Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Novel)
You've seen the movie (if you haven't yet, why not?), but the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story official novelization has arrived with some additional scenes and dialog; making for one of the best movie adaptations yet. Come inside to check out my full review.
While the film has been out for a few weeks now, and the hardcover version of the book just a couple weeks, I'm still going to keep this review largely spoiler free. Some things here and there might slip out, but nothing too major. On the whole, however, I'm really not going to be discussing the plot overly much. The book follows the film VERY closely, making for one the most direct (and strongest) movie/book adaptations I've seen in awhile.
The book follows along with the story of Jyn Erso, Cassian Andor, Bodhi Rook, Baze Malbus, Chirrut Imwe, K-2SO and the others as they come together in the unlikeliest of ways to do something incredibly heroic. All the major story moments are presented and slightly fleshed out to give a little more insight into what's going on.
There are a few additional scenes sprinkled in, but the majority of the new content added in comes in the form of Supplemental Data excerpts. These come in the form in-universe communications between characters, memos, and even personal journals. They offer some fun background information on the characters and how certain things got where they are. They also provide some neat callbacks to previous events (some Easter eggs as well) without having to go into full flashbacks.
These excerpts come at seemingly random points, with only a few cursory connections to the events going on. There are a couple times where this transition feels jarring and disconnects you from the overall story, it's easy to get back into the story proper. They were interesting enough that it didn't bug me when I was pulled from the story and had some cool moments in and of themselves to still feel relevant.
Other than that, the story is pretty much the same, but don't let that deter you from picking it up. I love reading books based on movies, always have, to see how they compare to the action on the big screen. In terms of the Rogue One novelization, it felt just like I was having another viewing of the film.
Fleshing Out The Characters
Rogue One does a great job of bringing a large cast of characters together quickly, all of whom feel unique and add to the story in their own ways. Even so, I think most can agree that it would have been nice to get a little closer to each of the characters beyond the confines of a two hour (and some change) movie. For me, there were a couple moments (largely regarding Saw Guerrera and Bodhi) that felt off in the movie, and out of place for what we knew. The motivations for a couple decisions weren't clear and left me a tad disconnected.
Thankfully, Alexander Freed's novel adds some much needed insight into all of the characters; getting into their heads and offering expanded explanations for certain events. Beyond getting me past those couple weird moments for me, the additional character exploration helped to endear me to the characters even more. Having seen the film a few times before getting the novel, I already had a connection to the characters and there's a good chance you might as well. The book really enhances those connections, offering an additional layer of depth to our heroes and makes their actions much more engaging to follow.
Jyn Erso’s change of heart regarding the Rebellion (or “the cause”) has new meaning and understanding behind it. The same goes for getting a better glimpse into why Cassian didn’t pull the trigger as he was ordered to do on Eadu. These and so many more minor moments are given extra clarity, while also giving some insight to some of the other things that clearly happened off-screen in the movie. In many ways, this adaptation enhances the movie rather than merely copy the story beats. As such, I can’t wait to see how I feel about watching Rogue One now that I’ve finished the book.
Writing Style and Action
Alexander Freed has a solid writing style, that seems perfectly suited to the Star Wars galaxy. His previous Star Wars novel, Battlefront: Twilight Company, launched last year in conjunction with the video game. Despite some general connections to the game, which doesn’t even have a story, it remains one of my favorite Star Wars books (that’s including New Canon AND Legends books).
The primary reason for that, is Freed’s ability to tell a story with multiple characters and tons of action, without losing the readers in it all. The deluge of names, technical jargon, and such can be overwhelming and hard to keep up with, but the author does a fantastic job of keeping it clear and easy to follow. The action feels like it’s pulled straight from the screen, though you won’t find a bunch of over-exposition to do it.
He keeps the story moving at a great pace, and brings a good sense of scale to the action pieces (of which there are plenty). It balances the action, story, and character moments incredibly well, making it easy to get into the story quickly and keep plowing through.
More importantly, it’s also a story that doesn’t punish for setting it down. We all get busy and have to put the book down for a bit or even a few days. Even if you step away from it for a while, it’s easy to pick it up and dive right into the story. It feels like you never stopped at all, and I credit a big part of that to Freed’s writing style (it’s exactly how I felt with Twilight Company).
Even if you’re not big on movie book adaptations, this is one to make an exception for. A fun and fast read that enhances the overall movie experience.