Retro Reviews: ‘The Force Awakens’ by Alan Dean Foster

August 25, 2020 at 5:25 am | Posted in Books, Random House, Reviews, Star Wars, Star Wars Books | Leave a comment
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The Force Awakens is the novelization to the blockbuster of the same name from December of 2015. The original screenplay was written by Lawrence Kasdan, J. J. Abrams and Michael Arndt, and the novelization was written by Alan Dean Foster.

First off, this is going to be a controversial review. I personally loved The Force Awakens movie when I first saw it, and I still love it. It’s one of my favorite Star Wars movies. However, I did not like the novelization of the film at all. I believe that this is a textbook case of how not to write a novelization. But I will blunt my criticism off the bat by saying that there are some great things in the novelization, well worth your read.

I’ll start with the positives. There are some great, short insights about Leia and her work with the Resistance and her search for Luke that are really good. It adds to the film for me and makes me appreciate Leia. I also love how Foster included several of the deleted scenes/dialogue for Leia and Han’s scenes, some of which actually was repurposed for The Rise of Skywalker, which I didn’t realize until this reread.

Also, Foster does a decent job with the Finn and Rey dynamics. I have a very particular view of their relationship (I’m very much a Finn/Rey shipper) and Foster did an adequate job with them, not antagonizing either side of the debate or particularly supporting another. They had good chemistry on the page that added a lot to the movie.

And that just about does it for positives in this review. I overall do not like this book. It is, for me, one of the worst canon novels for Star Wars and just does so much wrong.

To begin with, the point of the novelization is to tell the story of the movie while adding depth and unexplored ideas. This is accomplished generally through added scenes, added internal and external dialogue, and further expository context. Foster included very, very few added scenes, and what was added was almost always less than a page, and most of the information the reader basically already knows. There is almost no internal dialogue added, and again, it is stuff the audience pretty much already knows. When Foster adds dialogue, he doesn’t just add, but he changes the dialogue from the movie. He uses not just different words, but completely new sentences and phrases, which completely took me out of the book. That is a huge problem for novelizations. I understand that this book had more of a time crunch than its successors, but Foster really could have done a better job in that area. And when it comes to expository context, he was so hamstrung by the film writers and producers that he added little or no context to the story, which is really the whole point of a novelization.

For example, The Rise of Skywalker novelization, which is actually shorter than this book, does tons of explaining and adds so much context to the film. I literally learned so much about the movie and so much more makes sense. Virtually all of my questions or problems with The Force Awakens are either unanswered or not satisfactorily answered.

My final major gripe about the book is the writing style. Foster really is (to me) a bland author. This is evidenced in the disconnect between how much I love the film and dislike the book. I have also read Foster’s original Star Wars novel, The Approaching Storm, and it had the same writing style issues as this book. Foster comes from a more classic sci-fi background, where straight plot and world building are the most important, but his style and his characters take a huge back burner, and those are both very important in books told in the modern era. But I digress.

Overall, I just didn’t care for this novelization. Of all the Disney era novelizations, this is by far my least favorite. This does have some good aspects, which make it both readable and worthwhile, but as a whole just isn’t that good. I give The Force Awakens a 1.5 out of 5.

Next book up is Bloodline by Claudia Gray, which is in my top 5 Canon novels, so I’m really excited for it.

Written by Jonathan Koan

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