New Stories: The Force Awakens

“The expression on her face was one the trooper would never forget: it was the look of someone still alive who realizes she's already dead.”
“The expression on her face was one the trooper would never forget: it was the look of someone still alive who realizes she’s already dead.”

I never knew that they had novelizations of the Star Wars movies until a week or two after I saw The Force Awakens in theatres. But when I found out I immediately went looking for the novelization of The Force Awakens.

For this review, I will assume that you have seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Note that if you have not this may contain some spoilers. However, it will not spoil the book for you, so do not worry about that.

This book was written by Alan Dean Foster and published by Del Rey. It basically covers everything from the movie along with a couple additional scenes. I cannot really critique this book the way I normally would, given that it is different in that it is a film novelization rather than a book being adapted into a film. If you want to see my in-depth opinions about the movie The Force Awakens, I would advise you to check out my post on the topic: Did The Force Really Awaken?

The writing itself is partially good and partially subpar. I say that because there are lines taken directly from the film, and they fit in terms of film dialogue and are well written, but I do think that other parts of this book lacks a quality to the writing that I normally love to see in a novel. The book itself lacks description and does seem “bare” as a result. I guess it is more comparable to a movie script rather than a novel, to be perfectly honest. It does have more description than the movie scripts I have seen, but it still does not hold the same enthralling prose as a novel.

However, I do think that it was an interesting read. The novel has some additional scenes that did not appear in the movie, such as describing how Poe made it off Jakku, and thus it fills in some plot holes. I sometimes have an issue with spotting plot holes in movies, and how Poe got off Jakku was a big one in this film. I think it was odd that we did not get an explanation, but from what I understand, Poe was originally supposed to die in the crash and so maybe that is why things just seemed off when he reappeared.

Regardless of the lack of description, I think that if you saw and enjoyed the film The Force Awakens, reading this novelization would be interesting. Just keep in mind what I have said about the writing. It is not an epic fantasy or science fiction novel—the world of Star Wars is better onscreen. However, this fills in gaps and I think gives a good base for watching the next film in the series.

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Title: The Force Awakens (Star Wars)

Author: Alan Dean Foster

Publisher: Del Rey

Something Is Stirring: Before The Awakening

“Luke Skywalker may be the only hope we have left.”
“Luke Skywalker may be the only hope we have left.”

During my experience reading the Star Wars novelizations, I found out that there was a book written about some of the events in the months and days before the beginning of The Force Awakens. I do not want to reveal too much about it, considering I think it would be highly beneficial for you to try reading it yourself, I will say it focuses on the three main heroes in The Force Awakens: Finn, Rey, and Poe Dameron. It is called Star Wars: Before the Awakening, written by Greg Rucka.

I do think that there may be some inconsistencies in this book when comparing it to the movie The Force Awakens. Specifically, I think there are some issues with Finn’s character and his backstory. He worked in sanitation, remember? There seemed to be a difference there, but I am not quite sure if I can call it that just yet. There are, after all, a couple more movies to go before this trilogy is finished. Perhaps we will get some more information about Finn and his origins.

Speaking of origins, I think Rey’s portion of the story was exactly what I thought it would be like. Obviously, they are not going to reveal her family in this—they will only do that in a movie—but I think this background still gives some perspective on her character. She is one of the toughest characters in the whole franchise, in my opinion. Her backstory on Jakku is eerily reminiscent of Anakin and Luke’s stories on Tatooine. Actually, it rings more like Anakin’s in that she is a scavenger and is barely scraping by, just as Anakin had a rough go of it as a slave. The things revealed in her section of the story.. I feel for her, I really do. But it provides even more proof that she will prevail. She is strong.

The highlight of this story, however, is the section on Poe Dameron. His section is the one that provides the most information. You learn more about what drove him to become a part of the Resistance. You learn about his parents and his family history. I love his story and I really hope that he gets more of a spotlight in the next two movies. His honesty, loyalty, dedication… all of it shows in his story. There are two things I think you should read about him. They are mild spoilers, but they are so important. I will try to keep it to a minimum.

“You remind me of my brother.”

“Fly like him too, apparently.”

Another reason I enjoyed his section of the book the most is that I found it gave me more information and more questions about other characters not directly featured in this book. What do they know? How did they come to know it? What are their motivations? Are they lying?

