From the Amazon Review Vault: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (novelization)

I put this review up on Amazon after reading the novelization of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I took no prisoners.

Painfully bad

(1 star out of 5)

I thought The Force Awakens was a solid movie, but there were a lot of unresolved plot points, so I searched out the novelization hoping it would supply (as many novelizations do) a few hints or maybe even a deleted scene or two.

Not only did that not happen, the novelization managed to turn a blockbuster movie into a lifeless, limp mess.

I should say at the outset that I have familiarity with some of Alan Dean Foster’s past writings. As a kid growing up I stumbled upon his novelizations for the Star Trek Animated Series, and they were lots of fun. (I liked them more than the Animated Series itself.) So coming into The Force Awakens I had the preconceived notion that Foster would give the script a competent treatment.

I can’t say for sure why that didn’t happen — I’ll spell out my best theory in a moment — but the end result is that this book is a chore to read. The biggest offender is the writing style, which is mostly lifeless. For whatever reason, he uses a language that is hard to follow and vague, opting in many places for a passive voice and a meandering style that sucks all the tension out of a scene. Straightforward action scenes become a wandering (thesaurus-induced?) search for an idea, and descriptions of places somehow manage to take forever without actually telling you anything. I’ve read a fair number of Star Wars novels over the years, and while some were better than others, this is easily the most bored I’ve ever been reading one.

The writing might be worth the trouble if the book told you anything. It doesn’t. Maybe someone had better luck than me, but I couldn’t find a shred of knowledge in the book that wasn’t obvious in the movie. It was completely by the script: no extra scenes, no supplementary detail, nothing. I remember reading the novelization for Revenge of the Sith years ago and that version had a few really cool extra scenes that either deviated from the movie (fun) or added to the movie (useful). Not the case here.

And that gets me to the why. My best guess is that this is all Disney. Lucas had substantial creative control over novels of his properties, but he allowed for a little bit of author liberty to flesh things out, provided it didn’t break overall continuity. My theory is that Disney handed Foster the script and gave him tight restrictions on author liberties. The problem is that a straightforward novel tightly based on that script wasn’t going to be very long — and Disney might have had a target length — so Foster might have had little choice but to artificially pad the novel without actually adding anything. This novel is the end product.

By now it’s clear I don’t think there is any good reason to read this, especially if it involves spending money. (I was lucky enough to get it from the public library.) If you like the movie, stick with the movie. There is, sadly, nothing to see here.

Comments are closed.