Droids

Star Wars: Last Shot (An Imperial Talker Review)

There are few things I like and a lot of things I dislike about Star Wars: Last Shot by first time Star Wars author Daniel José Older. In fact, the bad so significantly outweigh the good that it is a little overwhelming to figure out where to begin. Perhaps the most obvious place is to just say that this story is entirely inconsequential to the Star Wars universe. While the book centers on Han and Lando coming together three years after the events of Return of the Jedi to stop a maniacal Pau’an who has plans to cause a violent, galaxy-wide droid uprising, the story never truly convinced me of its necessity, or that it was providing the Star Wars universe with any greater meaning. There are certainly a number of Star Wars elements in Last Shot. There are Star Wars places – Takodana, Utapau, Bespin, Kashyyyk – and Star Wars species – Twi’leks, Ewoks, Gungans, Ugnaughts – and a cast of familiar Star Wars characters – Han, Lando, Leia, Chewbacca, Maz Kanata – but as a whole these elements never truly coalesce into a Star Wars story with gravitas.

To save you time, I will just come right out and tell you what happens: Han and Lando survive, the bad guy (Fyzen Gor) dies, and the galaxy is once again saved by everyone’s favorite scoundrels. Thus, we are left with an altogether generic, run-of-the-mill Star Wars novel that is easily forgettable. But what is truly disappointing is that the opportunity for some memorable moments with incredibly profound consequence do exist within Last Shot. When, at the end of the novel, Lando must choose between saving himself or the galaxy at large, he chooses the latter. This IS a profound move, a “holy crap” moment in a book that really REALLY needed one. Yet, Lando’s moment of altruistic sacrifice is undercut when he is saved by a laughable plot device: the offspring? of his former droid L3-37 (who shows up in the novel in flashbacks) known as the “Elthree Assault Team.”

L3-37
L3-37
Photo Credit – Solo: A Star Wars Story

Had Lando died, the Star Wars galaxy would have been shaken to its core. Why isn’t Lando in The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi? Answer: because he was atomized in an explosion in the Mesulan Remnant. Instead, he is saved by a contrived group of vigilante droids made in the image of L3-37 and goes on to live happily ever after with the Twi’lek woman known as Kaasha, wanting to finally (sort of) settle down after years of galactic promiscuity. And who is this Kaasha you ask? I can’t tell you because she is given little development. She is ultimately in the novel because the author needed a sexual/romantic foil for Lando. Their backstory together goes to the Galactic Civil War when they found comfort in each others arms during the battle of…who knows, I can’t remember. She was smitten by the General, has sought him out, and joins him (and Han) on their adventure. While she is given glimpses of agency – she can communicate with their Ewok companion and she aids Han as he attempts to retake a ship during the novels climax – Kaasha is a Twi’lek woman otherwise beholden to the whims and feelings of a man. Shocking!

Kaasha is not the only new character appearing in the book. A human from Alderaan, and the pilot whom Han and Lando hire to assist them, Taka is a gender-neutral character and is referred to as “they” throughout the book. If there is one truly good thing about Last Shot, Taka is it. I appreciate and applaud that Older chose to include such a character in the Star Wars universe, especially since Taka’s gender-neutral status is so banal. I certainly hope more characters like Taka emerge in Star Wars as their inclusion paves the way for more gender-boundaries to be broken. And, I hope Taka shows up again in Star Wars because they are an interesting and fun. Plus, Taka goes out of their way to annoy Han with heavy metal music which is a pretty funny moment in the book.

