REVIEW: The Force Awakens NovelizationPosted: January 6, 2016
Warning! Warning! Spoilers, Luke Skywalker! Spoilers! Spoilers! */3P0* But that’ll be down below the Read More. :33
Yesterday, I got the STAR WARS: The Force Awakens Novelization up at Barnes and Nobles. I read it all in the same day!
So before we begin the actual review, here’s a non-spoilery review for you:
Han Freakin’ Solo.
At least THREE insane stunts with Vehicles.
Grievous Bodily Harm with a Lightsaber.
Terrifying Implications about Spaceship Hyperspace Travel.
The Death Star!!!!
And at least TWO planets exploding. Possibly more.
My recommendation: 4 out of 5 stars. You should read the book even if you’ve seen the movie.
If you haven’t seen the movie, or haven’t read the book, that’s it! You can stop right there! If you’re like me, though, and don’t care about that kind of stuff, then go right ahead and continued reading past the Read More.
Read it More! Read it Harder! Stronger! Faster! Better! Work it, make it, HYPER SPACE TRAVEL FTWWWWWWWW!!!!
….Are the complainers about spoilers gone yet? ,…. They are? Good! Now we can get down to the meat and potatoes of this book.
A LONG TIME AGO, IN A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY….
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
At its heart, The TFA Novelization is adapted from what is likely to be the finalized script made either before or during production. There are scenes and dialogue in here that I’ve confirmed are different from the movie itself by asking someone who’s seen the movie. This implies to me that, on some level, the movie diverged in direction either during filming or during editing. I’m assuming the latter, as I’ve heard that there were a lot of last minute cuts made to the movie. We’ll have to see if those scenes were left on the cutting room floor, or if they’ll be on the DeeBuiiDee.
The book opens up by narrating both with the OPENING SCRAWL (Which is handily included before the story along with a quote from what I think is a Jedi training manual?) and a scene with Prin—Er… GENERAL Leia. She doesn’t like being called Princess anymore. Probably has something to do with Alderaaaaa….. Ah, sorry, too soon? Spoilers for A New Hope? Wait, that last one’s kind of impossible to avoid at this point. An Addendum: IF YOU HAVEN’T SEE ANH THROUGH TO ROTJ, TFA DOESN’T CARE. ALL ABOARD THE SPOILER TRAIN! CHOO CHOO!
Leia’s brother LUKE SKYWALKER has Disappeared! Oh My! Apparently some as of yet untold disaster forced him into hiding. The state of the Galaxy, however, is forcing Leia’s hand in trying to find her sibling, and snap him out of his funk. Oh, if only it were that simple, Leia.
We’re introduced to Poe Dameron and his plucky little droid, Beebee-ate…. or for those few lines where the name is NOT spoken in dialogue, BB-8. I’m going to mention this now: when it comes to saying droid names in dialogue, the author of this book likes to transcribe it by sound, rather than by leter. “Beebee-ate,” for BB-8, “Artoo” for R2, and “See-Threepio” for C-3p0…. Yeah, that last one doesn’t make any sense to me either. Why “See”? Why not “Cee”? The first time “See-Threepio” was used in dialouge, I misread the sentence as Leia trying to show 3P0 that he was worying for nothing! (Which she was, kinda, but it had a different tone to it imagining the “See” as in “See? Everything’s alright” kind of way.)
Then- the First Order ATTACKS- seeking the map that Poe has just gotten from an old citizen dwelling in a village on the nearly-lifeless husk of Jakku. We’re introduced in rapid fire to a seemingly random Stormtrooper (We don’t even get his serial number until LATER!) who watches a squadmate die, the Sith-wannabee Kylo Ren, and a LOT of other Stormtroopers who actually can AIM! It seems the First Order either fixed the helmet visor problem or the training problem- or maybe both- that the Empire had with THEIR stormtroopers.
Poe is captured, but not before managing to get the map into BB-8 by….. I kid you not, basically plugging a flash drive into the tiny bot. That’s right folks, our macguffin for the story is a MAP ON A FLASH DRIVE, plug-and-play’d right into BB-8. Unlike when Leia put the Death Star Plans into R2-D2 in ANH, these plans are removable without having to either destroy the droid or directly access his memory banks….
