(2016) Alan Dean Foster, Century, £19.99, hrdbk, pp272, ISBN 978-1-780-9476-8
Having seen the Force Awakens five times now, I wondered how the book would do the film justice? Alan Dean Foster is the author of sixteen New York Times bestsellers and a clutch of Alien novelisations, so the subject matter certainly seemed to be in good hands but the question was how this would work in practice. To start with, the author has a clear direction to follow and does exactly what is intended – adapt the film into a book.
The adaptation is done in a straightforward way that will have anyone who has seen the film recalling the details. The bonus this provides is the names of background characters of which film's viewers may not be familiar as well as other interesting snippets of detail. For example, I might not recall ever seeing a plaque on a certain iconic spacecraft reading 'Mi con' but a small detail like that really is quite delightful: in the film – blink and you'll miss it, dust covers metal 'Mi… con' ('Millennium Falcon'). The book also provides perspectives from the characters' points of view; for example what is going through their minds and what it motivates their thoughts. Again, this is a welcome touch that enables the reader to see a deeper aspect to the characters in question.
Another thing this book does not try to do is make things over complicated, which certainly works in its favour. Some of the wording may be a little unwieldy at times but the pace is just right, the characterisations are spot on and the language is clear but not too simplistic. It certainly keeps with the spirit of the film with descriptions of the nature of characters capturing their appearance and demeanour. There are observations about the actions of characters that, again, may not be clear on screen but are given a little more depth adding an extra dimension for anyone reliving the scenes of the film via written form.
Foster also gets the characterisation of BB8 bang on as well. It is one thing to see the little orange and white droid roll his way through the film, but to have the written aspect of how he interacts, how he comes across and his reactions to situations he finds himself in and how he responds to those around him adds an extra dimension in itself as well as being quite fun to read. It is also great to see that the characters of Han, Chewbacca and Leia are kept to faithfully; this I felt would be one of the true challenges of the book.
This particular edition of the book has its own visual effects in the form of a number of colour plates of various scenes in the move and screen shots of the main characters – a welcome touch as the movie really does have some gorgeous visuals which would have been a shame not to include.
The novelisation does not attempt to add to the plot or provide any additional background, not a bad thing given the amount of theories that have been arising on the internet about the characters and the unanswered questions: given the sheer amount of debate around who specific characters may be related to and where they are from, this comes across as a very wise move.
Doubtless, many readers of this book will have seen the film before picking it up but for anyone who hasn’t, this provides a good idea of what to expect with some extra dashes of detail. Do not expect any major revelations or additional backgrounds, but as something to tide any Star Wars fan from seeing the film at the cinema to awaiting its release on DVD, this works well.
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