Taka is one of the few bright spots in Last Shot, and if I were to chose another it would be the inclusion of 2-year-old Ben Solo. Now, I should note that Ben’s appearance(s) in Last Shot primarily serve Han’s story, specifically the smuggler’s inner turmoil about whether he is a good father (I’ll get back to Ben in a moment). Han’s fatherhood questions are dragged out to the very end when, finally, Han talks to Leia and she reassures him that “no one knows how to be a parent before they are one…” (pg. 340). That it takes the entire book for Han and Leia to have the “parenting is hard” conversation is pretty ridiculous (it is a convo he could have had with Leia without going on a galactic mission) but given that this is the core of Han’s character development it is hardly surprising. I don’t begrudge this particular angle on Han, though. We know from The Force Awakens that he and his son had a rocky relationship, so incorporating little bits of that relationship – in this case whether Han feels like he can do the parenting thing – is a fine angle to take. What is truly disappointing, though, is that there was a massive missed opportunity for Han to learn the importance of the parent-child relationship from Taka.

At one point in Last Shot, Han happens upon a recording of Taka’s parents. From the recording we learn two things: Taka’s parent loved them unconditionally and Taka’s parents were Alderaanian which means their parents are dead. Later, Han will mention to Taka that he watched the recording and they will tell Han that it is the last little piece of his parents they own. Han clearly sympathizes with Taka, particularly since he reflects on comforting Leia when she feels down abpout the destruction of her homeworld. But what was missed was the chance to unite Han’s parenting woes with the fact that Taka is holding onto a small remnant of their deceased parents. I cannot help but imagine a different version of Last Shot where Han comes to a fuller appreciation of his role as a parent, as a father, as he listens to someone who lost their parents. In turn, the conversation he had with Taka, and the lessons he learned/chose to reflect on, could have easily tied in with the remained of the novel (particularly the conversation with Leia at the end). Instead, Han’s parenting woes culminate in the final moments of the book when he receives cookie cutter wisdom from his wife. Ugh. Let’s just go back to Ben Solo…

Moments that Left Me Speechless

That Ben Solo makes a handful of appearances in Last Shot was certainly a positive aspect of the novel, enabling the reader to experience the sequel trilogy villain as an innocent toddler. In fact, it is two lines about Ben Solo – coming through the inner thoughts of Han – that left me completely stunned early in the book. The child looking up at his father, Older writers:

“Han had no idea how a two-year-old could have such ancient eyes. It was as if Ben had been waiting around for a millennium to show up at just this moment in history.”

Wow! Like, wow! With clarity and brevity, Daniel José Older captures the entire trajectory of the Sith Order which Darth Bane instituted, an Order based on the Rule of Two, an Order which survived for a millennium, an Order which was finally destroyed with the death of Darth Sidious at the hands. Now, as if he had been waiting for the Sith to die out, Ben Solo’s time has finally come, his conception coinciding with the death of Darth Sidious. Ben Solo’s conception and birth are the prophetic sign of a new era of Darkness, a Darkness which has been waiting to emerge for a millennia, a Darkness the boy will one day help to bring about as Kylo Ren. And the “ancient eyes”? Those are the eyes which Han  will sees when his son pushes a red lightsaber through him on Starkiller Base. They will be the very last thing Han ever sees, and perhaps in that moment he will think back to that moment he saw the “ancient eyes” in his two-year-old son.

Han and Ben
Kylo Ren (Ben Solo) looks at his father with “ancient eyes.”
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

That Han’s small reflection on Ben came early in the novel left me hoping more moments would pop up that packed a punch. But there are really no other Star Wars gems in the book on par with Han’s reflection on Ben. Instead, the opposite is true, with two other lines showing up which left me dumbfounded and at a loss. They are (and I can’t believe I am about to type this):

“Tight enough for a bulge and the insinuation of an ass…” (pg. 41).
“Like a droid orgy of some kind, but with astromechs and those old battle droids from the Clone Wars?” (pg. 335) 

My problem with references to “a bulge” and “an ass” and a “droid orgy” is pretty straight forward: they don’t add anything of value to the novel. Unless, that is, one counts shock value, which, in this case, I don’t. There is a time and place in a story to really shock the audience, to authentically catch the reader off-guard with something that comes out of left field. Lando choosing to sacrifice himself for the greater good is shocking, and if he actually died in the process would have been even more shocking. But “a bulge” and “an ass” and a “droid orgy”, these sexually-charged references caught me off-guard and shocked me in a way that left me thinking only one thing: this book is really bad.