One of the main questions I have about this book is actually why they wrote it in the first place. Why did they feel the need to publish this, when they never really did something of this nature before? I know there are other books in the Star Wars universe, but nothing quite like this one. This is directly providing more information regarding the movies but it is not a novelization of one of the films. Right now, it continues to be a mystery to me. But I am interested to find out the reason.

~~~

Title: Star Wars: Before the Awakening

Author: Greg Rucka

Publisher: Disney Lucasfilm Press

Anakin’s Final Stand: Return of the Jedi

“Regret, he saw most plainly. And shame. Memories could be seen flashing across it…memories of rich times. And horrors. And love, too. It was a face that hadn’t touched the world in a lifetime.”
“Regret, he saw most plainly. And shame. Memories could be seen flashing across it…memories of rich times. And horrors. And love, too. It was a face that hadn’t touched the world in a lifetime.”

What is it about me and the endings of series?

Actually, I would like to make a correction here.

What is it about me and Anakin Skywalker?

I could talk about many thing concerning the final novel of the original trilogy. There are new pieces added to the story, such as extended backstories for a few characters (including Emperor Palpatine). There are also differences, the most notable of which is how Leia remembers her and Luke’s mother. Which, as you will know, is impossible because she died shortly after delivering the twins. There is no way they could have solid memories of her beyond simple feelings. There are also poignant and quite detailed descriptions in this book, which I greatly appreciated.

But I do not want to talk about those things. Do you know what I do want to talk about? It should not be hard to guess: Luke and Anakin Skywalker. Specifically, I want to address the final fight and last scene with the two of these characters.

When I was reading the prequel trilogy, there was a thought stuck in my mind. It stayed there through the first two books of this trilogy was well.

When someone goes as far over to the dark as Darth Vader did, is there still good in them? Can someone bring them back from that point, or are they lost forever?

I think this is a question many people struggle with, and this is no different for many characters within the Star Wars universe. Obi-Wan Kenobi, for instance, seems to think that Darth Vader completely decimated Anakin Skywalker. In other words, there is no way to bring him back from the Dark Side. On the other hand, it appears that Luke is conflicted and feels like he can bring his father back into the light.

I like to think that I am like Luke Skywalker in that I do not want to ever give up on someone.

And you know what? Luke Skywalker was right.

Palpatine, Sidious…whatever you want to call him did a number on Anakin. He brought him as far over to the Dark Side as he possibly could. However, I think there were hints throughout the final novel.

“Though the emptiness at his core never left him…”

“Rule with his son at his side.”

I think that Darth Sidious, the Emperor, was blinded. He forgot the driving force behind turning Anakin into Darth Vader: Padmé. One of the things, in my opinion, that sped up the process (it would have happened eventually) was his family. He wanted the power to save his wife and their unborn child(ren). To make a Harry Potter reference, if he was looking into the Mirror of Erised, I think he would have seen himself with his family: whole and complete.

I actually admire that. I mean, I would never want to go over to the “Dark Side” so to speak, nor would I want anyone to do that for me, but that is definitely dedication.

One of the final scenes in this book is, of course, the fight between Luke and Vader. Honestly, the only thing that rivals this scene are moments throughout Revenge of the Sith, also related to Anakin. As I said, what is it about Anakin and myself?

I think we actually see quite a bit of Anakin in Luke, particularly the dedication to family. Luke realizes, as we know, that it is not his father who he hates. It is the darkness inside him. I think that belief, combined with Vader’s dedication to family, was what helped Vader redeem himself. I think, personally, that Luke did kill Vader. It was a delayed reaction, but the one who stands after Vader crawls to Palpatine is not Vader. It is Anakin Skywalker.

I find it interesting that Anakin actually kills Palpatine. The Sith have a Rule, the Rule of Two, which means there can only be two Sith Lords at one time: one master and one apprentice. The tradition here is that the apprentice will kill his master, which is exactly what Anakin manages to do. There is a sort of symmetry in this. I feel like the prequels show the death of Anakin Skywalker, but the original trilogy shows him coming back from what seemed like the impossible. I think the proof of how hard it was for Anakin to return is in the description. You see him do it in the movie, but the description and the words the author chose really enhance Anakin’s feelings in that fateful moment.

Oh, Anakin.

I am so sorry.

~~~

Title: Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Author: James Kahn

Publisher: Del Rey

Son of a Sith Lord: The Empire Strikes Back

‘No,’ Vader replied calmly. ‘I am your father.’
‘No,’ Vader replied calmly. ‘I am your father.’

I am feeling conflicted about this one. In the novelization of Empire Strikes Back, Yoda is blue. Since the novelizations were written relatively in time with the films, give or take some time, and this is the second in a trilogy…at this point, it should be well established that Yoda is green, right? I am not sure I understand the logic behind making him a blue creature.

I cannot fault the overall content all that much, given that most of it comes from the film and, of course, it is a good movie. Once again, I like the insight into the minds of these classic characters. I have said it before and I will say it again: regardless of how good an actor is, there is still something lost when a book is adapted into a film. Thus, in this case, the author adds something to the content we know from the movie.

