Shinn's Reviews > Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Star Wars by James Kahn
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Jun 06, 11

bookshelves: 2011, adventure, fantasy, military, science-fiction, space, technology, war, spiritual, nature, favourites
Read from June 02 to 05, 2011

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 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.
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