Solo: A Star Wars Story

Going Solo: Contispex I

Contispex I is a character who, although minor in the scope of Star Wars lore, has a story that I find intensely fascinating. Mentioned for the first time in a solitary paragraph in Daniel Wallace’s The New Essential Chronology (2005), with his story being expanded in subsequent reference books, Contispex I was a human and an ancient Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Republic who, along with his descendants, launched numerous crusades against alien species and their human allies. An adherent of the zealous and extremist Pius Dea religion – a faith which, according to The Essential Guide to Warfare (2012), taught followers that  “…fallen communities should be restored to purity by purging their unredeemable elements…” (27)  – Contispex took the reigns of the Republic in the year 11,987 BBY and set about reforming the corruption of the Senate and government by placing Pius Dea faithful in positions of power.

What was, at first, a small religion dedicated to the worship of a Goddess and confined to the shadows of Coruscant where it began, Pius Dea quickly exploded into galactic prominence thanks to Contispex. Referred to as the Pius Dea Era  (ca. 12,000 – 11,000 BBY) in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, the millennia of Pius Dea rule which Contispex I instituted would see galactic purges, imprisonments, forced conversions, inquisitions and executions justified under the rallying cry that “The Goddess Wills It!” But it is the 30+ crusades of Contispex I and his successors which truly stand out, crusades that were launched to rid the galaxy of the scourge of alien civilizations. In 11,965 BBY the first crusade was directed by Contispex, a “pre-emptive strike against the Hutts beyond the Rim” according to The Essential Guide to Warfare (27). Subsequent crusades would be directed against other alien species: the Bothans, Lanniks, Zabraks, Herglics, and more.

Notably, during the Pius Dea Era the Jedi Order abdicated its responsibilities as peacekeepers and protectors, instead choosing to renounce its affiliation with the Republic. While individual members of the Order chose to challenge Pius Dea rule, as a whole the Order was “unwilling to take up arms against the civilization they had safeguarded” (27). This would change after almost 1,000 years had passed when the Jedi Order allied itself with oppressed species to overthrow Contispex XIX, arresting him and installing Jedi Grand Master Biel Ductavis in the Chancellorship (27).

While Contispex I truly is a minor character in the grand scope of Expanded Universe lore, as is the era of Pius Dea rule, I never-the-less find him intensely fascinating precisely because his story opens a vast window to the imagination. As someone who studied religion/theology in college and graduate school, the idea that the Old Republic succumbed to zealous theocratic rule in the name of “The Goddess” for nearly a millennia intrigues me and leaves me wanting to know more. Of course, at this point I have soaked up everything I can about Contispex I and the Pius Dea religion, having mined the tomes of Star Wars reference books for every morsel of information.

In fact, it was one very small morsel in a Star Wars reference book which led me to write this piece, a reference to Contispex I in Solo: A Star Wars Story – The Official Guide. Contained within The Official Guide to Han Solo’s standalone film is a page that is dedicated to the vast collection of rare treasures which Dryden Vos, leader of the Crimson Dawn crime syndicate, displays in the study aboard his star yacht. And, as The Official Guide notes, among this impressive collection of artifacts are “…arks that hold the ashes of Chancellor Contispex I…”

Contispex I
Image Credit:
Solo: A Star Wars Story – The Official Guide

As I said, a very small morsel indeed, but one that immediately caught my attention given my interest in Contispex I. On the one hand, what makes this nod to Contispex I important is that it re-affirms his place in the Star Wars canon. A minor character in the Expanded Universe, Contispex I is now, also, a minor character in Disney’s Alternate Universe. On the other hand, this is hardly surprising. While I was NOT expecting a reference to Contispex I in The Official Guide to Solo, that author Pablo Hidalgo – a member of the Lucasfilm Story Group – found a way to incorporate Contispex I into the book makes perfect sense. With Vos’ study populated by rare and ancient artifacts, Hidalgo could easily mine the ancient history of Star Wars confined within the Expanded Universe and provide readily available information about the artifacts without entirely having to re-create ancient Star Wars lore.

