Return of the Jedi isn't my favourite Star Wars movie, but I can't like it any less than the others. It just wouldn't feel right. It's the same thingReturn of the Jedi isn't my favourite Star Wars movie, but I can't like it any less than the others. It just wouldn't feel right. It's the same thing with the novelization. Not that this was completely unreadable: like the movie, it just had a few aspects that could have been better thought out. Still, it's Star Wars, and all said and done, it has the elements that make the trilogy so great - honesty, courage and lightsabers.
My first thought was that James Kahn's writing was possibly the best out of the three. The prologue invoked the majesty of space - "aging orange embers" has such a nice ring to it. Maybe he overestimated what was basically half a Death Star but it could have been worse (*cough*night-stalking ferret*cough*). Then I read this - "Poot-wEEt beDOO gung ooble DEEp!". Kahn feels the need to supply not just Artoo, but Chewbacca, the Ewoks and even Nien Nunb with dialogue. It breaks up the flow of the narrative and is simply a bad idea. Referring to the Emperor as "the Evil One" is campy and unnecessary - it has been obvious he's evil right from the time his 10 foot tall head ordered Vader to hunt down Luke - does this need any clarification? There's another line about the Emperor selling the Rebels real estate which is somehow analogous to the Star Destroyers' attack plan but I haven't figured it out yet.
These are minor nitpicks though, because it's the movie itself that fell short. Reusing the Death Star as a plot device was lazy and unimaginative. Ewoks are everyone's number one complaint but the problem is the way they were dealt with, rather than the creatures themselves. I understand that Lucas wanted to show the toppling of an empire by a "primitive" race and the Wookies weren't savage enough so a few letters were changed around and we got Ewoks instead. But Chewbacca, for all his howling commands respect, whether because of his skills or his courage. The Ewoks, on the other hand, think C3PO is a god. Skipping over the fact that any race that thinks Threepio is divine automatically loses my respect, hasn't this been overused? Why do all tribal societies in fiction deify the first stranger off the boat? Besides, attempts to show them as a brave enough to take on the most powerful entity in the galaxy, despite the latter's superior technology might have succeeded if they weren't called teddy bears all the time.
Still, there's a lot to like in the movie as well as in the book and Kahn gets it right when it comes to emotionally-charged scenes, particularly Luke's second duel with Vader and the latter's last moments. He does a good job of capturing Luke's spiritual turmoil, his brush with temptation and his eventual mastery of it. For the most part, Vader's death is handled with the right touch of drama - "It was a face full of meanings, that Luke would forever recall. Regret, he saw most plainly. And shame. Memories could be seen flashing across it... memories of rich times. And horrors. And love, too. It was a face that hadn’t touched the world in a lifetime." I found his use of Yoda's line on luminous beings particularly powerful; a subtle indication of his final return to the Jedi he used to be and I wish it had been used in the movie.
I also loved the bond between Luke and Leia. Their twinning might have been made up on the fly, but it's saved by the spiritual and emotional link they share. Plus, Leia seems stronger in both this book and the movie than she did in the previous two episodes. She may have had to undergo the travesty of being conscripted into fan service in a Hutt-issue slave girl costume but she does get to execute one of the most awesome kills in the series, and I liked the scene describing her awareness of the Force among the forests of Endor. Apart from Leia, Lando also comes into his own here; probably a replacement for Han now that he's mellowed down. But that's what I liked most: the growth of the characters through the series, whether it was Luke learning to be stronger or Han learning to love beyond himself.
I've been reading these books and watching the trilogy again at the same time. It's been a great eleven days since I started and I'm thinking of giving the novels another chance. Maybe I'll take another shot at Splinter of the Mind's Eye or The Truce at Bakura. It's comforting to know that I can rediscover the magic of Star Wars again. And most of all, it has been a pleasure discovering the rich narrative. After all, it is an elegant story, from a more civilized age....more
Although Star Wars (fine, 'A New Hope') is my favourite movie in the series, I understand that The Empire Strikes Back is, critically speaking, the beAlthough Star Wars (fine, 'A New Hope') is my favourite movie in the series, I understand that The Empire Strikes Back is, critically speaking, the best of the trilogy. So, I was curious to see how it would turn out in print.
Donald F. Glut's writing is somewhat less melodramatic than Alan Dean Foster's. It's not perfect, but then again, excessively erudite writing is neither expected nor necessary in a book with lightsabers and a floating city. I heartily disagree, though, with Glut's assertion that Vader quakes in fear of the Emperor. It is unlikely that Darth Vader is "afraid" of anything. The very thought! Plus, the depiction of the Battle of Hoth is dry and stretches on longer than needed. On the other hand, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Glut manages to keep the Luke-Vader duel gripping - "Again Luke attacked. Once again their energy blades clashed. And then they stood, staring at one another for an endless moment through their crossed lightsabers." Say what you will, but those lines captured the drama of the fight for me.
