The Force Awakens (novel review)

"Ah good, new acquisitions…" #StarWars

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Hey everybody,
So last month, episode VII was released to worldwide acclaim, and at the time of this writing, it’s the third highest-grossing film of all time. I’ve already looked at the film on release day, and you can read that blog here. So, what about the novelization?

Well, it’s pretty much the film – at least, the film as I remember it. It’s been over a month since I saw the movie, so I may have misremembered or outright forgotten some bits, but in a film series where the novelizations often go above-and-beyond to create a worthwhile story in and of themselves, this one is basically the screenplay in prose. That’s not a bad thing, obviously, but it certainly impacts on the necessity of having the novel – at least, from my standpoint. Now, I didn’t follow any of the spoilers for TFA, and in fact it’s a bit weird because I don’t feel the same kind of attachment to it as I have to previous installments, so I don’t know if there were chunks of deleted scenes that could have been incorporated. I’ll buy the DVD and be able to see if all of this is still correct with a second watching, but overall I thought it was a bit of a shame.

I won’t recount the story here, because I’ve done so in the film blog. So let’s take a look at this bad boy. First of all, I’m not an Alan Dean Foster fan. I find his prose too dense – too “hard science fiction-y” for me. I also found this particular book to be often quite dispassionate – particularly in the climactic scene with Han Solo and Kylo Ren. I’ve had the feeling that he was brought in to write this purely for more fan-nostalgia-service. Because ultimately, so much of episode VII is about this.

As I said, the book is basically a straight-novelization of the screenplay. A lot of what I discussed in the film blog applies here, therefore, including all of those maddening details about the lack of history and substance. The one significant scene that was added, that I remember, is that showing Poe Dameron survive the TIE-fighter crash and escape Jakku. Which is kinda crucial to the later storyline, of course!

Star Wars fans are often drawn to the minutiae of a story, and in this respect, I’m no exception. Throughout my reading of the novel, I found myself wanting to know more about the minor characters, and see more of the more extraneous stuff. The New Republic is just as frustratingly absent here as it is in the film, though Foster does manage to create more of an impact for the destruction of the Hosnian system by showing us Leia sending her ambassador Korr Sella to the Republic. Even so, it’s maddening to have such little information on the lay of the galactic land for most of this story! I’d been hoping that the novel would expound upon the film, but sadly not. The Visual Dictionary apparently has a lot more details fleshed out, so I’ll be checking that out soon. However, I hope the next book in this Aftermath trilogy – Life Debt – begins to tell an actual story for bridging the gap, because rather than supporting the tale, the lack of history here is actively hurting the storyline, in my opinion.

There we have it, anyway!

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