This is something NOBODY but Poe knows about at this point, by the way, and BB-8 isn’t going to tell anyone even if his life depends on it. Even when Kylo Ren captures Poe and force reads his memories on where this map is? All Ren gets is that the map is WITH BB-8. I suppose functionally it’s POSSIBLE that the map COULD be stuck there? But it lends to the possibility that BB-8 could GIVE the flashdrive to another character, and have THEM take the map to the Resistance while leading the First Order on a merry chase across the galaxy.
But BB-8 isn’t too trusting of a droid- and as he should be! (He? She? BB-8 is described as a HE in the novelization, but that could just be in the gender neutral description. There’s a point of note with those neutrals though, but I’ll get to that later.) The First Order is actively searching for this map, willing to kill an entire village for their ‘disobedience’ of harboring the person who had the map in the first place. There’s a stickler of a point around where Kylo Ren gives the order. “It was not a ‘massacre’,” the book describes exactly what I said above, that it was simply punishment for harboring an enemy of the First Order.
This is how the First Order rationalizes killing an entire village.
Our poor unfortunate Stormtrooper- FN-2187- ends up tossing his lunch once safely back on the ship, and is accosted by the Silver-armored towering woman named Captain Phasma, who first reprimands him for his helmet being off, then inquires about his lack of firing his weapon (FN never says to anyone what happened, but just nods along whenever someone suggests a weapons jam. Really? He just never fired it at anyone).
We don’t see much of Phasma in the book, which fits what I’ve read about the movie: She doesn’t appear much. It’s not that she doesn’t have a presence in the movie, and she does serve a minor important roll later on, but it feels more like the characters of two different stories intersecting at random. This is what I’m assuming to be the movie’s script writers playing at the long game and introducing her NOW so that she has more of a presence in future movies, and if I were writing this kind of story, that’s pretty much exactly what I would have done. Sometimes a character doesn’t NEED to be excessively prominent when brief interactions like this happen.
We then transition back down to Jakku, where we meet Rei Ayana— Er. Rey. Just Rey. Plain ol’ ordinary, scavenger girl Rey. We have a sequence of her inside a rusted out Star Destroyer scavenging for parts. She happens to look up at the engines, and note that while they would bring in a LOT of money/food for their general intactness, it’s their size that’s made them impractical to scavenge for parts.
Why this is important? I’m not entirely too sure, however, it gives off a feel of foreshadowing for… something. Something… important, for sure.
We live a day in Rey’s life as she loads up her day’s work of scavenging, onto her speeder, and then take off towards ‘home’- not just yet, though. Rey shows off her piloting skills- by doing a barrel roll! WHEEEE…~ (MAD STUNT: X1 COMBO!)
Rey heads into the town/trading port/work station to polish up her scavenge before turning it in to the pig running the operations here in town Nima Peru (The place is actually called Nima Station, or something like that, but I felt like making a joke).
We have a scene, showing that Rey is watching a mother and child with envy- hinting at her lack of parents- before we meet Unkar The Gross. That’s not his full real name, but it might as well be, given how the book goes at length to describe how gross looking he is. I’ve seen pictures of him from the movie- and let me tell you, I think they kind of softened him up a bit in the final product so as not to scare the kids.
Unkar is an unrepentant, slimeball of a child pretending to be a man. He obviously drags out his encounters with Rey so as to prolong them as long as possible, and he even cuts her rations down from what they were before for an identical haul.
When Rey gets home- and it’s a sad, burnt out husk of an AT-AT that she calls home- we get a scene of her eating her day’s payment of work, with the dialogue noting that ‘more and more’ it felt like she ate every meal as if she’d been starved a week before hand.
Jakku is not a nice planet- and Unkar is probably the worst kind of person in the history of worst people. Even Watto was a better person than Unkar, and that’s saying something for a slave driver. Anakin and his mother didn’t seem to be the kind of people who were being starved- despite being slaves. …I can’t believe I just said that Watto was a decent person.
Time Marches On, I guess.
FN decides he’s had enough of being a Stormtrooper for the First Order, and breaks Poe out of prison. He bluffs his way past the guard set there by Kylo, saying that he’s TAKING Poe to Kylo, but instead takes him to the TIE Fighter Bay.
Yeah, they steal the red-striped one. Poe has about as much fun flying it as Stich did stealing his Red Police Cruiser. The sequence that follows has Poe and FN- that is to say, now renamed “Finn” by Poe- blasting the external weapons arrays on the “Finalizer” Star Destroyer to create a debris field close to the ship’s surface that they can hide in and weave through.