In fact, Hidalgo not only identifies the ashes of Contispex I in The Official Guide but he also attaches other elements of Expanded Universe lore to items in Dryden Vos’ study. A “crystal masthead” is identified as that of Xim the Despot while a dataplaque is noted as containing the location of the Xim’s long-lost treasure ship, the Queen of Ranroon. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Xim the Despot, he was first mentioned in the novel Han Solo and the Lost Legacy while the Queen of Ranroon received it’s first mention in Han Solo’s Revenge. As well, a carver set is noted to be that of Noghri origin, the species first appearing in Timothy Zahn’s popular novel Heir to the Empire, while a set of wraith boxes come from the long-extinct Rakata, a technologically superior civilization which was originally created for the Knights of the Old Republic video game.

While I highly doubt that Contispex I, the Pius Dea era, or other elements of the Expanded Universe which have crept into the Disney Canon will be teased out in greater detail, I am never-the-less pleased by the fact that these legendary aspects of Star Wars continue to have relevance. More importantly, these elements bring with them pre-crafted stories which need-not be reconstructed. Rather, they unify the Expanded Universe and Disney’s Alternate Universe in small, subtle ways. Contispex I may only ever have this one, small reference in The Official Guide to Solo: A Star Wars Story, but that reference is packed with the already rich story about Contispex and the tumultuous era of Pius Dea rule. As far as I am concerned, unless Contispex I receives a brand new tale which changes his narrative – a highly unlikely prospect – I will move forward with my enjoyment of Star Wars knowing that he, and the Expanded Universe I love, continue to add depth and meaning to the galaxy far, far away.

Talkerverse: Snoke Goes Solo

In my previous post – Going Solo: Darth Maul – I considered Darth Maul’s (very) brief cameo in Solo: A Star Wars Story. I don’t want to spend a lot of time recapping that post, but I will note that in it I mentioned that his cameo, while certainly intriguing, left open the possibility of confusion for fans who had no idea he had cheated death in The Phantom Menace. I mentioned how in the lead up to his reveal in Solo, I really thought the mysterious figure behind the scenes of the Crimson Dawn criminal organization was going to be Snoke, the Supreme Leader of the First Order. While I was surprised by Maul’s cameo in the film, and otherwise enjoyed it, I cannot help but imagine the possibilities that might have been if Snoke had appeared instead of Maul.

Allow me to paint you a picture with my imagination brush…

Following the death of Dryden Vos, his lieutenant Qi’ra — who is also Han Solo’s friend/romantic interest —  contacts the mysterious figure coordinating the activities of Vos’ Crimson Dawn crime syndicate. Shrouded by a hood, the figure inquires why it is Qi’ra, and not Dryden Vos, contacting him. In reply, Qi’ra responds…

“Dryden Vos is dead.”

“Vos was a fool and deserving of death. Tell me Qi’ra, what of the coaxium?”

“Stolen from Vos by Tobias Beckett.”

“An unwelcome setback.”

Momentarily pausing, the mysterious figure continues…

“I sense conflict within you, young one. There is more to your story.”

“Beckett had an accomplice…someone I knew from my youth.”

“Is that so? And who was this accomplice?”

“A man by the name of Han Solo.”

Removing his hood, the figure in the hologram now reveals himself to be Snoke. Leaning forward, Snoke responds by repeating the name: “Han. Solo.”

“He means nothing to me,” Qi’ra quickly responds. “He is a remnant of my past.”

Snoke’s eyes linger on the woman, pausing to consider her words before he speaks…

“When I found you I saw raw, untamed power, a connection to the Force unlike any I have felt before. I pulled you from the gutters of Corellia, saving your from the life of a scumrat. And yet, my care is rewarded by the naïve feelings of child.”

“The fault is mine, Master. I beg your forgiveness.”

