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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Expanded Edition)

Witness the epic final chapter of the Skywalker saga with the official novelization of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, including expanded scenes and additional content not seen in theaters!

The Resistance has been reborn. But although Rey and her fellow heroes are back in the fight, the war against the First Order, now led by Supreme Leader Kylo Ren, is far from over. Just as the spark of rebellion is rekindling, a mysterious signal broadcasts throughout the galaxy, with a chilling message: Emperor Palpatine, long thought defeated and destroyed, is back from the dead.

Has the ancient Lord of the Sith truly returned? Kylo Ren cuts a swath of destruction across the stars, determined to discover any challenge to his control over the First Order and his destiny to rule over the galaxy—and crush it completely. Meanwhile, to discover the truth, Rey, Finn, Poe, and the Resistance must embark on the most perilous adventure they have ever faced.

Featuring all-new scenes adapted from never-before-seen material, deleted scenes, and input from the filmmakers, the story that began in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and continued in Star Wars: The Last Jedi reaches an astounding conclusion.

Author: Rae Carson
Release date: March 19, 2020
Pages: 368
ISBN: 9780593128404

I think there are more than a few fans who have high hopes for The Rise of Skywalker Expanded Edition to try and connect dots and fill in gaps that its theatrical forebear left out.

Released some three months after the initial release of the film, the Expanded Edition grants the reader the chance to read new scenes or extensions on existing scenes to the final episode of the Skywalker Saga.

By comparison, the two hundred and forty odd page novel doesn’t feel very long compared to both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi adaptations by a good eighty pages, but does progress at a pace equal to the theatrical release.

The book follows the film pretty tightly, with snappy dialogue in keeping with the movie, although one grumble is some of the action scenes are described in a very functional way without much extensive detail at times. It helped knowing the film well to get a better idea visually of the action, but at no time was it hard to understand the set pieces.

The question I was left with was would a reader who managed to miss The Rise of Skywalker at general release get as much out of the book as I did?

Followed that question closely with should they need to? It’s hard to answer the first question unless we can find someone to test that theory on, but to answer the second question I would say that yes a reader should, simply because in my opinion no one should feel they needed to watch the film before reading this book in the same way that no one should feel they need to read supplementary material to understand a film. These products are there for those who want to get as much out of a film as possible, but should not be mandatory.

At no point in reading this book did I feel anything wasn’t left unexplained but I think the book sometimes suffers from brevity on a subject.

I have read all of the new-expanded universe stories (which I hereby dub ‘nu-u’) and some I’ve really struggled with. Not because they aren’t good stories or well written, but they get so bogged down with the mechanisms and scheming of characters that whilst highly interesting it can slow the pace of a story right down. Star Wars has always been pacey and the OT era characters have spoken in a snappy dialogue rhythm, something that was definitely maintained in the sequel trilogy and is very evident in this book.

Along with Resistance Reborn by Rebecca Roanhorse I feel Rae Carson really nails the tone of the sequel trilogy.

Whilst I was looking for some additional “fill in the gaps” moments to the film I was also looking forward to the expansion of Leia’s role. Limited as they were in the film production to what they could write around Carrie Fisher’s unused scenes from The Force Awakens, I was looking forward to some expansion of those scenes. In some instances it’s only a couple of extra lines of dialogue but Rey’s training with Leia is a good example with that as we get a flashback to Leia’s own training with Luke. Any moments we see both Skywalker siblings together are cherished in the sequel trilogy, so having more is definitely welcomed.

In the novel, Luke reaches out to Leia in several scenes calling for her to join him. She knows the time is soon approaching when she will see her brother again, but she is desperate not to let go until the time is right. And that time is – as we saw in the film – Leia trying to reach her son Ben through the Force. This is something that I think the film could have used without the risk of creating extra dialogue for Leia.

Adapting such a heavily character driven story like The Rise of Skywalker carries risks, one of which being that the author could get overly bogged down with the introspection of the lead protagonists. The author does a good job of giving the reader just enough of the motivations and fears of Kylo, Rey and Poe as well as the hopes of Poe without slowing down the pace for most of the book but there are scenes where some additional elaboration would have been welcomed.

For example, the scene between Han Solo and Ben on top of the second Death Star wreckage on Kef Bir, I think the scene took longer to play out on screen than it took for me to read, and I’m not a fast reader.

I admit it’s not an easy balance to strike to keep the pace and energy of a scene so close to the film, but I also feel that at times the book would have been able to live up to its Expanded Edition moniker by giving them a chance to breathe. In that one scene there is a lot to unpack, and I personally just felt more could have been made of it. On the flip side, the final scene with Ben and Rey as he’s reviving her does give a much greater look into Ben’s mind at that moment than could ever be achieved on screen.

