“It’s a relief to report that Rae Carson has delivered one of the best novelizations of a film that there has ever been”
Last December, my brother and I were invited to a multimedia screening of the final Star Wars film, ‘The Rise Of Skywalker‘ which we both happily attended. Once the film was over and we had left the cinema, we both shared our thoughts on what we had just seen. We both agreed it would take a second viewing to make our minds up about it but also, we agreed that the film seemed rushed, uneven with plot points that seemed to come from nowhere and hadn’t been thought through correctly. All this coming off the back of the film having a 142-minute runtime which was at odds with the previously reported three hours plus runtime. Then came the reports, denied of course, that the film we had seen was an edited cut that director J.J Abrams hadn’t approved or signed off on.
The reports of a longer cut that Disney decided wasn’t allowed to be released continued to float about and when some photos of behind the scenes entered the public domain, it lent further evidence that the film was a sloppily edited version and not what was originally intended. And now we have the novelization of the film hitting bookshelves. Author Rae Carson has the honor of delivering the final book in the ‘official’ Skywalker saga. The author has written books for Star Wars before, having been the person behind ‘Star Wars: Most Wanted‘, a book that I really enjoyed reading. Why am I telling you about what my Brother, myself and other fans thought about the film? Because after reading the novelization, it shows we were right.
Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker Expanded Novelization | By Rae Carson
Let’s get this out of the way early. Rae Carson has pulled out an extraordinary novel, one that is filled to the brim with fantastic characterization, brilliant description, and a wholly enjoyable read. Some of my friends commented on some aspects and passages in the book before it was even published, dismissing it and parts of the book before even reading a chapter. Well, I’m not afraid to tell them that they were and are completely wrong. The book is a worthy addition to the books that grace the shelves in personal libraries and on bookstore shelves around the world. It not only gives us the story and the film as we know it but includes those scenes that didn’t make it into the cut we all saw at the movies. The film caused divisions again amongst the fan base. Will the book heal those divisions? Yes, it will somewhat. It may not make everyone happy but it will certainly ease the pain they felt with what they saw and will at the least, give them something to smile about.
Rae Carson‘s novel opens not as the film did, focusing on Kylo Ren‘s attack on Mustafar in his quest to discover his grandfather, Darth Vader‘s Wayfinder, the ‘Mcguffin’ that is central to the plot of the film but with Rey and her training with Leia. It is in this opening section where we first start to discover scenes that should have been left in the film, points that Carson goes into great detail about to bring what’s written on the page into an image that the reader can visualize in their mind’s eye. The vision Rey tells Finn about during the film is represented here in this opening chapter. It is described in vivid detail and brings more of Rey’s character and her decisions in the film to the reader to digest and put into context. It really is a great piece of writing and makes the reader yearn to actually have seen what is described here on the big screen. And that’s just the start of things.
When the reader comes to the next chapter, this one actually covering the start of the film and what we see on the screen, we are amazed at what was missing from the film. Here it is presented to us and things start to make better sense. Hux and General Pryde are actually present during Ren’s slaughter of the inhabitants of Mustafar. Hux is actually watching it all in disgust, silently plotting for the day he can bring Ren down and become the Supreme Leader. Of course, we know that he is not destined to ever become the leader of the First Order but it is fun to get inside his mind and see what is consuming him from the inside out on a daily basis. And the rumored Bog Monster that was due to appear in this opening sequence DOES appear here.
He doesn’t have a significant part to play or a vital one but it is interesting to see that this creature does appear in the story. General Pryde looks on at Ren’s slaughter like a parent looking on at a child doing exactly as they have taught to do, with a sense of satisfaction and, yes, pride. But we realize that even he isn’t 100% behind Ren, that he is keeping an eye on him for Emperor Palpatine. It is implied that Pryde knows that Palpatine is still alive and is just biding his time until his true master returns.
And so we come to the passage that some of my friends and other writers have picked up on. The return of Palpatine. Most of the criticism is due to the book pointing out that Palpatine is a clone. They have taken offense at this. All I shall say to them is, read the damn book! What they have decided to complain about is, in reality, completely reasonable and fits in so well with the dark side of the force and the un-natural abilities it affords the Sith. Carson has taken what the filmmakers were trying to get across to the audience and give it to the reader in such a way that all makes sense, to make it all fit inside the confines of the Star Wars universe. It is a masterclass by someone who writes like a fan FOR the fans. And does it with such a passion for the material that it shows brilliantly in the work.
Every aspect of the film is built upon and expanded in such a way that it leaves the reader with the perfect contentment as they read the last few words. The way Leia is written is sheer bliss. And her story gives the reader a sense of profound sadness. For Rae Carson has expanded her story from the start. And it grieves the reader knowing that Leia is on a decline that she knows will be her final one. Leia KNOWS she is nearing the end of her journey. Leia KNOWS her strength is almost gone. And Leia KNOWS she is very near to death but she has to go on just a bit longer even though she can hear Luke talking to her through the force telling her it’s time for her to pass on and to let go. One part of the book has a meeting between Leia and Maz Kanata. Maz knows that Leia is very near the end but shows her just the right amount of attention and becomes Leia’s confidant as Leia starts to display her grief for Admiral Holdo and for her son. She knows he almost certainly is lost to her but retains the hope that somehow, she can redeem him.
As we all know, it is her passing that finally brings Ben Solo back and for Kylo Ren to die. Carson tells us of how Leia is feeling in a wonderful way. The contrast we feel is unavoidable. One minute, we are happy to see our beloved Princess/General still standing strong, the next we feel her despair and her suffering as we realize she won’t be around to see the final end of her life long fight. The pain we will feel is all too raw and all too real.
Many authors have written the novels for the ‘Episode’ films. Some, like Donald F. Glut and James Khan, has given us novels of sheer amazement and pleasure in reading. Others who I will NOT name gave us sub-standard and in one case, a completely awful novelization of one of them. It’s a relief to report that Rae Carson has delivered one of the best novelizations of a film that there has ever been. It is a first-class and completely engrossing book and one that deserves to go down in the annals of Star Wars history as one that is in the top ten of all time. If the film had been allowed to keep what was removed from it in the editing suite, it would have been the best Star Wars film of them all. However, thanks to Rae Carson and this incredible book, we can enjoy the complete story once and for all. And she deserves to be afforded the right to write many more Star Wars novels in the years to come. If she is, I will be first in line at the bookstore to get my copy. And I can’t praise her or her novel highly enough.
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Carl Roberts is a Senior Staff Writer and Books and Literature Correspondent for Future of the Force. Aside from being our horror genre aficionado, he is also passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and the Indiana Jones movies. Follow him on Twitter @CarlRoberts2 where he uses the force frequently!
Editors Note: A big thank you to our friends at Penguin Randomhouse Books for sending over our advance review copy.