Welcome to the Multiversity Star Wars Book Club! Based on a conversation in the Multiversity Slack, editors Matt Garcia and Brian Salvatore decided to start up this column, where we will be reading and discussing a Star Wars every month or so. So come, enter the ancient library and join us!
Written by Daniel Jose Elder
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Han Solo and Lando Calrissian are reunited on the Millennium Falcon in a galaxy-spanning novel inspired by Solo: A Star Wars Story. But even the fastest ship in the universe can’t outrun the past. . . .
It’s one of the galaxy’s most dangerous secrets: a mysterious transmitter with unknown power and a reward for its discovery that most could only dream of claiming. But those who fly the Millennium Falcon throughout its infamous history aren’t your average scoundrels. Not once, but twice, the crew of the Falcon tries to claim the elusive prize—first, Lando Calrissian and the droid L3-37 at the dawn of an ambitious career, and later, a young and hungry Han Solo with the help of his copilot, Chewbacca. But the device’s creator, the volatile criminal Fyzen Gor, isn’t interested in sharing. And Gor knows how to hold a grudge. . . .
It’s been ten years since the rebel hero Han Solo last encountered Fyzen Gor. After mounting a successful rebellion against the Empire and starting a family with an Alderaanian princess, Han hasn’t given much thought to the mad inventor. But when Lando turns up at Han’s doorstep in the middle of the night, it’s Fyzen’s assassins that he’s running from. And without Han’s help, Lando—and all life on Cloud City—will be annihilated.
With the assistance of a young hotshot pilot, an Ewok slicer prodigy, the woman who might be the love of Lando’s life, and Han’s best and furriest friend, the two most notorious scoundrels in the New Republic are working together once more. They’ll have to journey across the stars—and into the past—before Gor uses the device’s power to reshape the galaxy.
Brian: Hot on the heels on Solo, Del Ray released Last Shot, a new Han and Lando novel by Daniel Jose Elder. I was legitimately surprised by the structure of the novel, which jumps back and forth from pre-Solo (I think?) and post-Return of the Jedi. These are both somewhat under-written about eras, and Lando and Han are fun characters. Overall, what did you think of the novel?
Matt: I think it was both pre post Solo while also being post Return of the Jedi. And that’s not even counting the flashbacks to the bad guy’s stuff. There’s a lot going on in this book.
Overall, I thought it was . . . fine. It was a quick read. There were some creepy moments. The action in the last section was handled okay. I thought Older did well in capturing the voice and cadences of both older Lando and younger Lando, though I don’t think he did great with Han. I also thought it was so desperate to be woke and check off all these boxes that it didn’t feel as diverse or inclusive as it wanted to be. Older’s writing was bland and so straightforward it was forgettable but I guess tie-in books like these aren’t necessarily after some crafty writer.
It didn’t take enough risks to be exciting. It didn’t falter too much to be disappointing. I thought it was all right. What about you? Also, what challenges do you see in having so many different time frames and do you think the book used them well?
Brian: Well, I agree with the Lando v Han characterizations. I’ve often said that Han is the hardest character for anyone to write, for reasons I’m not entirely sure about. Perhaps it is because Harrison Ford’s voice is so distinctive? But you could even see it in Solo, where everything out of Donald Glover’s mouth felt absolutely Lando-ish, but a few lines didn’t quite track from Han’s mouth.
But anyway, I think I was a little more fond of the book than you were. I enjoyed the Lando stuff most of all, but I’m a Lando man, but overall, I found it to be a fun, quick read that kept my attention throughout. I’ll agree that, at times, it felt like it was trying to win the wokeness award, but I think it transcended that.Continued below
In terms of the timeframes, the issue I always find in these types of books is that I just want more of whatever storyline I am currently preferring which, most of the time, is the stuff that I feel is more important/interesting. For this particular story, I liked the older Han/Lando stuff, so I was a bit annoyed whenever we had to dip back into the past for a piece of the story that I felt wasn’t really doing much for the overall plot.
Did you have a preferred timeline?
Matt: I understand what you’re saying, especially because the book’s main storyline was with the older Han and Lando. I found Lando to be the brightest part of this book, both in the story’s present and flashback. Older found a way to capture both Glover’s speech and Williams’s and both sounded authentic and true to the character in that specific time of his life. Though I liked the younger Lando stuff, I also thought it was the most inconsequential of the plots and didn’t offer anything that couldn’t have been told in a few throwaway lines. Maybe it was there to be help develop his relationship with L3? There also didn’t seem to be a resolution in those segments, at least not in the same way as young Han’s and his foibles with the flux capacitor or rabbit’s foot or whatever the macguffin was in this story. To be fair, a lot of that can be attributed to it being addressed 15 years later.
