Review: Rogue One (Novelization)

There’s no way anyone can prove that I sat on my couch, clutching my ‘This is Fine’ Dog to me as I read the last few chapters of Rogue One. That would be ridiculous if I’d done that. Absolutely… okay, fine. I did.

Novelizations can be so hit or miss that it’s often tempting to skip them all together. After all, you saw the movie, right? For the most part, they tend to be fine but nothing to write home about. Star Wars, however, has already been blessed with the absolute gem that is Matthew Stover’s Revenge of the Sith. It’s a very high bar to meet and while Rogue One doesn’t quite meet it, it comes pretty damn close.

Alexander Freed’s novelization works so harmoniously with Garth Edward’s film that they feel like two halves of a whole. Where as the movie can revel in the action and magnificent space battles, the book allows readers into the characters’ heads and to get to know them far more intimately than before. I have no doubt that the film will have even more of an emotional impact the next time I see it.

Out of everyone, Baze probably benefits the most from this treatment as your understanding of what sort of person he is and the love he feels for Chirrut deepens immeasurably. Freed doesn’t go far off script by adding in tons of extra scenes but all of his additions are beautiful little character moments that really help deepen the bond between our doomed Rogue One crew. (I’ll never be able to hear Baze call Jyn ‘little sister’ the same way again.) Even more minor characters like Lyra Erso and Mon Mothma benefit greatly from the Freed treatment.

Given his previous fantastic work on Battlefront: Twilight Company, Freed seems the obvious choice for a war story like this and he absolutely rises to the challenge, even slipping a reference to the 61st Mobile Infantry into the text. His writing style is engaging and kept me turning the page despite myself at times. (I don’t recommend trying to pull a Belle and read this while running from one metro train to another.) Even though I already knew how the story ended, I never felt in a rush to reach the end but rather savored every last minute I could with these characters. It’s one of the rare novelizations that I see myself revisiting several times in the future.

One of the neatest things the book does is include ‘Supplementary Data’ every few chapters. These range from Mon Mothma’s memoirs to communications between Krennic and Tarkin. Also scattered throughout the book are direct mentions of women amongst stormtrooper units and within the Rebels’ ground forces on Scarif; something that the film neglected to do. It’s lovely to see that at least Del Rey remains committed to diversity in the galaxy far, far away.

If you enjoyed the film than Rogue One by Alexander Freed is absolutely worth your time. It’s rare but this novelization gets an enthusiastic recommendation. Go ahead. Buy it. Let it break your heart a little more.

Thank you to Del Rey for providing a copy of the book for review purposes.