Sitting back in his chair, Snoke replies: “Indeed, the fault is yours. Return to me and I will break the chains of your…feelings…for Han Solo. “

Before delving into the “why” of the conversation I crafted between Qi’ra and Snoke, allow me to point out an obvious thought residing on the surface of my mind. I believe that Snoke should have been the mysterious figure in Solo: A Star Wars Story precisely because he was given no backstory in either The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi. While the need to know every detail of Snoke’s pre-Sequel Trilogy life is not entirely necessary, the desire to know more about Snoke is hard to ignore. That desire is precisely why, following The Force Awakens, individuals started creating theories about Supreme Leader Snoke, attepting to piece together who he might be. Unfortunately, this fun-filled theorizing was met with childish mockery from a the self-proclaimed “elites” of the Star Wars fandom when they chose to insult fan theories with the phrase “Your Snoke Theory Sucks” (I counter this petty derision in my post Your Snoke Theory Doesn’t Suck). But I digress…my base desire, wishing Snoke had appeared in Solo rather than Darth Maul, is a desire to have been given just a small glimpse into Snoke’s backstory, a tiny morsel that fans could run with in their theories.

On this point, Snoke’s presence could have created a connection between Solo: A Star Wars Story and the Sequel Trilogy which “film-only” fans could have more fully understood. As I noted in Going Solo: Darth Maul, the possibility exists (and is true in the case of my neighbors) that fans who only watch the Star Wars films would have a difficult time understanding how Darth Maul is alive since he so obviously died in The Phantom Menace. Instead of this unnecessary confusion, Snoke would have created an enticing connection between Solo and the Sequels Trilogy. Solo: A Star Wars Story could have been even more important, more relevant and necessary, with a brief cameo by the future Supreme Leader of the First Order, a cameo that would have created a connection through presence alone.

But this connection would have been blown wide open with Snoke’s conversation with Qi’ra, especially if the conversation echoed Snoke’s conversations with Kylo Ren. You will notice that in the dialogue I crafted Qi’ra mentions that “Han Solo” meaning nothing to her, an intentional parallel to Kylo Ren telling Snoke that Han Solo, his father, “means nothing to me.” In turn, the same form of parallelism exists in Snoke’s comment that when he found her, he saw raw, untamed power within Qi’ra, a similar statement he makes to Kylo Ren in The Last Jedi. Likewise, he insults Qi’ra, calling her a child, just as he insults Kylo Ren as “a child in a mask.”

Emilia Clarke is Qi’ra in SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY.
Han Solo’s childhood friend/lover: Qi’ra.

Photo Credit – Solo: A Star Wars Story

On one hand, these small dialogical parallels serve to solidify the way(s) in which Snoke manipulates individuals under his guidance, doing so by breaking them down and ensuring they understand that he is in control. But on the other hand, these parallels also, intentionally, link Qi’ra and Kylo Ren as Force-sensitive proteges of Snoke. In this regard, Snoke’s cameo would not have been the only surprise, but it would have included the added shock that Qi’ra can use the Force. In turn, as an added way of tying her to Kylo Ren, Qi’ra could have gone on to become the very first Knight of Ren, the Master of the Knights of Ren. And, in taking the mantle of title of Master for himself, Kylo Ren could have ripped it away from her when he killed her years later. Oh, the possibilities…

But there is one other angle worth considering in regards to Snoke and his imagined cameo in Solo: A Star Wars Story, and that is the fact that Han Solo’s life would play out with Snoke as a presence in the background. Through the manipulation of Snoke, Ben Solo became Kylo Ren and committed an act of patricide, killing Han Solo and freeing himself, albeit only in part, of his familial burden. Snoke’s relationship with Qi’ra could have served a similar fashion, functioning as a catalyst for events in Han’s life which would ultimately end with the smuggler’s death. Consider:

Han and Qi’ra were friends and lovers on Corellia. Han escaped Corellia but Qi’ra did not. Snoke found Qi’ra, freed her from the planet, trained her, and she became the first Knight of Ren. Years later, Ben Solo would become a protégé of Snoke, ripping the title of “Master” away from Qi’ra by killing her and completing his conversion to the Dark Side as Kylo Ren. In turn, as Kylo Ren, the former Ben Solo would end his father’s life on Starkiller Base.