We’ve talked about how writers struggle to capture Han’s voice. I think that’s particularly true of Harrison Ford’s Han. Like, they have this overconfidence in it but it rarely ever feels right. That being said, Older did better with the Ehrenreich Han. I also thought he did better by both of them than with Leia.
What did you think of the secondary characters? The Ewok hacker or hotshot pilot? The droid manufacturer and Lando’s love interest? You mentioned you felt the novel was able to overcome its attempts at appealing to Tumblr and I was wondering how you thought it was able to do that?
Brian: One of my complaints about Star Wars is that for a galaxy full of the such diverse and bizarre creatures, we see a lot of humanoid folks, don’t we? I always mark out when we see a Wookie Jedi (like in The Clone Wars), or, really, any pairing of character and role that is unexpected. So, to get an Ewok slicer (get your terminology right, Garcia) in the story is fun.
Unfortunately, not many of the side characters, save maybe for Fryzen Gor, got too many opportunities to develop into something too deep. I thought the bit about the pilot calling himself Han Solo was cute enough, and I thought Lando thinking about monogamy was a fun. Those parts of the book seemed to be playing with well-trode characteristics in a way that wasn’t exactly new or exciting, but was enjoyable enough.
I think I’m a bit of a cheap date when it comes to these books, because for the most part, I just enjoy the ride. I wasn’t really bothered by the Leia stuff, even if she came off a bit as a distant, political wonk, because we are viewing things through Han’s eyes, and she probably looks like that to him.
Full disclosure time: I read this two months ago, and have had to bone up on what actually happened in parts, so that’s probably not the most glowing endorsement of the book that I needed to brush up on what happened so soon after reading it. But for the most part, I found the book charming, if not a little slight.
Let’s talk a little about Gor. He was, to me, the weakest part of the novel. He somewhat suffered from Phasma syndrome, where a character becomes a villain for no real reason. Sure, horrible things happened to him, but it seemed like his villainy was based around how he already was, not what happened to him. Did you get that vibe?
Matt: Yeah, I had a hard time buying his motivations, too, his going from kidnapped student surgeon to droids are superior and must rule the world. Like, there was no point where he realized, “Wow. Droids are treated badly around here,” and gained empathy or anything. He just went, “DROID LIFE” and started hacking creatures’ arms off.
It all reminded me of that movie, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.
Do you think this novel gave us any clue into Solo? Did it help fill out that world in any way for you?
Brian: Well, I read the novel before seeing Solo, and so I had some idea about the Lando/L3 relationship, though the timeline is still a little unclear to me. I don’t think there was much in Solo, as much as I liked it, that really needed filling out. It was, perhaps, the most self-contained Star Wars film ever made.
What about you?
Matt: Even with the inclusion of Crimson Dawn?
I’m just joking.
And I think it helped with the Lando/L3 dynamic. Like most of Lando’s stuff in the film, this was glossed over. We get a few throwaway shots of him cradling her head but the book did better with building a dynamic between them. She’s also more likable here than in the movie.
One of the biggest things Han learns in the book is how there’s no right way to be a dad. He also realises this galavanting around the galaxy isn’t for him as much any more. What did you think of the stuff with itty bitty Ben? Did it jive with the characterization we get with Han from, like, Force Awakens?
Brian: I mean, I’m a dad, so I’m a sucker for that stuff. And I think that it isn’t too hard to squint and see how that Han becomes the hauling rathtars guy from The Force Awakens. He gives it the ol’ college try being a dad, and it doesn’t really take, and so he reverts back to his old ways. I mean, he practically says as much to Leia in The Force Awakens.
But I think it is good to try to show a different side of Han, because as much fun as he is, we’ve seen a lot of him being the charming smuggler. I liked this different part of his personality being on display.
So, any closing thoughts on the book?
Matt: Although I think it bit off a lot more than it could chew and I thought it strived way too hard to make sure it checked everything Tumblr deemed appropriate and was so pleased as punch that it did check off those boxes, it wasn’t bad. I mean, I could wish Older was a better writer or that Lando wasn’t sitting around for the entire middle section of the book or any number of things but it more or less came together in the end. It was better than Phasma and not nearly as strong as the Leia books. How did it rank for you?
Brian: That sounds about right to me, though I had a little more fun with it than you did. It wasn’t nearly as good as some of the other books we’ve read so far, but I enjoyed my time reading it.
Next month, we’ll be reading The Legends of Luke Skywalker by Ken Liu. See ya then!