The Bad Outweighs the Good

To be fair, I would say this book is really bad even if it didn’t reference “a bulge” and “an ass” and a “droid orgy.” Here, I will list a handful of other things that are problematic about the book (to go along with things I have already mentioned):

  • The flow of the book is choppy and confusing, the narrative jumping back and forth as it follows four storylines through flashbacks. I am not opposed to flashbacks in general, but the book jumps across timelines far too many times without giving the reader a chance to catch their breath.
  • Speaking of flashbacks, Lando’s storyline (“about 15 years ago”) does not line up with the events of Solo: A Star Wars Story. How do I know this? Because I was paying attention in the 1st Grade and learned addition and subtraction.  But there is a bit more to it: L3-37 was destroyed, and uploaded into the Millennium Falcon, in the Solo movie (which takes place around 10 BBY). However, Lando’s flashbacks in Last Shot take place in 8 BBY and L3-37 is still intact and NOT uploaded into the Falcon. Oh, and let’s not forget that at the very end of Solo, the Millennium Falcon no longer belongs to Lando…
  • The villain, Fyzen Gor, gets his own flashbacks but is completely unconvincing as a bad guy and, even worse, uninteresting. What makes his story all the more confusing is that he is from Utapau, his evil plan involves melding organic body parts with droids, and his evil conversion takes place sometime around 13 BBY, but there is not a single reference to General Grievous!!! At the very least, Gor could have been doing his initial evil organic- droid stuff and reflecting on the droid General who died on Utapau in 19 BBY.
  • The droids Gor activate to kill people literally say “Killlllll.” #facepalm
  • Speaking of those killlllllller droids, when Han and Leia’s kitchen droid is activated and moves to killlllll little Ben, a brilliant opportunity existed for the toddler to destroy the droid with his adolescent connection to the Force. This would have been awesome and a perfect connection the “ancient eyes” moment early in the book. Instead, the droid is activated and then immediately deactivated. Ugh!!!!!!
  • Oh, and what about all of the other droids galaxy-wide that were activated? Even though it was brief, a lot of droids probably killllllllled quite a few organic beings in those moments. And by “quite a few” I mean millions, and by millions I mean tens of millions.
  • Where are R2-D2 and C-3PO? This book is about killllllller droids but the two most famous droids in Star Wars never show up. Were they activated?
    Boss Nass
    “Meeeeeesa don’t lika Aro for being preachy.” – Boss Nass

    Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

  • Aro, a Gungan working on Substation Grimdock, gets upset with Han for saying “meesa” and chastises him for assuming all Gungans talk like…like Gungans. I understand what Daniel José Older is TRYING to accomplish here, giving the reader an object lesson in not assuming how individuals speak based on stereotypes. But it comes off as preachy and makes Aro even more annoying than the average Gungan. And besides, there are plenty of Gungans that say “meesa” who do some pretty great things in Star Wars (check out this piece:  The Sacrifice of General Tarpals).
  • Chewbacca doesn’t need to be in the main storyline. Like, at all. He is there…and I know this sounds crazy…just because this novel is partially about Han. Now, to be fair, Older does drum up a reason for Chewie to go on the adventure: young Wookiees being kidnapped by Fyzen Gor for his experiments. However, there is no definitive resolution to this other than Chewie fighting the half droid-half Wookiee abominations. In turn because Chewbacca is “lugging a sack” (pg. 337) following his battle, Han presumes it is full of Wookiee body parts but this is never confirmed. Nor does anyone, at the end, question whether some Wookiees are still being held in some secret laboratory. Oh welllllllllllll….