From beginning to end, Han Solo’s fate, his story in Star Wars, would have been pre-determined and framed by the menacing actions of Supreme Leader Snoke.


The “Talkerverse” is my imagined Star Wars canon where I explore different angles on the galaxy far, far away by altering aspects of the Star Wars canon to fit my own wants and desires. Check out these other “Talkerverse” posts to delve even deeper into my Star Wars mind:

Talkerverse: Vader Kills Maul

Going Solo: Darth Maul

Before writing my previous post – Talkerverse: Vader Kills Maul – my intention had been to write this post. Wanting to discuss (spoiler!) Darth Maul’s incredibly brief cameo in Solo: A Star Wars Story, I sat down to write but my brain had other intentions. Acquiescing to my train of thought, I ran with my imagination and wrote about how I think Vader should have killed Darth Maul in Revenge of the Sith. You can go read all about that (click HERE) but for now let’s chat about that surprising Solo cameo…

Soooooo, yeah, Darth Maul makes an appearance in Solo: A Star Wars Story. How about that? I dunno about you, but I DID NOT see that coming. As I watched the film, and it started to become clear that the film’s antagonist, Dryden Vos, was working on behalf of some shadowy figure, I was thinking it would end up being Snoke. Even up to the moment of Maul’s reveal, when he is contacted by Han Solo’s childhood friend Qi’ra, I believed we would be met by the face of the one-day First Order Supreme Leader. Never-the-less, seeing Darth Maul – and actor Ray Park reprising the character he brought to life in The Phantom Menace – definitely caught me off-guard.

As a die-hard Star Wars fan who has kept up with Star Wars stories across all mediums, it made complete sense that Darth Maul was the shadowy figure who instilled fear in the criminal Dryden Vos. After all, The Clone Wars animated show resurrected Maul from his bifurcated death and elevated him to the status of underworld crime lord. In The Clone Wars, as many of you may know (but some may not), Darth Maul unified a coalition of terrorists and criminal organizations under his authority, in turn using his nefarious organization to take control of the planet Mandalore. Maul’s actions – with the assistance of his brother Savage Oppress – launched him into galactic relevance, making it necessary for the Jedi, and his former Sith Master (Darth Sidious), to take him seriously as a threat. Following The Clone Wars, the four-part Son of Dathomir comic continued his Clone Wars era story-arc, while E.K. Johnston’s Ahsoka novel showed that Maul’s grip on the planet Mandalore was strong even at the wars end. As well, Maul once again re-emerged in Star Wars Rebels, a menace to the Lothal rebels with his life finally coming to end on Tatooine when he confronts, and is killed by, Obi-Wan Kenobi.

maul
A very broken Darth Maul in The Clone Wars. I discuss how he survived his death in my post Cheating Death: The Dark.

Photo Credit – Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 4 Episode 21, “Brothers”

While I was surprised to actually see Maul onscreen, I was otherwise unsurprised he was the “phantom menace” directing the actions of Dryden Vos. Having kept up-to-date with Maul’s story-arc, and knowing his criminal dealings, it really made complete sense. That being said, following my first viewing of Solo, I could not help but ask myself: for someone who is more of a casual Star Wars fan, who is only interested in the movies, were they surprised, or perhaps even confused, to see Maul? After all, for those individuals, their experience of Darth Maul would have begun and ended with his introduction and death in The Phantom Menace.