It's also a relief to read of the Force, of the Jedi as a spiritual concept again rather than some sort of fungal infection (I'm looking at you, midi-chlorians). "Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter." Quotable as ever, Master Yoda. I was hoping the novel would resolve some of the discrepancies in Luke's training (he seems to train for about the same amount of time that Han and company take to be swallowed by a space slug, escape, land in Bespin and get frozen in carbonite which, all said and done, isn't a very long time). It is implied that Luke is longer on Dagobah than apparent but the times still don't add up.
Still, his training is an interesting take on the Hero's Journey and reminds me why Luke Skywalker is my favourite character in the series - he grows from a farmboy to a Jedi knight and along the way he feels hopelessness and anger and insecurity and he learns to overcome them. In the first novel, I could perfectly understand Luke's desire to be something more and the insecurity and despair he feels at being unfulfilled. But this is Star Wars, this is a world where "Wormie" can become "Commander Skywalker" - that's what's so great about it (I couldn't help feeling strangely proud every time I read those two words - "Commander Skywalker" - God, I'm such a sap for Luke). In ESB, he moves forward to a more spiritual growth. The boy who once fainted at the sight of a Tusken Raider takes on the most feared man/ mass murdering cyborg in the galaxy and he doesn't do it because it's in his genes or because it has been foretold, he does it because it's the only way to grow.
Of course, the best thing about Star Wars is that it has all these spiritual elements, this space opera take on the monomyth but it still doesn't ignore the vicarious thrill of a good adventure. I can over-analyze Luke's Jedi training but I can also appreciate Star Destroyers colliding. And I might be a sap for Luke, but that doesn't mean that Han is anything but one of the most memorable characters ever. Han's awesomeness reaches epic proportions in ESB but you also have Leia and Lando (gotta love the cape!) and Chewie who can rip off droid arms as well as he can reconstruct them.
On a side note, I realised that I started reading the first book on the release date of the first movie. See? If that doesn't prove that The Force wants me to read these books, I honestly don't know what does. On to RotJ!...more
This is going to be a spectacularly biased review. Also, I'm listening to the Imperial March while writing this. *I should do this every time.*
The reaThis is going to be a spectacularly biased review. Also, I'm listening to the Imperial March while writing this. *I should do this every time.*
The reason why I am giving this book five whole stars is because it let me have my childhood back, if only for the duration of 200 odd pages. Plus, I'm criminally low-brow. So I'm writing this review partly out of sentiment and partly out of dedication to my decision to review every book I read this year.
So, again, how can I NOT like this book? It's Luke. And Han and Princess Leia and Chewie and ol' Darth and R2D2 and C3P0 and Jabba and Greedo and Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru and Tusken Raiders and, and... heck, and even Admiral Motti (except he's not the one getting Force-choked here, which I find disturbing). Despite Alan Dean Foster's (I think we can all stop pretending Lucas wrote this) magnificently purple prose, despite his inexplicable bigotry towards Jawas, despite all the differences from the movie, I loved this book because it made me feel like I was discovering Star Wars all over again.
Surprisingly, there were things I genuinely liked about this book. I enjoyed reading a more detailed descriptions of Tatooine and Yavin IV, for one. With the movie, you're way too busy watching the X-Wings and stuff to appreciate the rebel base hidden inside an ancient temple. I mean, part of the reason Star Wars is so awesome are all the worlds. And it's interesting coming across familiar scenes and lines of dialogue, and seeing them treated differently. It's interesting to see what Lucas had in mind before the characters and events become the ones we know now. Also, Han shot first and this book proves it. Still, I prefer Jabba talking in Huttese and going all "Han ma buki" than in English (or is it Basic?). Also, it's a shame that the word "battle station" has to be used all the time. "Death Star" is possibly the best name EVER for a starship (and one of my favourite words in the English language apart from "drawings" and "forest" and "antebellum").
But the best part, of course, is the same adventure and feeling of being transported into another world. If you ever watched Star Wars as a kid, if you ever wanted to grow up to be a Jedi (or a Corellian smuggler, or a princess from Alderaan, or a Sith lord) then I dare you to read about the Millenium Falcon coming in to save Luke right before he blasts the Death Star and not smile. I dare you to read this - "Only when the freighter fully eclipsed the sun forward did the new threat become visible. It was a Corellian transport, far larger than any fighter, and it was diving directly at the trench." and not feel wildly happy. Go on, I double dare you.
I could complain a little about the writing, which has gems like - "... multiple treads that were taller than a tall man." Really, Mr. Foster? Really? And what were you thinking when you described Obi-Wan as a "night-stalking ferret"??? But honestly, I don't care. And sometimes it's so bad it's actually kind of funny - "Luke had never seen its like before; he knew neither its species nor its language. The gabbling might have been an invitation to a fight, a request to share a drink, or a marriage proposal."
I had once promised to stay away from the EU and anything other than the movies (this was after I read about Han becoming an alcoholic and Chewie dying) but I enjoyed reading this so much that I'm going to read the other two novelizations as well. What can I say, I have a very good feeling about this....more