I’m aware that other writers have already posted comparisons between The Force Awakens movie and the novelization, but having just finished the latter, I was surprised with some of the things I read that others had not commented on.
Here’s my quick mini review: It’s okay. Three stars. It would be more compelling if the book had been written in the first person from each character’s perspective. Alas, that is not the case. In fact, one of my bigger complaints is that the novel uses third person, but consistently jumps perspective (to be fair, this is probably more a “annoyed writer” complaint than anything else).
Because the book is just all right, I thought I’d create an exhaustive list of differences/additions that the novel offers (that the movie doesn’t) for those of you who are interested in the novel, but prefer to get right to the interesting parts. You may already be familiar with some of these, but some may be new to you. As a side note, I’ve seen THE FORCE AWAKENS four times, but still may have missed a few things. If you see errors, please comment on the post and point them out!
At this point, do I really have to tell you there are spoilers ahead? You’ve been warned.
Here are the items that I’m mainly focusing on:
- Things that are distinctly different in the book. There are many minor differences in dialogue, for example, that don’t really matter, so I didn’t list them here.
- Items that add to the story in some way.
- Details that were not covered in the movie. Additional information that proved interesting.
- Places where the novel contracts the movie. There are only a select few.
- Other interesting things (at least, those that were interesting to me…).
If I missed anything, please let me know!
1. Before the book starts, we get some Jedi Poetry from the “Journal of the Whills.”
Not that it reveals anything in particular, but I haven’t heard of this journal before. Have you?
2. The novel begins with a brief section where Leia ponders the Republic/Resistance’s predicament.
This section doesn’t add much. It serves more as a contextual introduction to supplement the crawl. In the movie, seeing Leia for the first time is awesome. Here, she’s introduced right away. To be fair, though, all the character introductions are weaker (less emotionally satisfying) in the novel, and I’m not sure there’s a way around that.
3. The Finalizer is a newly constructed Star Destroyer.
…and a good name for a new cooking show on the Food Network hosted by Kylo Ren.
4. The name of the village where Poe and BB-8 find the piece to the map is named “Tuanul.”
Now, you have the ability to beat your friends at trivia!
5. Lor San Tekka appeared, “physically capable of removing the heads from various unthinking carnivores.”
Not my first thought when he came on screen. They appear to want to build him up as being legitimately strong and capable, yet also wise and old. The latter seems true in the film, and there’s an underlying strength he exudes on film, but physically removing heads from various unthinking carnivores?
6. “Legend says the map is unobtainable.” Dialogue from Poe.
What is this “legend” of which he speaks? Is he talking about a legend referencing the first Jedi temple? That there’s no map to it? Or, has a legend about Luke’s whereabouts already appeared? Theories please.
7. The villagers in Tuanal “sound an alarm” and “collect weaponry” to fight off the First Order stormtroopers.
It kinda sounds like there’s a group of people in Tuanal that are there for a reason. Maybe because they’re part of the Resistance, or maybe they’re there to protect Rey. It’s never explained fully, but there’s more to Lor San Tekka than we currently know, and maybe even more to Tuanal…
8. Finn encounters an unarmed, frightened citizen of Tuanal, but he doesn’t fire his weapon. He lets the woman get away.
9. After capturing Poe, the stormtroopers scan his body.
In the movie, the stormtroopers just pat him down. The scan makes a lot more sense, especially given how small the device (flash drive?) containing the map is.
10. A nearby stormtrooper assumes that Finn’s unfired weapon is just malfunctioning.
Or…he’s a traitor who will save the galaxy from you First Order maniacs!
11. Finn pukes right before Phasma approaches him back in the transport in the hangar bay. She also brings up the “malfunctioning blaster.”
Gross. Who’s gonna clean that up? It does give him a better reason to remove his helmet, though.
12. Rey is nearly twenty.
I don’t know what the galactic drinking age for Jedi is, but maybe she’s almost there?
13. While cleaning her gear on Jakku, Rey notices a mother petting her son’s head and finds herself making the same motion while cleaning her scavenged parts. The old woman cleaning parts does not appear in the book.