Luckily, I was able to ask two of those “movie-only” Star Wars fans, my neighbors, when I got home from my first viewing of Solo. As I stood outside chatting with them, I asked for their thoughts and they acknowledged that they left the movie theater feeling confused by Maul’s appearance. As I explained that the Sith Lord was resurrected in The Clone Wars, and noted that his story has continued beyond that, one of my neighbors (Sara) said something which caught me off-guard: that she is less likely to watch Star Wars movies in the future if the story is just going to be changed in tv shows, books, and comics. 

While her feelings are specific to her experience, I could certainly, sympathize and understand what she was saying. While I really like Darth Maul’s post-resurrection storyline (…with the exception of his demise in Star Wars Rebels…) I can also admit that I was incredibly annoyed by his resurrection in The Clone Wars. Even though Darth Maul is only in a small amount of The Phantom Menace he was never-the-less an exceedingly important part of the story. We knew, in the film, that Maul was serving Darth Sidious, executing the machinations of his Master. While Sidious had to stay behind the scenes – he is “the phantom menace” – Darth Maul revealed himself to the Jedi as a threat they were clearly unprepared to face. And, when he is sliced-in-half by a young Obi-Wan Kenobi – making it pretty damn obvious that Maul was killed – the Jedi are left to wonder: which Sith Lord died, the Master or the Apprentice?

Maul's Death in TPM
The face of a Sith Lord who was just bisected. It’s reasonable to think he just died.

Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

As it turns out, neither died.

While I have since grown to appreciate Darth Maul’s post-resurrection arc, and definitely understand his cameo in Solo: A Star Wars Story – knowing as I do all the nuances and baggage that goes with it – I can also understand and appreciate why my neighbor felt confused and unhappy. For her, and certainly for many others, the Star Wars films represent the pinnacle of Star Wars. For them, the movies, and only the movies, are what matter. Period. Full stop. They are uninterested in TV shows, comic books, novels, video games, precisely because Star Wars is a series of films. And, as a result, suddenly seeing a character you thought was dead – without any explanation what-so-ever regarding how he survived being cut in half – is undoubtedly annoying and off-putting. Which leads me to this:

I really believe that cameo should have been Snoke, not Darth Maul. The connections that could have been made between Solo and the Sequel Trilogy with a small cameo by Snoke would have been incredibly profound and forward-thinking, while simultaneously ensuring that movie-only fans like my neighbors were not left scratching their heads. But I will hold off on offering my “Snokey” thoughts in any greater detail for now, and you can just wait for my future post on the topic – Talkerverse: Snoke Goes Solo

Leave a comment and tell me what you think about Darth Maul, his story-arc, and his cameo in Solo: A Star Wars Story. AND, be sure to check out all of my other Darth Maul posts (just put his name into the search bar). 

Going Solo: Enfys Nest

Something I have always appreciated about Star Wars are those second-tier characters literally shrouded by unique helmets and armor. These characters need not be the center of action in every scene, such as Darth Vader. No, they –  Boba Fett, Captain Phasma – can command the stage through presence alone. Importance radiates from their mysterious outfits and unyielding stances, pulling us into their orbit. They demand our attention and our respect, and we gladly offer it to them.

The latest edition of Star Wars to hit theaters, Solo: A Star Wars Story, introduced movie-goers to yet another of these mysterious figures, this time in the form of Enfys Nest. Leading a loyal band of Cloud-Riders, Enfys Nest – wearing harsh but intriguing armor – makes their first appearance early in Solo on the planet Vandor-1, literally swooping in on a swoop bike to steal the goods, refined coaxium, which Tobias Beckett and Han Solo are themselves attempting to steal. A battle ensues between Beckett’s crew and Nest’s marauding band, a battle which confirms Enfys Nest as a formidable opponent, but a battle which also results in neither side leaving Vandor-1 with the valuable fuel.

That Enfys Nest is a pain in the side of Tobias Beckett and the man he is working for, Dryden Vos, becomes apparent soon after the events on Vandor-1. In turn, while we know Dryden Vos is *probably* the real bad-guy in the film, Enfys Nest is never-the-less established as the antagonist which Han and company must contend with as the film progresses. But it isn’t until much later in the film when Beckett, Solo, and the others arrive on the planet Savareen when Enfys Nest finally reemerges.

