Episode IV: A New Hope

January 10, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

hopeEpisode IV: A New Hope by George Lucas

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I’ve watched Star Wars at least thirty times. I know the story backward and forward. I’ve even listened to the audio play produced for NPR, which uses some of the unused material from the script. That material is included in the novelization, which makes sense, given that the book was published a few months before the movie was released. The problem is that this novelization doesn’t bring anything new to the Star Wars experience for me.

The good news is that it has a lot to offer folks who are just getting into the expanded universe. That new material isn’t necessary, but it gives us more context into the character of Luke, the long reach of the Empire, and the importance of the Rebellion. What it doesn’t give us is insight into any of the characters. Lucas doesn’t give us much in the way of the characters, narratively; what we know about them is what we see in the movies, through their facial expressions and reactions, through their excitement and passion. Written out, a lot of that is missing.

This isn’t the first novelization I’ve read in the EU, so I know this isn’t the fault of Lucas, necessarily. Other writers were able to capture the characters and make them lively; here, they feel flat and listless. Even when Luke sees Obi-Wan cut down by Vader (uh, spoiler), he reacts in the way one would expect, but then he’s on to the next thing. Granted, this is how the movie approaches the scene, too, but here it feels even worse, since Foster doesn’t show us enough of his response to believe it.

(Oh, yeah, this book was actually written by Alan Dean Foster. This is about as much of a secret as Joe Hill being Stephen King’s son, but there it is, just to avoid confusion.)

It’s also interesting to see the differences between the story and the final cut of the movie. The dialogue is different enough that people who really know the movie are going to find some unexpected turns of phrase, but it’s also weird that in the novel, Luke is Blue Five instead of Red Five. It’s nothing that breaks the story, but “Red Five, standing by” is one of the most iconic lines from the movie, so it’s hard not to have a “Wha?” moment. What’s cool is the prologue, where Foster expands on the Empire, giving us a bit of history and context into the past. He names Palpatine and summarizes the fall of the Republic. According to legend, this was backstory written by Foster, since Lucas didn’t have a firm idea of what the history would be, but when it came time to write that history for the prequels, he used a bit of those ideas on which to hang his story.

So, the novelization isn’t bad, but it’s not great, either. Foster’s style is a bit too dry for me, but the story doesn’t feel like a seventies story, nor is it as listless as the Lando Calrissian novels by L. Neil Smith. It’s just not a novel that sings, and while I haven’t seen as many of those in the EU, I feel like the first book in the Star Wars universe would have a bit more meat to it than this one did.

Started: October 16, 2017
Finished: October 19, 2017

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