It’s basically a huge slap to the face that has General Hux wondering why they underestimated the Best Pilot the Resistance has. Why continue to shoot up the ship instead of bolting for lightspeed? A Question Finn asks Poe. It’s because Poe needs to go back and get BB-8 and the Map to Luke Skywalker.
Finn starts to wonder just who the hell he rescued, just before they get shot down by the Star Destroyer. They both survive the crash, but are separated both by ejector seats, and being flung free of the wreckage when landing. Poe suffers a concussion- and wanders off in the middle of the night. Finn wakes up the next morning just in time to watch the TIE fighter wreckage get swallowed up by the ground. He manages to get Poe’s jacket out first, though.
BB-8, through a stroke of luck via the Force, manages to run into trouble just outside of Rey’s down’d AT-AT house. The noise he makes attracts Rey’s attention, and she rescues him from a particularly verbose alien scavenger who’s trying to capture BB-8 for scrap.
The dialogue only shows us Rey’s side of the conversation, and makes note that the other scavenger is rather foul mouthed- to the point that what he’s said would be unprintable in quite a large part of the galaxy. I find that quite amusing, having employed that kind of description in my own writing in the past. :33
Rey takes BB-8 into town with her on her next scavange return run- and the Pig Unkar tries to buy BB-8 off of her. He’s so willing to buy it off of her that when Rey asks for ONE HUNDRED Food portions in return, he’s willing to agree. Something, however, gives Rey a BAD FEELING ABOUT THIS deal, and she doesn’t go through with it. Unkar really wants that droid, however, and sends some of his goons to steal it from her.
Why, I wonder? Oh, maybe it’s because the First Order has put out a Wanted thing on it.
Rey beats the thugs off, and then runs into Finn, who made it into town. BB-8 recognizes the jacket, and Finn claims to be a Resistance member who freed Poe… and then watched him “Die.” Finn doesn’t know Poe survived yet. They don’t get much time to focus on this, however, as the FIRST ORDER sends TIEs and Troops to attack the town.
Finn and Rey steal one of Unkar’s stolen stolen ships- the “Mi Con” according to a worn out plate- and escape by fighting off the TIEs. (MAD STUNTS X2 COMBO!) While all of this is going on, Poe is rescued by a friendly passing scavenger, and thanks to Poe’s concussion, Poe tells him exactly what happened and why he’s lost. The scavenger thinks him mad and takes pity on him. Then, they’re attacked by yet more pirates. Poe gains some clarity, takes control of the speeder, and….
Sand, sand everywhere. Especially in the eyes of the pirates.
What did Poe do? He launched the speeder over their ship like a rocket. (MAD STUNTS X3 COMBO!)
There is much laughing to be had.
Rey and Fin’s stolen ship is then STOLEN again- by the rightful owners who just so happened to be in the neighborhood. Chewie and Han Solo. Rey and Finn are both impressed for different reasons…. and that’s when the Death Gangs show up and everything goes to hell in a handbasket.
The Milenium Falcon- heh- doesn’t have time to take off properly, what with goons chasing from behind and a Raththar climbing ontop of the ship, so Han Solo does an insane stunt.
He jumps to lightspeed while standing still- INSIDE another ship’s cargo bay.
The Raththar is- predictably- turned into a smear…. not so predictably…
An enormous, overpowering thunder filled the cargo hanger as the Falcon‘s engines came to life. In deciding to rush the ship, the surviving gang members had chosen an unfortunate angle that put them directly behind the engines. When these came on, the Guavians disappeared. So did the corridor behind them, and the walls surrounding it, and a good deal more. In all, a respectable quantity of, metal, plasticene, and ceramic alloy, comprising a modest chunk of the freighter, vanished in the energetic backwash of the falcon’s swift departure.
YEAH. You read that right. If you’re launching into FTL inside a DOCKING BAY? The ship you’re leaving behind is going to be WRECKED. This was enough This is a STANDARD FTL Hyperspace Engine- very likely the same one the Falcon’s used since before A New Hope. Can you just imagine if the Falcon was turned around in that Death Star hangar bay, with its engines facing the Vader V. Obi Wan duel? Especially after Obi-wan was killed?
…HORRIFYING HYPERSPACE REALIZATION X1 COMBO.
