As promised, here is the first installment in some March 2016 book reviews, quotes, and responses to books that I’m currently reading. This Lent I decided to fast facebook and alcohol and have been using the increased time and greater clarity of mind to invest in reading books.
Round one, the various Star Wars: The Force Awakens books. These represent the first books I’ve read in the Star Wars universe that are not what us ooooold (late 20-something and above) Star Wars fans would call Expanded Universe. The EU, that’s what the younger fans (teens and early 20-somethings) call non-canon – or ‘Legends,’ if they’re feeling a bit more charitable. Having been informed by countless young fans on SW discussion forums that the EU is non-canon, I’d like to point out that I am fully aware of this fact, and also that considering it’s an entirely fictional universe, we can probably all just calm down a bit and appreciate the EU stories for what they are: bloomin’ good tales about the characters we love.
- Alan Dean Foster (2016). Star Wars: The Force Awakens. London: Century. This is the official novelisation of the film, based on the screenplay. I read the hardcover edition, which is 260 pages in length and also has an 8-page photo insert of stills from the film.
- Pablo Hidalgo (2015). Star Wars: The Force Awakens: The Visual Dictionary. London: Dorling Kindersley. Hardcover, 80 pages. A photographic guide to the characters, objects and worlds of the film.
- Kemp Remillard (illustrator) and Jason Fry (2015). Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Incredible Cross-Sections. London: Dorling Kindersley. Hardcover, 48 pages. An illustrated book of the fictional technologies in the film, including ships and lightsabers.
I’ll keep it short on the second and third book listed here: they are brilliant fan art reference books, as well as helpfully explaining things like the surprisingly controversial cross-guarded lightsaber. Some of the labels are hilarious, for example, references to Poe’s helmet-tousled hair (they should just write that he’s terribly handsome and get to the obvious point…) and Hux’s pallor, which the Visual Dictionary explains is because he spends too much time indoors.
STAR WARS FORCE AWAKENS SPOILER ALERT
The first book in this list, the novel, is brilliant. If you saw The Force Awakens and were left with questions, Alan Dean Foster’s novel is the place to begin searching for speculative answers. And my favourite line in the novel? It’s on page 250, during the lightsaber battle between a badly injured Kylo Ren and the terrified but brave Rey. The novel contains scenes and dialogue that were subsequently edited out of the film, and this tiny little section near the end kept me awake at night wondering what it means.
Stretching out his hand farther, straining, Ren beckoned powerfully – and the lightsaber rose, to come bulleting towards his outstretched fingers.
And past them.
Taken aback, he whirled – to see the weapon land in the hand of a girl standing by a tree. Rey appeared equally shocked that her reach for the device had exceeded his. She gazed down at the weapon now resting in her grip.
“It is you,” Ren murmured.
Who is she?! What does Kylo know about Rey that we, the viewers, have not yet learned? Can I really wait until late 2017 to find an answer (yes, I can, because the speculation in the meantime is half the fun).
My working theory: Kylo Ren is Rey’s cousin or perhaps there is another connection there (I like the Rey Kenobi theories, too). I suspect that Kylo, himself, spared her from his slaughter of the young Jedi before leaving her on distant Jakku and wiping her memories. There are a few references in the novel to his compassion for her being his weakness. He knows, better than she does, who she is.
One thing I noticed in reading the novel is that it explains the motivations behind the characters in a deeper way. Hux is terribly evil, far more so than he seemed in the film – but his motives make sense in light of his logic. But even he has his limits, daring to question Snoke’s demand that Hux fire on more planets. Kylo is very troubled, and comes across as a good person being controlled and manipulated by a cruel cult leader. Rey is, to my surprise, a lot darker than I expected and I wonder if Episode IX will involve a clash between a reformed Jedi Kylo and newly powerful Sith Rey. Maybe? That would be cool. Not likely, but the novel suggests the room is there for Rey to be drawn to the Sith. Finn and Poe are just wonderful – fun, charming, clever, brave, and instant best friends. I love the bromance they have going on!