“The Kiss” is written in a very safe way which I fear may not satisfy some fans looking for confirmation of a romance. Like the film, Rey’s renewal, kiss and Bens subsequent death happen quickly but more believably as text than the way it was executed on screen.

The Palpatine lineage is explained to the reader as well as could be managed. This is a case that if it were placed in a different section of the film, it could have lead to some much needed exposition, but I think when all said and done it made sense where it was placed. And I struggled to find alternative positions for its placement; with Luke on Ahch-to? When Rey sees her parents death at the hands of Ochi of Bestoon?

To me the only other character who could remotely have idea of how Palpatine survived could arguably have been Beaumont, and whilst he is still in need of more dialogue his vague “dark science, cloning only the Sith knew” line sums up all we needed to know at that time.

I’m glad it was clarified that The Rise of Skywalker era Palpatine was a clone, and that the real (as far as we know?) Palpatine died above Endor. That dark side energy that we see ravaging Vader’s body after the Emperor fell had to go somewhere, and it goes to show how powerful he was. Some have made comparisons to Voldemort from Harry Potter but to me I feel it’s a lot more akin to the spirit of Sauron from Lord of the Rings.

I was happy to read the expanded scene on Mustafar with Kylo and the guardian of the Sith Wayfinder (lake monster to you and me), but I didn’t miss it from the final film.

This is no criticism on Carson’s writing, it’s just that the scene itself doesn’t really fit the tone of the story. No matter how hard the novel and visual dictionary try to explain it, I still find it a leap to visually accept that this takes place on Mustafar.

One of the scenes added into the book that I would have dearly loved to have seen included in the film was Kylo’s interrogation of Chewbacca aboard the First Order Star Destroyer, a similar touching scene happens during the Resistance muster on Ajin Kloss when Lando boards the Millennium Falcon for the first time in years. The scenes plays out similar to how Han probably felt when he retook the Falcon, but there is the addition of a touching moment when Lando activates a Holo recording of Chewbacca and a baby Ben Solo.

A nice surprise was the additional Zorii Bliss scenes that take place after we leave her in the film. These help fill in areas that were skipped over or assumed in the cinema. Having had a similar moment with Chewie on the First Order transport, to then try a similar emotional trick with Zorii after the destruction of Kijimi was perhaps a bit lazy in the final film and if the scene was filmed one can assume it was lost for timing or to keep the narrative tight. No matter how likeable Zorri was in the theatrical version, the viewer doesn’t have enough time with the character to build the kind of emotional response that I think we’re meant to feel where as we getting a greater sense of character from the book.

In the Expanded Edition of The Rise of Skywalker Zorii is seen trying to get as many of her crew off the planet as possible, initially to avoid the being squashed by the First Order Hammer but as the story unfolds you realise how close she came to not making it off the planet before the Final Order Star Destroyer Derriphan unleashes its planet destroying blast. Whilst the act itself was written as per the film, Carson does offer a bit of back story into the Destroyer’s Captain Sabrond of the Star Destroyer as being the first vessel from the Final Order to see the wider galaxy.

The book offers more insight into Allegiant General Pryde and his own thoughts about both General Hux and Supreme Leader Ren. As we saw in The Last Jedi there is a immense distrust and condescension by the older veteran First Order Commanders towards the young upstarts who were leading the First Order.

You don’t really get any greater insight to Hux’s motivations beyond what you see in the film and I don’t think you need to. Whilst it was a bit of a leap in the theatrical release, it was also plausible that Hux – being so blinded with his hatred of Kylo Ren – would cut the nose off the First Order’s face just to get one over on Ren. However, it does run at odds as to the character seen in the Marvel run of comics which who shows Hux as being far more calculating and considered.

Along with Visual Dictionary, Carson’s Expanded Edition acts as a good companion piece to the film, reinforcing and tying together elements that were either cut or missed from the final theatrical release. It adds some much needed flesh to the bones of a film that covers a lot of ground in not much time.

For the older reader that will have read original trilogy screen adaptations when they first came out, this is fits in nicely and the added addition of the glossy photos near the middle of the book is a nice throwback to those early novelizations. The prose and writing style feels closer to Young Adult novels we’ve had in the new Star Wars canon, which absolutely isn’t a criticism by any stretch.

The book is a easy, enjoyable read, so if you’re looking for a novel to really get your teeth into during lockdown this may not be it, perhaps try a meatier Timothy Zahn Thrawn novel. However, if you’re looking for a fast-paced Star Wars adventure that enriches what we saw in the film then this is the book you’re looking for. An enjoyable and light read, perfect for those of us “working from home”…in the garden…enjoying the sun…

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The Rise of Skywalker: Expanded Edition (Star Wars)
  • Hardcover Book
  • Carson, Rae (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 272 Pages - 03/17/2020 (Publication Date) - Del Rey (Publisher)