Reviewing novelizations is hard. How do I review a story we already know? How do I review the book on its own merit, rather than end up just reviewing the film itself?! I figure it breaks down into two questions – does the book stand on its own as a fun and engaging story (as opposed to feeling like a script) and does it add more to the pre-existing lore?
With the Solo novelization, for me it ticked both boxes outstandingly. Granted, I made sure to read it before the DVD release, so the book served as a memory refresher for the film, but I still think this book stands on its own as a delightful story filled with adventure and excitement!
“You and I freedom make…by secret battle of pretend.”
One of the (many) great things about Star Wars books is they give voices to characters who generally do not, or cannot, speak in the films. The main character I’m talking about in this respect is Chewbacca. I’m always grateful to get inside Chewie’s head in the books so we can really get under his skin and understand what is making him tick. It’s clear from Solo that Chewie has lived a long and fulfilling life before meeting Han, but what’s not necessarily as clear is just how impactful meeting Han was. Where Chewie becomes part of Han’s entire life – remaining his friend and constant companion until his very last moments – Han will only be a chapter in Chewie’s life. But this novelization demonstrates just how important and defining that chapter is in Chewie’s long life. The friendship they make in this book will define the pair of them.
I’ve always liked the story how Chewbacca was based on George Lucas’ faithful dog. And any dog owner will know just how beautiful and fulfilling that friendship can be. Dogs can become our most faithful and nonjudgmental friends, so I can think of no better friendship to compare Han and Chewie to. But, something I have noticed and enjoyed about this new canon is how the roles seem to have shifted slightly. In the old Legends canon, Chewbacca owed Han a Life Debt. Han saved him from Imperial slavery and Chewie declared himself bound to Han for the rest of his life, unable to leave his side. Sometimes the pair managed to find ways around this Life Debt, having it extend to Han’s entire family so Chewie was able to leave Han to protect Leia, Jacen, Jaina and Anakin. However, in Solo, it would seem the Life Debt is very much mutual. Chewie got not have escaped the pit on Mimban without Han, and Han certainly could not have gotten off the wretched planet without Chewie (Beckett freely admitting the main reason to take the pair was the Wookiees fabled strength).
On Kessel, we are inside Chewie’s head at the very moment he chooses to stay and help Han, rather than fleeing the planet with his fellow Wookiees. He watches Han and realises that the young man is entirely alone in the galaxy. I love how this film and book emphasise that Han and Chewie’s friendship is mutual, they both need each other and there is a reason why these two are such icons of the Star Wars universe.
“You’re what they made you, but you’ve made yourself too”
Speaking of giving characters a voice, this book is 100% worth reading for the conversation between Qi’ra and L3 alone. If, like me, you left the cinema wanting a bit more from L3 and had a strong feeling that the conversation on the Falcon was cut a little short, the novelization goes a long way to rectify this. Not only do we have the little ‘girl talk’ which we see on screen, but Lafferty has these two complex and intriguing characters have a very real conversation about choice, freedom and consequences. It’s a fascinating exchange and, although I very much wish it had made the cut for the movie, gives all the more reasons for me to be happy I read this book!
I was also very grateful to spend some precious moments with L3 as she was uploaded into the Falcon. Having read Last Shot by DJ Older, and subsequently watching the film, I have grown quite attached to the sassy droid and was desperate for some kind of closure on her story. I like the idea that the Falcon gets some of her attitude and quirks from L3, but I had also grown fond of the revolutionary droid and couldn’t help but wonder whether the freedom she had fought so hard to achieve was forcibly taken from her. This novelization very gently tries to fix that slightly bad aftertaste to make L3’s fate seem slightly more palatable.
There’s no giant retcon here, just simply an understanding that although the initial upload wasn’t L3’s choice, choosing to remain part of the ship was. She was not necessarily happy with the decision, but it was hers to make nonetheless. I think if you are looking for some closure to L3 and her story, you will find it here.
Overall I thought this was a fantastic novelization. It captured the fun and spirit of the movie, whilst giving us a chance to spend some time with all of the characters. Not only did the book capture the movie, but it enhanced it too. Every additional scene was beautifully done and fit perfectly with the tone of the movie. If you are on the fence about novelizations, start here! You’ll remember exactly why Han and Chewie really the best team in the galaxy far, far away!
Rating: 4 out of 5 Death Stars
“His own ship. A copilot and friend he trusted with his life. They were finally on their way.”