A novelization can be a tricky thing. After all, it’s not creating its own story but adapting someone else’s (which is a whole ’nother battle than coming up with a plot.) The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster not only has to face that complicated task but also gets to follow in the wake of the best Star Wars novelization ever. Released in ebook on December 18th and in hardcover on January 5th, The Force Awakens is an enjoyable but not groundbreaking read.
First and foremost, the novel is definitely no substitute for watching the film and there are certainly aspects lost in translation. The charm of John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, and Oscar Isaac just doesn’t make it on to the page all of the time. In all fairness, capturing that much charisma would have been a near impossible task for almost any writer. Foster’s also not one of those writers who writes amazing starfighter battles and thus what were exhilarating moments on the screen come off as a bit dry on the page especially without a John Williams soundtrack to back them up.
What this book does do a good job of is help expand upon the new galactic status quo. It fills in some of the gaps that the movie did not, like giving us Lor San Tekka’s name for one along with some tantalizing hints about his past. Additionally, Foster gives us more Leia, something that’s always a positive. Perhaps most interestingly, the book shows readers how Poe escaped—something well suited for inclusion in the novel where it can’t impede the dramatic effect of the X-wings’ arrival.
Perhaps more than anyone, Kylo Ren benefits from the transition to the page. Not only are his speech patterns more elegant (think Vader’s slaughter on Mustafar in the Revenge of the Sith novel) but readers also get into his head at some of the key character moments, potentially shedding a brand new light on some of his actions and reactions. Han Solo and Rey are two other characters that readers really benefit from getting inside of their heads. The fast-formed bond was one of the highlights of the film and it’s almost sweet to see Han’s side of it before they go into Maz’s cantina. Follow that up with an incredibly sweet moment between Rey and Chewie at the end that mirrors a more bittersweet one from the start and you’ve got some great character bits in here. It’s in the character moments where the novelization does its best.
As a note, the hardcover does include eight pages of color photos from the film—a little bonus for those who waited for the hardcover that wasn’t printed until after the film was released.
Is The Force Awakens novelization an essential read for any Star Wars fan? No, but it is still fun and can provide fans with more of the galaxy far far away.
Thank you to Del Rey for providing us with a copy of the book for review purposes.