Audiobook Review: Daniel José Older’s “Last Shot” is an 11-Hour Trivia Challenge for Star Wars Superfans

Audiobook Review: Daniel José Older’s “Last Shot” is an 11-Hour Trivia Challenge for Star Wars Superfans

Since clearing the Expanded Universe decks in 2014 and declaring that only movies were canon, the Disney-era Lucasfilm has been busily re-filling the gaps with books and TV shows exploring the new chronology — with the New Republic, the Solos’ marriage, and Luke Skywalker’s Jedi training endeavor all fumbling in the years between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.

One of their favored strategies has been to release, in the run-up to each new film, books concerning related characters and settings. The next Star Wars movie is Solo, so we now have Daniel José Older’s Last Shot, a complicated story about a couple of complicated dudes.

The novel’s main action takes place a few years after Return of the Jedi. Struggling with family life, Han Solo is glad to be distracted by a punch in the nose from his old pal Lando Calrissian. (“Unca Wanwo!” cries toddler Ben.) A deadly, shadowy figure named Fyzen Gor is on the hunt for Lando because the Millennium Falcon was the last known ship to carry a mysterious artifact with vast powers.

I listened to the audiobook and so I don’t even know how to spell the name of this thing, but it’s a high-maintenance MacGuffin that’s linked to Gor’s quest to incite a droid rebellion that will overturn the galactic order — with droids giving the orders and creatures of flesh and bone, be they human or Ithorian, serving as slaves.

Don’t know what an Ithorian is? How about a Gran? Quarren? Rodian? All of those species, canonical from cameos in Mos Eisley or Jabba’s palace, show up in Last Shot, which is among other things a book-length trivia challenge for Star Wars superfans. If you’ll be surprised to learn that Lando’s job title is no longer baron administrator, you’re the right audience for this novel.

Subplots flash back to episodes shortly before and after the events of the forthcoming Solo: both Lando and Han, we learn, had run-ins with this object of Gor’s desire, which they pursued along with women of their own desire. One of those, a sexy Twi’lek (if that doesn’t ring any bells, here’s a hint: Lando erotically caresses her lekku), accompanies the duo on their latter-day adventures. Can Calrissian commit?

Lucasfilm has apparently heard the calls for queer representation that sounded loudly in the Last Jedi wake, because Last Shot includes a prominent non-binary character and a mention of a same-sex marriage. It’s a welcome change that points toward a more inclusive future for the franchise.

Random House turns the audiobook into a typically lavish production, with three narrators and a constant barrage of sound effects. The music editing is somewhat more restrained than in the Last Jedi audiobook, which is just as well — and it’s fun to hear some of John Williams’s underappreciated prequel music recycled.

January LaVoy narrates the early Lando action (so to speak), while Older himself voices the tale of young Solo. He proves better as a writer than a reader, especially in comparison to the masterful Marc Thompson, who narrates the main story. Thompson loves Billy Dee Williams’s signature laughing protests, and his Harrison Ford impression is truly uncanny. You can vividly imagine MosquitoCoast-era Ford trying to squeeze back into his flight pants.

Last Shot is ironically titled in that it’s likely we’ll be hearing far more from Han Solo and Lando Calrissian. In the hands of these capable storytellers, that sounds like a winning bet.

Jay Gabler