I don’t know if this is meant to foreshadow her ability to use the Force by copying what she see’s other people (i.e., Kylo) doing?
14. In an uncomfortable, odd way, the book (maybe) indicates or suggests that Unkar Plutt has a crush on Rey: “Unkar Plutt, on the other hand, was delighted to extend their encounters for as long as she could stand it.”
Weird and creepy. There are little hints that Unkar really likes interacting with Rey and is almost jealous when she doesn’t reciprocate. Maybe it’s just because he helped “raise” her (Plutt is the one holding young Rey’s hand when she flashes back to being left on Jakku by her family), and it’s not so much about a “crush.” Either way, the implication is strange and a little creepy.
15. Opinion: In the book, Rey seems like more of a jerk in the beginning of the story.
Let’s face it, Daisy Ridley is super likable. It may be that the character was intended to be a little more “rough around the edges,” but Daisy is just too darn likable for that. The main difference I saw is that Rey seems less empathetic and a little more selfish in the book. In the movie, she seems more principled, disciplined, and practical, but also has a sense of awe and a desire to help others (e.g., BB-8). See the next point to see how this difference plays out.
16. Rey negotiates with Unkar Plutt to get the payment for BB-8 all the way up to 100 portions.
She’s far more tempted to sell BB-8 in the book. She’s definitely tempted in the movie, but in the novel, she negotiates for a higher price. It makes her feel far less empathetic, and a little more self-focused than she seems in the movie.
17. TIE fighters are called “Special Forces TIE Fighters.”
Now you know. Unless it was mentioned in the movie and I missed it.
18. In the book, Poe and Finn don’t just try to get away, they actually make strafing runs at the Star Destroyer.
The movie handles this a little better, in my opinion. Yes, the book does foreshadow Poe’s abilities and daring perspective on life a bit more thoroughly in this regard, but the extra “attacks” on the Star Destroyer feels unnecessary and too risky overall.
19. Poe is rendered unconscious when they’re hit by the Star Destroyer.
Blood is even streaming down his face. He’s out cold before they ever get back to Jakku’s surface. This gives Finn even more reason to believe he’s dead.
20. Finn runs into a group of ne’re-do-wells on a speeder before he arrives at Niima Outpost (after crash landing on Jakku).
Nothing happens. They just blow by him.
21. In the movie, right after the quadjumper is destroyed (or, as Rey says, “quadjumpa”), Rey has a great line: “Garbage will do!” In the book, it’s “Okay–garbage it is!”
Movie dialogue for the win!
22. Several times, Rey talks about how many ships she has flown.
This isn’t emphasized in the movie. She calls herself a pilot, and she’s clearly skilled, but it’s a bigger deal in the book. More about this in my next Star Wars book review!
23. Rey and Finn share a (romantic?) moment after destroying the two TIE fighters in the Millennium Falcon.
“It was perfect!” Rey told him. It was silent in the lounge for a long moment before he murmured, “Why are we…”
“Staring at each other? I don’t know…”
The need for possibly uncomfortable answers was obviated by a series of beeps from BB-8…
24. Kylo Ren relays his governing philosophy to Lieutenant Mitaka. It’s all about “order.”
Kylo: “A stability that existed under the Empire, was to anarchy by the Rebellion, was inherited in turn by the so-called Republic, and will be restored by us. Future historians will look upon this as the time when a strong hand brought the rule of law back to civilization.”
I wouldn’t want to be an artist in Kylo’s world.
25. In the novel, Finn’s quote, “Droid, please.” seems less like a cultural reference (as it is in the movie), and more just Finn pleading with BB-8.
It can be awkward when specific cultural references are added into fantasy worlds. I’m guessing that John Boyega was playing with or improving when he delivered this line. It’s clever/funny enough that it sort of works with his character, but in the book, it doesn’t read the same way at all. Most of the humor in the book falls flatter than the film, though, so who knows.
That’s it for Part 1! I’ll write another post with more insights soon! Did I miss anything? What do you think?