Here is the deal – if you want to read Star Wars: Last Shot, go for it. It you end up liking it, more power to you. And, if you would like to convince me this book is far better than I have suggested, by all means, leave a comment below. I will gladly give your thought(s) careful consideration. But as of right now, beyond the few things in this book that I actually liked (Taka, Ben Solo, “ancient eyes”) there is just too much stacked against Last Shot for me to give it anymore significant thought. In turn, Last Shot has given rise to an unintended consequence: it has made me less likely to purchase/read Star Wars novels in the future, especially novels by new Star Wars authors. If nothing else, this will (I hope) save me from having Lando’s “bulge” and “ass” shoved in my face again. 


***Page numbers are from the first edition of Star Wars: Last Shot.***

Haikuesday: Recap

Haikuesday: Recap
Looking Backward and Forward
A New Haiku Dawn

In January 2017 I had this crazy idea: what if I wrote Star Wars-inspired haiku and posted them on the first Tuesday of every month. Thus, my Haikuesday series was born. Since the first Haikuesday was posted in February 2017, I have written fifteen other Haikuesday posts, the topic for each being chosen via polls on Twitter. Allowing my followers and others on Twitter to vote for each Haikuesday topic was a way to garner some fun and “fan”tastic support for the monthly series, and while all those who voted may not have gone on to read the haiku I wrote, it was never-the-less fun to know so many people were voting!

I am incredibly proud of the Haikuesday posts I have written, in large part because these posts have enabled me to explore my love of Star Wars in really unique ways. Never would I have imagined, when Haikuesday began, that I would have be scouring the Expanded Universe novel The Truce at Bakura for inspiration, or that I would be obsessively listening to Carl Orff’s O Fortuna (from Carmina Burana) as I wrote haiku about Darth Vader. I dug into my knowledge of the Star Wars: Uprising mobile-game (which I played obsessively before it was cancelled) for the haiku about Cloud City and was inspired by the poetry of Toru Dutt and Hindu mythology as I wrote about Queen Amidala. Long story short, Haikuesday has enabled me to explore not just Star Wars, but a wealth of other music, art, literature, and more in really interesting ways.

At the same time, the writing of Haikuesday posts has taken numerous forms, and happened at pretty random times. For many of the sixteen posts, I would work on the haiku over the course of the week leading up to Haikuesday. Sometimes my inspiration would come late in the process, and I would still be writing haiku an hour before I planned on actually publishing. More often than not, though, the haiku would be completed in advance of Haikuesday. As well, many of the haiku were first written by hand, and I have two notebooks filled with my Star Wars-inspired poetic creations. As I told my friend Kiri from the site Star Wars Anonymous (who write some of her own Star Wars haiku!), I often keep a notebook with me to ensure that I can write a haiku if it pops into my mind. And, in those moments when I do not have a notebook, my iPhone comes in pretty handy.

There are definitely some other little things about Haikuesday I could mention, but realistically, and for the sake of brevity, I will skip all of that. Like, you don’t really care that I wrote most of The Battle of Scarif haiku in the backseat of a car, Rogue One: The Visual Dictionary by my side, on a road trip from Detroit, MI to Alexandria, VA…do you? Naw, of course you don’t care, so I won’t share that with you. And I definitely won’t share that I wrote all of The Battle of Umbara haiku in a note on my phone (I remember when phones were just used for making calls and not writing haiku. Those were the good ole days…in the 1990s). 

So, what is next for Haikuesday? Well, first and foremost, a much-needed creative break. I love rendering Star Wars in haiku form but my brain is tapped out right now. For right now – meaning for a few months – I am taking a break from Haikuesday to focus on some other Star Wars posts I have wanted to nail down for this site. In fact, now that this site is over three years old, I have quite a few ideas moving forward…including plans to FINALLY do Wookiee Week (but more on that later). As for Haikuesday, I already have some fun and innovative ideas to revamp it, changing how I approach it – from when/how I write, to the topics, and getting Star Wars fans (you!) involved in writing haiku! I even have this crazy idea to do an entire Haikuesday post in Aurebesh…

But all of that is in the future. For now, I hope you will take some time to read (or re-read) and share my Haikuesday posts. Leave a comment on them, tell me what you like, and if you have any thoughts/ideas on helping me make Haikuesday even more successful I am all ears!

