‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ novel enhances movie: review

Posted on Jan 5 2016 - 7:01pm by
Alan Dean Foster's novelization of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" adds to the movie experience.

Alan Dean Foster’s novelization of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” adds to the movie experience.

Like all the best novelizations, Alan Dean Foster’s adaptation of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” enriches the movie experience.

The novel goes beyond simply giving us insight into the characters’ thoughts, with plenty of additional scenes painting a broader picture of the galaxy 30 years after “Return of the Jedi” and expanding on side stories that the movie doesn’t explore.

These extras are apparent from the opening chapter, where Leia mulls over the New Republic’s struggle to gain recognition as a legitimate government.

We then shift to familiar opening scenes from the movie, jumping smoothly from Poe Dameron, Finn and BB-8’s perspectives in the first battle. These scenes move quickly and fans will appreciate the extra details on how the First Order operates, as well as Finn’s reaction to the bloodshed.

Once the dust settles from this action-packed introduction, the story drags a little until we leave Jakku. This is a result of Foster’s hugely descriptive writing, particularly in Rey’s scenes. He often notes the smallest details of her movements and slows things down too much, especially for readers used to the movie’s fast pace.

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The second half of the novel moves much more quickly and still contains plenty of extra nuggets for fans, like learning what happens to Poe after he crash lands on Jakku with Finn.

Even more importantly, we get intriguing insights into the internal conflicts feeding the movie’s pivotal moment and the final conflict (along with another hint about Rey’s background).

The novel also reveals aspects of the characters that the movie does not, including the much-loved BB-8’s logical thought process, Kylo Ren’s warped mentality and the largely unexplored bond between Rey and Finn.

This extra characterization is most significant for the mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke. We are teased with suggestions about his past, how he brought Ren to the dark side and the philosophy underpinning the First Order.

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Readers will note that the dialogue, which is very similar to the movie, doesn’t always flow quite as well on paper. These extended conversations just aren’t quite as fun as they are in the movie, but they reveal more about the universe’s new status quo.

Fans will be aware that Alan Dean Foster’s first trip into a galaxy far, far away came a long time ago; the veteran sci-fi author ghostwrote the novelization of “A New Hope,” which was released months before the movie in 1976, for George Lucas.

He went on to write 1978’s “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye,” one of the first novels in the long-running Expanded Universe, and 2002’s “The Approaching Storm,” which acted as a prequel story for “Attack of the Clones.”

Given Foster’s experience, fans will be pleased to see that he has lost none of his ability for bringing this galaxy to life.

Despite a slow opening half, “The Force Awakens” novelization proves to be a fun, faithful supplement to the movie and well worth a read for those looking for a little more “Star Wars” as we await Episode VIII.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” by Alan Dean Foster, published by Random House, hits shelves Tuesday.

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