“Chirrut Îmwe felt the warmth of an alien star on his skin and a sea breeze pawing at his robes. The heel of his staff dug into hard-packed sand. Beneath the odors of the conflagration and death was the perfume of jungle flowers and the sweet stink of dirt beetles. Beyond the electric snap of blaster bolts he heard a high-pitched chittering-the noise of a beast he had never encountered. To this cacophony, he added his voice:
‘I am one with the Force and the Force is with me.'”
—Alexander Freed, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Alexander Freed’s novelization for Rogue One is, put simply, one of the best Star Wars books I’ve ever read. There are so many ways in which this book could’ve failed. I feel like by its very nature, a novelization is perceived as inferior. As a kid, I bought them all the time: Dick Tracy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Batman, Gremlins 2….GREMLINS 2!! I mean, you see these on the shelf and tend to overlook them, right? You scoff, safe with the knowledge that that movie WASN’T based off a book. You move along.
DON’T SLEEP ON THIS BOOK! It is written with such care and love for these characters, and frankly, expands on some things that the movie overlooked in favor of its frenetic pace (which I loved every second of, don’t get me wrong). I imagine writing a book like this is extremely challenging. The vast majority of people who read it will already have seen the film. So what more can you provide for them, now that they know the story by heart, and all its surprises?
On a basic plot level, there are a handful of moments that would have conceivably happened “just off-screen”. But where Freed succeeds is in getting inside these characters’ heads, each and every one of them. Giving them so much depth, and motivation for their actions. As much as I enjoyed Riz Ahmed’s performance, a character like Bodhi Rook could have used a lot more breathing room in the film. Here, he gets it. You get a much more intimate and horrific look at just what Saw Gerrera and his Bor Gullet took from Bodhi.
The anger and conflict in Jyn Erso is so real in this book. She both hates and loves her father, Galen. She also truly feels like Saw is her real father, and his betrayal (or her perception of his betrayal) is almost unbearable to her.
I could go on and on! If you loved the movie, I think this book will only strengthen that love. All the heartbreaking moments are beautifully written. All the action scenes are exciting, and never belabored. The grittiness and danger of the Ring of Kafrene. The pristine beaches, bright blue waters, and sweltering jungle heat of Scarif. Freed gives these locations so much attention, the effect is almost tactile, like you’re truly planet-hopping with this story. There are times when K-2SO’s humor isn’t as effective as in the film, but it’s a minor quibble, owing much to the brilliance of Alan Tudyk.
Alexander Freed is an exceptional Star Wars author, and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next!