Review: the Last Jedi

Hello, readers!

I promise I’m going to make sure this blog has a wide scope, a varying range of books and interests and genres. It’s my job to make sure this blog appeals to everyone on different days. However, every once in a while, I’m going to end up detouring this starship into Star Wars territory. It’s inevitable, but I thought I’d go ahead and warn you now, readers. I’ve been a Star Wars fangirl since I was six (I blame my parents entirely), and so anytime there’s anything new, I end up excitedly bouncing up and down about it on the internet (in real life, too, but you, dear readers, can’t see that).

Anyway, all this to say that though the DVD of The Last Jedi came out yesterday, Jason Fry’s extended novelization of the movie is exactly what it says on the front cover: the Expanded Edition. And it’s better than the movie.

This is, doubtless, unsurprising, coming from a bookseller–of course we generally think that the book is better than the movie. But what’s unsurprising in a movie based on a book is very surprising in a book that’s based on a movie. And that’s what makes this novelization so special.

The movie, widely touted as the best in the saga since Empire Strikes Back, was certainly good. It was full of intricate twists and deep character arcs. It takes some thinking. You had to fight through the shiny spaceships, the glowing blaster bolts, and the tears in your eyes as everything is blown to smithereens to get to the important things: the idea that leaders can be created from hotheads, that rebels can be forged from frightened friends, that heroes can be trained from scrappy little nobodies. That the fight isn’t about hurting what you hate. It’s about saving what you love.

The book–in a move I didn’t think possible–digs even deeper into those themes. Jason Fry adds in scenes that were deleted from the movie, giving further context to character decisions and exploring more fully the ideas that those characters run on–hope, light, friendship. He writes from points of view that are entirely unexpected; yes, we get chapters from Rey, Finn, and Poe’s points of view, and naturally, Leia and Luke. But there’s a segment from Admiral Ackbar (he of the “It’s a trap!” fame) that lends a sudden insight into how the Resistance runs and how the fight is both so similar and so different from the Rebellion of the original trilogy. We dive into Rose’s head, better understanding where she’s come from and why she wants to fight. It’s this scrappy little mechanic who illustrates so vividly that central theme of hope and love that spirals through the book like a backbone.

The deleted scenes are diverse in character and delightful in content. The plotholes and small confusions that the movie leaves cluttered about are cleaned up and streamlined. Decisions that seemed rushed or out of character make sense in light of the deleted content. And while there are still some narrative choices that seem questionable to me, there are at least explanations for them. Planets we don’t even hear the names of in the movie are given more worldbuilding–the fish-nun caretakers of Luke’s exile island get their own chapters to fully flesh out Ahch-To. It’s deeper and wider than the movie could ever be, and it’s a peek behind the curtains, the motivations, the ideals of everything that made the movie good.

It’s a satisfying read, and not just for Star Wars nerds like me who will greedily devour anything even remotely related to the galaxy far, far away. It’s for anyone who wanted more from the movie. Anyone who watched a beautiful spectacle about hope and the fight for light in a dark world (or galaxy) and wanted to dive deeper. And it’s for anyone who grew up with Luke Skywalker and wanted to spend just a little bit more time in his head, knowing that, in Jason Fry’s hands at least, this beloved character was written well.

Novelizations are often derided as simple retellings of the movies they’re based on. Why read the fleshed out version of the script when you could just watch the movie? But I promise that this time, it’s worth it.

You can give us a call to reserve your copy of The Last Jedi!

Happy reading!

Your incorrigible Star Wars nerd,

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