An incredible Star Wars movie finds depth and character in Mur Lafferty’s stunning novelisation
The trinity of Han Solo, Chewbacca and the Millennium Falcon is the foundation of the Star Wars saga. The Skywalker legacy is perfectly placed as the anchor of the franchise, but it is with these crucial characters where the saga truly becomes something more; and when Ron Howard’s superbly crafted motion picture arrived on our screens this year, it served to enhance their legacy for a whole new generation.
Despite a lacklustre performance at the box office, Solo: A Star Wars Story IS quintessential Star Wars and deserved to be rewarded with a far better financial return that it achieved throughout its theatrical run. Not only did the movie introduce us to younger versions of many of our most cherished characters, but it also set the stage to introduce us to all-new and exciting characters like Tobias Beckett, Val, Qi’Ra, Rio Durant, L3-37, Enfys Nest and Dryden Vos.
Their introduction was a breath of fresh air and despite many of these characters suffering from a major lack of screen time their larger than life persona left a lasting impression on the fans. In fact, the movie left many of us gasping for more, our insatiable appetite yearning to be fed tales of Beckett, Val and Rio, Qi’Ra‘s journey from scrumrat to Crimson Dawn enforcer, and Enfys Nest‘s rise to prominence as the leader of a rebellion in its infancy.
Enter the expanded novelisation from author Mur Lafferty.
Review | Solo: A Star Wars Story (Expanded Novelisation)
Traditionally, novelisations based upon motion pictures are a mundane affair, thoughtlessly going through the motions to retread the same ground and often leaving the reader with a sense of indifference. So, imagine how refreshing it is to find a novelisation which does the unthinkable and enhances the movie to a point where depriving yourself of reading it would be a sin against the Force and a massive disservice to your viewing pleasure.
Never, have I read a novelisation that ticks all the boxes and earns the prestigious title of a MUST READ, but Mur Lafferty’s extraordinary novel does just that. Not only does the book bring you the Han Solo story with a familiar, yet fresh perspective, but it also serves to enhance both the story and the characters to such a degree that your emotional investment is necessitated. And this reward is not restricted to Han, Chewie, Lando and the Falcon. In fact, it is the new characters that thrive the most in this novelisation and sharing the ride with them enhances our connection to their plight.
From the novels opening moments, the expansion of the story becomes apparent in the most rewarding fashion. The fast-paced introduction of the movie is replaced with a story-driven prologue which finds a confident, yet tormented young Han thrust into the criminal underworld of Corellia to facilitate the sale of Coaxium hyper-fuel to one of Lady Proxima’s criminal cohorts. This extended introduction serves to add meat onto the bones of Han Solo’s character and is unapologetic for taking over six chapters to get through, and rightly so. Is it here, amidst the chaos surrounding his escape where we meet Qi’Ra. From the moment we meet her, Qi’Ra becomes far more layered, driven and dynamic than the movie ever allows her to be. We get to experience her inner monologue and understand the nature of the choices that will affect her relationship with Han for the entirety of the adventure, a trait that allows us a greater understanding of the ordeals she has been forced to endure.
Another character that expands much, in the same way, is Tobias Beckett. Thanks to Lafferty’s cunning additions we are taken on a journey into his psyche and dissect the real motivations behind his bravado enriched antics. We get to explore his relationship with Val in far greater detail and share the pain of the loss of his friends as they fall one by one. This becomes all the more poignant during the campfire sequence where Han, Chewie, Beckett, Val, and Rio are sat around the campfire sharing stories and revealing what motivates them most. It is here, we find a greater depth in EVERY SINGLE CHARACTER and find a whole new level of understanding and emotional attachment to them all. From Chewbacca’s quest to be reunited with his subjugated family, to Val and Beckett’s heart-warmingly genuine relationship and often-idealistic hopes of retiring to play the valachord, we explore these passions in far greater detail.
For me, a major shortcoming of the movie was the limited screen time devoted to Rio and Val, but thanks to the novelisation, we don’t feel short-changed. Even when faced with their imminent demise, our journey with them up until that point has been deepened to such a degree that their loss is truly tragic. And, in light of their untimely demise, the heartbreak thrust upon Beckett turns out to be an affliction that will impair his thoughts for the entire adventure.
For one reason or another, the one character in Solo: A Star Wars Story I have struggled to connect with has been Lando Calrissian’s cantankerous droid, L3-37. In the theatrical version, I find her inconsequential and her story arc superfluous. However, this reservation melts away in the novelisation thanks to a larger role in proceedings. Her prolonged exchanges with Lando are often heartfelt and tender, and the gravity of her demise is also enhanced further by her dying pleas to both Lando and Han which is symbolic given her insertion into the Millennium Falcon‘s primary computer system. In her final communication with Calrissian, a sequence that failed to make the final cut of the theatrical version, Elthree contemplates whether her insertion into the Millennium Falcon’s navigational computer is a betrayal of her equal rights ethos. In preserving the core of her personality, she is incorporated into the famous freighter…doomed to serve her owner for all time, and it is here the inner ethics of her eternal servitude come to the forefront.
The enhancements of these characters are a crowning achievement for the novelisation and are reason enough to rush out and buy it for yourself, but it is the growing relationship between Han Solo and his faithful companion Chewbacca that demand it. The duo is pure magic together. On film, their relationship springs to life after their joint incarceration on Mimban and only deepens as the plot thickens, but in the novelisation, we delve into the psyche of both individuals and gain a greater understanding of why they are drawn together.
In fact, there are several opportunities throughout the story where either of them could walk away and continue the journey on their own, but their loyalty to one another is so great that the issue is cast off instantly. Both have their reasons for staying tethered to one another, but the decisive moment rests upon the shoulders of Chewbacca. In a time where the chance of freedom presents itself, the mighty Wookiee looks upon his companion in a new light. Chewbacca has friends, family and a home to return to. Solo has no people, no friends, nor even a home to go back to; and it is in this moment whilst freeing his enslaved brethren where Chewbacca decides to be there for him, to be his friend, better yet…to be his family. In one clinical moment of loyalty, their bond is set in stone, a relationship that will never be broken. It is a true delight to experience that moment first hand. On film, the decision is highlighted by Chewie’s farewell to fellow Wookiee Sagwa, but in the novelisation, we get to experience every second and feel the gravity of their bond; and that is something truly special.
To go into greater detail about Solo: A Star Wars Story would be an injustice. This is a novelisation that needs to be experienced, better yet to be felt. What was once regarded as token characters are now invigorated into blossoming personalities that are pivotal to the story. It will leave you yearning to learn more about them and will resonate with you on a personal level when their final act arrives to curtail their involvement. Yes, the movie is a rollercoaster ride of Star Wars awesomeness, but it is in the fast-paced novelisation where these characters truly come to life and absorb you into their world. What Lafferty has done with stunning brilliance is to add meat onto the bones of every aspect of the story and every character therein. This only serves to makes the film better and that is a rare occurrence.
To deprive yourself of this pleasure is a sin against the Force. Grab yourself a copy, strap yourself in and jump to lightspeed with Han and Chewie!
Solo: A Star Wars Story: The Expanded Novelisation by Mur Lafferty is published by Century in the UK and is available in paperback now from Penguin Random House. © Lucasfilm Ltd.
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