There are two moments in Solo: A Star Wars Story that literally made my hair stand up, and both moments happen back-to-back when Enfys Nest returns to the film. After the excitement on Vandor-1, the planet Kessel, and the death-defying Kessel Run, Han Solo and company finally have a moment of reprieve on Savareen, a chance to let out a sigh of relief. The scene is peaceful, Solo and his confederates resting and waiting in a small, run-down ocean-side village. Yet, the peace does not last. Out of no where, Enfys Nest and the Cloud-Riders materialize, standing in the background only yards away from Han Solo. Likewise, the musical score adds to this chilling moment, breaking the serenity on Savareen and signaling that a showdown has commenced. 

With Enfys Nest’s apparitional appearance on Savareen, an old west style stand-off ensues (the title for the musical score is appropriately titled “Savareen Stand-Off”). But guns are not drawn. Instead, only an instant after the stand-off begins, Tobias Beckett calls Enfys Nest a marauder and the reaction from Nest is rather unexpected. Moving forward as if prepared to fight, Nest instead removes the terrifying helmet masking their face. Now, the a second hair-raising revelation occurs: we can see Enfys Nest true face, the face of a young woman of color.

This revelation is a bold one, for Enfys Nest and for Star Wars in general. The power of mysterious characters like Nest resides in NOT knowing the face under the mask. Consider Boba Fett and Captain Phasma. We never see Boba Fett’s face in The Empire Strikes Back but we know the bounty hunter, who shows up in a handful of scenes, is really good at what he does. After all, he tracks the Millennium Falcon to Cloud City, leading the Empire to Cloud City, and leaves with his cargo. As well, we do not see Captain Phasma’s face but we never doubt that she is fearsome and commands the respect of the First Order’s stormtroopers. After all, she gives the command to open fire on the villagers at the beginning of The Force Awakens and chastises FN-2187 for removing his helmet. But with Enfys Nest the mystery is purposefully broken and replaced by long, curly hair blowing in the Savareen wind and the face of woman starring down the condescending Beckett and the cocksure Solo.

In my opinion, Enfys Nest is the absolute best thing about Solo: A Star Wars Story. Sure, there are a lot of cool and delightful things in the film (a film, mind you, I was not planning on seeing), but Enfys Nest, she took my breath away. In Enfys Nest, the Star Wars universe has been gifted with a powerful and commanding woman who can go toe-to-toe with the “Big Boys,” with the likes of the crime-lord Dryden Vos, Tobias Beckett, and even Han Solo. And she does so without the slightest hesitation, standing firm as a physical and principled force who is unwilling to back down, who desires to take on crime syndicates and the Empire. That, we learn, is her goal: going on the offensive and taking the fight to the oppressors in the galaxy far, far away. She and her Cloud-Riders are a force for good, a glimmer of hope, a new hope, in these dark times.

With her unmasking, Enfys Nest purposefully breaks the shroud which encases her, removing that which enables her to command fear and respect. But this profound decision only amplifies the respect for Enfys Nest. True, Tobias Beckett is unmoved, and I am sure there are viewers who did not care for Enfys Nest. But Han Solo is moved, and seeing her humanity and hearing from her, he chooses to help her! Likewise, my interest in Nest exploded, as did my admiration, when she shows us who she is, the face of a small resistance, the leader of that resistance, a young woman of color.

Let me say that again: the face and leader of the resistance is a young woman of color. How awesome is that!?!?!?! Seriously, I hope we get more of Enfys Nest in Star Wars very very soon. And in the meantime, as I impatiently wait for her next appearance – in another film, in her own Forces of Destiny short, in a novel and a comic – I will be going out of my way consuming everything else I can find about Enfys Nest. She is just too damn cool, and too damn important, to ignore. 


**Enfys Nest is portrayed British actress Erin Kellyman.**

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.***