This is a STANDARD FTL jump- just framed in an unusual place from a standing start. There are likely PROTOCOLS put in place to prevent pilots from DOING this sort of thing, but…. Han Freakin’ Solo, everyone. */slowclap*
The Falcon arrives on Takodana, because OBVIOUSLY Han left the freaking Imperial tracking device from ANH in place so he could track the Falcon incase someone ever STOLE the ship from him, and our heroes need a clean ship to get BB-8 to the Resistance…. Unkar obviously is mad that his stolen-stolen ship was stolen and returned to the rightful owners, and he tracks them down to Takodana. Meanwhile, the First Order sets off their new “SHOOPDAWOOP” weapon: Starkiller Base.
Now ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for HORRIFYING HYPERSPACE REALIZATION X2 COMBO.
I’ve done some thoughts on this, reading the description of what the hell happened in this sequence, and trying to figure out the metaphysics of it all because the MOVIE sure as hell didn’t spell it out to people, and the book only tells you enough for you to make the damned connections on your own.
Let me just tell you: It is HORRIFYING. Star Killer Base is a weapon that basically sticks the middle finger up at the laws of physics and tells them to go screw itself.
Here is what happens: The Collectors pull in DARK MATTER from space and solar energy from their planet’s sun, then put it into a containment type field in the planet’s core- they HOLLOWED OUT THE PLANET’S CORE, FIRST OF ALL WHAT ARE YOU THINKING FIRST ORDER!?- that then does SOMETHING- basically forming a giant sphere of pure HATE that is then LAUNCHED out the other side of the planet at speed.
No, that is NOT a laser. That beam of red light? That is NOT a Laser. That is a ball of ENERGY punching a hole through what the First Order officially calls “Sub-Hyperspace” and crossing HALF THE GALAXY in REAL TIME. That red beam of light? THAT is the comet trail. THAT is the smoke cloud the missile is leaving behind. THAT???? That is the laws of physics crying so badly that it’s BLEEDING THROUGH to reality.
Here’s the kicker, folks. This ball of pure hate DOES. NOT. STOP. Until it hits something with “Sufficient Mass”- it will just keep Going. And Going. And Going. And Going. The book spells that part out rather clearly. If it missed, it would just continue on past the edge of the galaxy and KEEP. GOING. Until it hit something.
It hit the seat of the New Republic- a little ball of hate just smashed into the planet’s surface and begun to sink into the core. This isn’t an instantaneous weapon DESPITE it traveling in real time across half the galaxy in a matter of SECONDS. No- once it hits the target planet, it will sink to the core and begin to mess with the flow of GRAVITY from within. Combined with all the dark matter and the HYPERSPACE LIGHTSHOW BLEEDTHROUGH from before– what happens next is a delayed reaction.
The book says that scientists thought it was a meteorite that had hit their planet. A meteor.
Then everything explodes, and a single star system suddenly becomes a BINARY star system. Normally a planet shouldn’t be able to turn into a sun that’s that bright…. but normally a planet explosion doesn’t irradiate ALL LIFE on the other planets in the system, and is VISIBLE in the sky across the entire GALAXY.
That’s right- the final result of the planetary explosion is YET ANOTHER middle finger towards the laws of space and time and physics.
Starkiller base is a HYPERSPACE weapon. Now, think back for a moment towards how destructive the Falcon’s jump to FTL was. The sheer amount of HATE that had to go into designing this weapon… It’s staggering. I had to put the book down for a while after piecing this all together. SKB goes beyond normal hyperspace, which in of itself is SUPER DESTRUCTIVE, and goes a step further.
This isn’t a Death Star…. this is- if it were aimed at a star- a literal star MAKER, if used on a planet. It makes a planet into a STAR. The sheer amount of matter-mass reaction to even MAKE a star in the first place is more than a planet SHOULD have. And yet….. If you used it ON a star? Instead? I’d imagine the reaction would be similar to that.
Uh huh, HORRIFYING HYPERSPACE REALIZATION X3 COMBO.
The First Order then begins an attack on Takodana to retrieve BB-8, not giving up momentum one bit. They are going to steam roll while they can. The Resistance comes to the planet’s rescue, sure… but this is all according to His Highness Supreme Leader Snoke—snrrkkk—‘s plan.
BTW, I compared notes with my friend, and I can see why JJ.Abrams was afraid at first that Snoke would be a Sideous Rehash. The book’s description has him in a black hood, and looking rather old with his scarred face and broken nose. The book was based off of a script draft early enough that he was still described in a BLUE-TINTED Hologram wearing a black hood. Very much a difference of appearance to his SUPER REALISTIC hologram in the movie, and a lack of hood there.