There are a couple more things I noticed while I was reading Empire Strikes Back. One, I think is kind of amusing and interesting. The other? I do not think I like it.

Let’s talk about the moment that amuses and interests me first. In the movie version of this book there is one of the most famous exchanges in the films, aside from the “I am your father” scene with Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. Spoiler alert: Darth Vader is Luke’s father. But really, you should know this already. The scene I am talking about though is when Leia tells Han she loves him and he responds with a simple “I know.” I had heard rumours about this line. Many people, Harrison Ford included, have apparently claimed the line was not originally written this way. Many say Harrison improvised it himself while they were shooting. There is some truth to this, but it is not completely true. Yes, Harrison did technically improvise this line. However, he worked it out beforehand with the director. According to what I have read, it apparently caused a bit of tension between Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford.

But enough about that improvisation. I continued to research the scene and compared what I found to what was in the novelization I recently finished reading. The original line in the script was the same in the novelization, which makes me absolutely sure the author finished writing this book before they filmed the scene. Had it been before printing, I am sure they would have changed it given the reactions of the test audience.

For those interested, the original exchange was:

“I love you. I couldn’t tell you before, but it’s true.”

“Just remember that, because I’ll be back.”

I find it interesting that Han never told Leia he loved her in either version. Did he? I have heard many people say he did and simply did not say he loved her back because he did not want to put her through hearing that and never seeing him again. Additionally, I believe part of the reason they changed the line in the film had to do with the fact they really wanted to make it seem as if no one would ever see Han again, even if the process worked.

I think this is one of the only cases in which I preferred the movie version to the book. Perhaps it is the only case? I cannot think of any other instance in which I preferred the film. It is all about the books for me. I am not even sure why I liked the movie version more. Perhaps this scene was funnier in the film? Maybe the action was better in the movie. Hopefully I can figure it out before I finish this series…

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Title: Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Author: Donald F. Glut

Publisher: Del Rey

Only Hope Left: A New Hope

“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”
“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”

Unlike the other novels I have read up until this point, A New Hope does not seem to include the same amount of additional information from its film counterpart. It does have changes and some information not present in the film, however it seems to be broken into pieces rather than in larger chunks. This tells me a couple things.

First of all, the author listed for this novelization is George Lucas, who was also the one responsible for Star Wars in the first place. If the author is the same, that must mean he already included the information he wanted to, correct? Writing a novelization with this in mind is perfectly fine. It is, after all, an authorial choice. A New Hope was a good film…a classic, really.

It did, however, disappoint me. After reading the prequel trilogy, I found I really enjoyed the amount of new information and they way in which they were written. As you know, my favourite so far is Revenge of the Sith. Going into this book, I was really hoping to learn more. What about Han Solo? Could we not learn more about him before he meets Luke?

George Lucas did write this book well, and I am overjoyed to see that many of the iconic lines from the film appear in it. However, I would still have loved to see some expansion on the world he introduced to us.

Having said all of this, I want to address two particular moments. One I know comes up for many fans of Star Wars. Who shot first? Of course, there is only one answer here: Han shot first. After all, he walked away unscathed and Greedo did not, so how could Greedo have shot Han before Han shot him?

Despite the fact I fully believe that Han shot first, it frustrates me that the book does not definitively answer this question. It purposefully leaves this scene ambiguous. Of course, I believe the book was written around the same time the movie was released, thus I would not really expect it to contain much of a different story in this case. Besides, it just provides a little bit of doubt that some people need to latch onto in order to continuously argue their point. Even though…Han still shot first.

The other moment I wish to discuss is actually a difference between this novelization and its film counterpart. Specifically, I want to discuss the battle between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi and Obi-Wan’s actions prior to his defeat. Things are perfectly clear in the movie: Obi-Wan gives up and lets Darth Vader kill him. There is absolutely no question about that, especially given what we already know about him and his prowess at fighting. The only question in my mind is why did he give up? I never really got an answer from the films. However, there is a small difference in the book version of A New Hope.

Obi-Wan’s defeat is not as clear in the book as it is in the film. Did he give up here? I still believe he did and it still frustrates me that we do not have an answer. The only one who could provide an answer is, well, dead. Why do I believe he gave up?

He defeated powerful Sith and Anakin before. He is a legend. In addition, you know that he and Anakin were a pair that the whole galaxy looked towards for protection. I think I have a theory as to why he gave up. But, unfortunately for you, I cannot share it with you until I complete my reading of these novelizations. It will only make sense if I share it then.

Until that point, may the force be with you.

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Title: Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope

Author: George Lucas

Publisher: Del Rey