of L3 battle droids? Really? Poignant yes, necessary? No.
Chewie gets shoe-horned into the main narrative. It’s great to get more Chewie, but having him join Han and Lando’s crew and having a minor sub-plot involving missing Wookiees that it turns out have been captured and mutilated by Fyzen Gor jut screams of poor writing. Chewie doesn’t need more of a reason to join the crew other than his involvement with Gor during his and Han’s younger days.
The pacing, or lack there of really bothered me. It’s probably more to do with the structure, rather than jumping around the timeline I would have preferred each character arc be told as different parts, with the exception of the very end of Lando and L3 ‘s story that could only work as part of the epilogue. But even that would work better for me.
Overall the book has a lot of issues with overall continuity and pacing but looking past that it’s a very enjoyable book. The characters are written brilliantly and Han and Lando’s development post Return of the Jedi is believable.
The audiobook version is performed brilliantly by the whole cast, but like I said about The Last Jedi audiobook, the music from the prequel and original trilogy soundtracks was a bit jarring. I would like some more original compositions with themes from the films as opposed to Across the Stars playing anytime Lando and Kasha has a moment together.
Definitely worth checking out but to avoid disappointment I’d wait for the paperback version.
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