When Alexander Freed was announced as the author of the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story novelization, it sounded like a good idea. Freed had previously written Star Wars Battlefront: Twilight Company and shown he had a good handle on portraying military conflict while growing characters. While Rogue One itself was close but not quite what I was expecting, Alexander Freed was still an excellent choice for the novelization.
Overall Freed’s novelization adds nuance the movie lacked. It’s not merely added explanations of how someone got from one place to another or background information on locations – although those are both a part of this book. It’s the characterizations. Characters are important to me in any story and here they rise above the film’s muted earth-tone palette and become more vivid, more relatable, more real. Details we’re told about the characters in the movie are put to use in the book. They have an effect on the character instead of mainly on the plot.
For example, in both forms of media we’re told Jyn used to fight alongside Saw Gerrara’s crew. In both that connection is why the Alliance wants her to help Cassian make contact with Saw. However in the book, that part of her past also informs the way she responds to danger, what she worries about, even how she approaches going to Scarif. The story is all the more richer for it.
And speaking of Jyn, she has a lot of fire inside her. Several characters actually say or think that but it’s apparent too. She’s resilient, aggressive, emotional, tenacious, and carrying a heck of a chip on her shoulder. We gain a large amount of that increased intensity thanks to the use of third person omniscient perspective, but not all of it.
Getting to see what’s going on inside characters’ heads further flesh out others too. While a lot of what we know of former Guardian Baze Malbus in the movie is based on his interaction with Chirrut Imwe and the movements he’s making in the background, we get interesting expansion in the book on the grumbles and the sighs.
Of course the novelization also has additional dialogue. There were moments reading where it struck me that just adding one line from the additions here and there to the film’s could have been a boon. One particular sentence uttered by Bodhi gave more dimension to his motivation.
The book also includes interludes of a sort in the form of various messages, reports, and personal files. While it’s nice additional info, I found it distracting from the story at-hand – in part because it left me wondering when they were written in-universe and who I, as the reader, am to have access to all that info in that form. Instead I was more delighted by the ease with which Freed adds more female characters to the story while still respecting constraints given via the film.
It’s hard to compete with the visuals Rogue One provided for the battles, especially fighting in space. And once the Rogue One group splits up on Scarif, the pacing suffers from having to describe so much in so many locations – both for the Rebels and the Imperials. The rest of the pacing is rather on par with the film though. Overall Freed’s work has a decent level of readability too. There’s a few less common words here and there but for the most part it’s easy enough to understand. He takes advantage of the lack of needing to contend with rating system rules to show beings actually getting hurt, with a few more graphic cringe-inducing moments sprinkled in. It is a war story after all.
I haven’t had a chance to see the movie again since I finished the novelization, but I’d be willing to bet I’ll be able to see at least a little more of the motivations in the movie. Although I may be as likely to pick up this novelization and read it again when I want to enjoy the story of Rogue One.
The publisher provided a copy of this book to FANgirl. The novelization of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is out now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook.
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