Rey is captured by Ren in the attack on Takodana, and taken to Starkiller base as a hostage. Finn figures this is where Rey has been taken hostage, and tells the resistance what he knows about SKB. There’s a whole debrief scene comparing the original Death Star to SKB (Tiny dot, MASSVIE SPHERE), and they discuss getting past the planetary shield.
Han Freakin’ Solo has an idea…. an idea involving HYPERSPACE (X4COMBO) and a MAD STUNT (X4 COMBO)! That’s right- they hyperspace jump THROUGH the shield.
They infiltrate the base at the same time Rey turns Kylo Ren’s force torturing back on him, and they begin their escape the place/destroy the shield generator plans. They disable the shield generators, thanks to capturing Phasma and then tossing her down the garbage chute.
Then, things don’t go according to plan… if you know what happens between two characters and a lightsaber, then you know what happens. If you dont’… read the book/watch the movie- I mean, seriously, I’m not spoiling that part for you.
The book comes to a close with Starkiller Base turning into another star, and the Resistance in overdrive now to find Luke Skywalker. Rey takes the Falcon and travels to THE FIRST JEDI TEMPLE where she meets Luke, offers him his lightsaber, and….
END OF BOOK 7.
So… yeah. This is why I prefer novelizations over the movies they represent, sometimes. It explains things in a detail that is hard to convey visually. What part of the Force Awakened?
If you’re looking at it from the meta, it’s Rey realizing what she can do just by turning tricks back on Kylo Ren, and Ren realizing that he has no idea what to make of this girl. They are both awakened to aspects of the Force that they had no idea existed.
The speed at which Rey picks up the Jedi Mind Tricks and Force Telekensis is staggering. Even Rey is surprised when she pulls Luke’s/Anakin’s Saber out from Ren’s force grip.
Or is it a more literal awakening? R2-D2 spends most of his scenes in the book siting idly in low power mode, until the very end of the movie where he suddenly wakes up and tells them how to use the map to find Luke Skywalker. Literally, R2 forcing himself to wake up to allow them to find a Jedi.
Or they could have just made the title up without having an actual story/meta reason for it. I.E.: “It just sounds cool!” SHRUGS.
Honestly, the book is a better method at telling the story of the Force Awakens than the Movie is. Quite a LOT of the complaints that I’ve read regarding Starkiller Base’s weapon are addressed here in a VERY horrifying way. There’s an actual scene showing how Poe survived which I’m told doesn’t exist in the theatrical release. And Snoke… I don’t know what the deal is with Snoke. Kylo Ren’s character arc actually seems to have him reconsidering his life choices for a little bit after trying to torture Rey. He actually seems taken back by how ruthless Snoke is with regards to wiping out an entire solar system- where the Resistance is based.
I can’t predict where his arc is going, but so far it seems to be an inverse of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader’s arc. Starting out evil and slowly turning back to good.
There are a few things odd with it that don’t quite make much sense, but overall it was an enjoyable read. There are some parts where you don’t quite understand at first why something is happening, but if you pause to think it through… Well, it certainly gives food for thought regarding certain aspects of the universe that I definitely never thought of before. (Oh God, Standing FTL Jump WHY SO DESTRUCTIVE!?) While Starkiller Base definitely comes out of left field, I feel that it does so in a good way.
It comes across not like the Death Star- which was a known quantity in ANH from the get go- but rather an ACTUAL secret weapon that was developed and launched to show how frightening it is. It is a weapon that was DESIGNED to pull off a stunt like it did- in secret, and without warning.
When you think about it all, The Force Awakens is the same kind of metaphorical story that A New Hope was. Sure, there are the occasional plot similarities between the two stories, but overall the general plot flow of the two movies is completely different from one another.
The last arc of the book just sort of happens- in that rushed sort of way that people who ARE rushing to complete a task tend to do. We spend almost the entire first half of the book on Jakku or above it, as well. Not a whole lot of spare scenery there to spare. Fight scenes are… well, they go by in a blur. Which is a problem of the book being adapted from a screenplay rather than the finished movie, but not much that can be done about that. A screenplay just makes note of the overall general action of the fight, but leaves the intricate details up to the choreographers.
I think this review has probably rambled on for long enough… so, I’m going to close this with a repeat my recommendation: 4 out of 5 stars. Read the book even if you’ve seen the movie.