Review: Star Wars: Last Shot by Daniel José Older [audiobook]

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My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Set in the month's following Chuck Wendig's Aftermath trilogy, Daniel José Older explores the rise of a singular threat in a post-Imperial galaxy. In the book's opening moments, Lando Calrissian is attacked in his home on Cloud City by a mysterious hooded figure demanding the Phylanx Redux Transmitter, a mouthful of a galaxy-changing MacGuffin if ever there was one. While Lando doesn't possess this transmitter, he learns that its last known whereabouts were aboard the Millennium Falcon, leading him straight to his ol' buddy Han. Soon enough, the two scoundrels have assembled a new team to help them as they rocket across the galaxy in search of this mysterious device and a rouge evil scientist, Fyzen Gor, who Han encountered ten years previously.

The big draw behind Star Wars: Last Shot, of course, is Han and Lando themselves. Older does a remarkable job bringing Lando to life here, capturing the sleek, cool style of Billy Dee Williams, with a particular eye towards the character's penchant for fashion. Knowing that the clothes make the man, Lando's always been the best-dressed smuggler in the galaxy, and Older pays particular attention to that, as well, describing the man's careful deliberation when it comes to selecting his clothing for events and encounters, as well as a closet full of stylish and colorful capes.

Lando, of course, is off-set by his partner in crime, and Han is as rumpled and grumpy as ever as he tries to cope with fatherhood. With the Imperial Empire run off to the Outer Rim, Han is struggling with his place in life and the oftentimes stationary requirements of being a husband and father. He wants to roam free among the stars, and instead finds himself dealing with a screaming two-year-old whose sleep has been interrupted by noisome droids and urgent late-night calls for Leia. Of course, once free of familial commitments, Han longs to return. As a father of a two-year-old myself, I could sympathize with Han and his emotional and psychological state pretty well here, particularly as he attempts to soothe his distraught son and steps on a bunch of Lucasfilm's Lego-equivalent blocks.

While Older gives us plenty of insight into Han and Lando, and injects a handful of new diverse characters into the Star Wars universe (an Ewok hacker, an agender pilot [as with Wendig's Aftermath trilogy, you can expect lots and lots and lots of pearl-clutching from the anti-diversity, cultural homogeneity-only crowd for this book, too!], a Twi'lek love interest for Lando), he's also sure to pack in plenty of action that help wrinkle the plot and stymie the search for the transmitter. There's also some intriguing looks at the results of Gor's Frankensteinian experiments and the cult that has formed around them. The story itself is unraveled across three time-lines, with the events of the present-day story informed by Lando's and Han's individual, and unwitting, encounters with Fyzen Gor and Phylanx Redux Transmitter in the previous decades.

For the audio edition, Random House has brought in three narrators to tackle the various story threads. Marc Thompson handles the bulk of the novel, with Older narrating Han's story from ten years ago, and January LaVoy reading Lando's segments set twenty years prior. While Last Story probably didn't need three narrators to get the job done, the various performances help shake things up a bit. Thompson, a Star Wars audiobook staple, does a fantastic job as expected. His performances are consistently excellent, and Last Shot is no exception. His performance of Lando is exceptional, and he does a solidly gruff Han Solo, too. If I have any quibble at all, it's in his performance as Taka Jamoreesa, a twenty-something hotshot pilot, who Thompson reads with an annoyingly Jack Black-esque inflection. LaVoy taps into Lando's vocal mannerisms with a cool, entertaining reading. Older does a solid job, although his presentation is not as professionally refined as his co-narrators. Rounding it all out is the usual high-level production quality of a Star Wars audiobook, with the narration enhanced with sound effects, music, and voice digitization for droid characters. All in all, Last Shot makes for an easy, captivating listen that's a heck of a lot of fun.

Readers looking for a solid bit of entertainment fueled by two of the most popular characters in Star Wars should find a lot to enjoy in Last Shot. I'm always game for more Han and Lando adventures, though, so I'm hoping Older is able to return to this galaxy far, far away for at least one more outing. It'd be a shame if this were his last and only shot with these characters.

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Michael Patrick Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.

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