I’ll admit that I’m quite late to the party when it comes to the Star Wars novelizations so I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this! I know for sure I didn’t want simply a re-hash of the film, I think a novelization should offer something a little bit more, whether it’s extra scenes or a deeper insight into the motivations of the characters.
Overall, I do think The Force Awakens novelization did offer us a little bit of this, but probably not enough to warrant the time spent actually reading it! In fact, I was really in two minds whether or not to write this review. As some of you may have noticed, my reviews on here generally tend to be quite positive, and that is a deliberate act on my part. I try to avoid reading books that I think I won’t enjoy because I get such little time to read that I don’t want to waste it on something I won’t enjoy, let alone then take the time to write about it afterwards! That’s why you’ll notice there isn’t a review for The Crystal Star on here – I researched it pretty thoroughly and decided I wouldn’t like it and therefore never picked it up! That’s not to say I won’t read things other people have strongly disliked, one of the best decisions I made when it comes to Star Wars books was picking up the Aftermath trilogy, in spite of the negative reviews.
Bearing all that in mind, I decided to go ahead and write this review because there are definitely some good things about this novelization but I’ll also offer a note of caution to anyone on the fence about reading this novelization, or Star Wars novelizations in general!
I thought the friendship between Rey and Finn was beautifully explored here. There is a real emphasis on the fact that neither of them has had a friendship like this before and its wonderfully sad to watch them try and navigate these new feelings.
Speaking of Finn, we also get a deeper understand of his motivation throughout the book. One scene in the Falcon, where Finn is ruminating on his time as a stormtrooper he realises “…the only thing that separated him from his comrades, the only thing that defined him as an individual, was his unshakeable sense of what was right”. I think Foster really enjoyed writing Finn, and it shows as Finn is probably the best portrayal in this book.
But for me, the reason I kept reading the book till the very end was the agency it gave Kylo Ren. Kylo has always been a character who fascinated me, from my very first viewing of The Force Awakens. But for someone who has laid his conflict pretty bare on screen for us to see, we still don’t really know what motivates him and what kind of political agenda he has. Does he actually agree with the totalitarian regime the First Order is offering, or is he simply there to follow Snoke and the First Order are actually of little consequence to him?
I found this novelization did offer some insights into what makes Kylo tick, and he expresses himself in such an eloquent way, there can be no doubt that he is indeed the son of Leia Organa. In a discussion with one of his Lieutenants he says how he believes the First Order promotes peace and potential growth for the galaxy – “it is the task of the First Order to remove the disorder from our own existence, so that civilization may be returned to the stability that promotes progress”. I got such a great sense that although Kylo does believe in the values of the First Order, it still does feel like he is doing precisely the opposite of his mother’s ideals and his desire for the stability of the First order stems from a desire to buck against any ideals he has been raised on.
This is quite a personal pet peeve of mine but I cannot stand it when authors switch between character’s POVs halfway through a page or even halfway through a paragraph! One minute I thought we were looking at a scene through Finn’s eyes, only to switch to Han’s halfway down the page! I have stopped reading books because this stylistic point irritates me so much, and if it wasn’t for my love of The Force Awakens in general, I probably would have shelved this novelization 20 pages in!
Also, whilst I liked how their friendship came across in this novelization, I did find the characters of Rey and Han fell a little flat. Rey had none of her charm and I didn’t really get any of Han’s charisma. I was so looking forward to getting in Rey’s head and I don’t think Foster ‘got her’ which I do understand can be tough, especially given the limited amount of information we had surrounding Rey at the time this book came out. Plus, you know, it’s Han – a notoriously difficult character to write well and there have been plenty of EU authors who struggle to capture Han’s voice.
There are so many great Star Wars books out there – it’s actually getting pretty hard to keep up (especially when trying to balance this with Legends reading too!) so I would say if it’s between this and something else, maybe don’t rush to read this one first! It doesn’t really add hugely to the story shown to us on screen, although I must admit the little nuggets it does add are really quite lovely. It has put me off reading novelizations slightly, however I do have Revenge of the Sith waiting patiently on my shelf as well as The Last Jedi. I will be putting reviews of these on this site so will keep you posted as to whether or not I think novelizations are a good investment of your time and money!
Overall: Is it an essential read for Star Wars fans? No. But there is plenty of fun to be had here and worth it especially for fans of Kylo who want to get ‘under the mask’ so to speak and find out what makes him tick.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Death Stars