Below are all of the featured images I used for every Haikuesday (with links to each post in the captions).


oom_battle_droids-2
Droids















Thrawn TIEFighter
Thrawn

Haikuesday: Droids

I had been wanting to do a monthly series on this site for some time but had been struggling to decide what to do. Then, one day, it hit me: why not write and post a collection on Star Wars Haiku on the first Tuesday of every month and call it Haikuesday. Simple to pull off but also stunningly brilliant (*pats self on back*). Yet, that was not the only idea I had. “What if,” I thought to myself, “I allowed my followers on Twitter to vote for the Haiku topic.” And that is precisely what I did, presenting four options in a poll which resulted in this inaugural Haikuesday post which is all about DROIDS! 

I hope you enjoy my Star Wars inspired syllabic creations and be sure to follow me on Twitter to vote for the next Haikuesday topic!


Scene: Horizon Base;
Chopper ignores the mission.
Instead, goes shopping.


Interrogator
IT-O deals in torture
Confessions abound


I have to be frank:
That Vader built 3PO
is still really odd.


“Inventory Droid!”
AP-5 gets no respect
Defects to Rebels


Construction droids on
planet Lothal, Leonis
calls them primitive


Techno Union owned
Baktoid built battle droids for
CIS armies


I have to be frank:
I think 3PO’s red arm
is really stupid.


Scene: On Tatooine
Jawa scavengers sell droids.
Stolen? “Utini!”


Guardian Corps built;
at Third Battle of Vontor
Xim’s droids defeated


You know, in a way,
the Force also woke R2 
from low power nap.


K-2 reprogrammed,
He’ll be there for Jyn because
Cassian says so


I can’t help but feel
the Clone War should have been called
the Great Droid War…thoughts?


Jek-14 no more
He is the Maker of Zoh,

repairer of droids


Scene: On Mustafar;
Anakin and Ahsoka
battle nanny droids


Programmed by CorSec,
Whistler joins Corran Horn in
Rogue Squadron battles


Fatal Alliance,
Republic and Sith soldiers
battle Fastbreeders


“Attacked by a droid…
…An old Clone Wars battle droid.”
Bones beat up Solo


Battle of Naboo
Primitive Gungans engage
Wall Street’s droid army


Writing droid haiku
Imperial Talker starts
to feel quite hungry


Upsetting a droid
No one worries about that…
3PO is wrong


“Primary function:
burn holes through meatbags, Master.
…how I hate that term.”


Serpentine Sentries
Roaming ruins on Mataou.
Aphra should beware.


Poor tortured Gonk Droid!
What did you do to upset
His Largeness, Jabba?


Professor Huyang
guides Jedi younglings as they
construct lightsabers


If not much trouble
Could someone ask Pablo if
Droids show is canon?


Scene: On Iego;
Honorable Jaybo Hood
Builds droid servant force


I have to be frank:
I think Triple-Zero and
BT-1 are lame.


ASN transports
lethal kouhun to their prey:
Naboo’s Senator


Rebel base found by
An Imperial Probe Droid!
Time to flee from Hoth


Clone Wars Veteran
Terrified of Jedi Knights
Roger Freemaker


“Those droids were stolen,”
Young Luke tells Uncle Owen.
“Yeah, no shit nephew.”


Scene: Planet Scarif;
Jyn and Cassian in vault
K-2 dies for them


Downfall of a droid
R2 lost at Bothawui
Anakin freaks out


Loathed by Yuuzhan Vong
Droids targeted and destroyed
by the invaders


CZ-1G5
is a very bad droid in
High Noon on Jakku


“Blah Blah Blah Complain
Blah Blah Blah Complain Complain!”
“3PO! SHUT UP!”


I have to be frank:
I think that BB-8 is
so adorable!


Imperial droid
C2-B5 in Rogue One.
Wait! Did it appear???


Droid General Grevious
Killed by a shot to the chest;
How uncivilized.