Solo: A Star Wars Story: Expanded Edition not only greatly lives up to the expanded moniker, it makes the movie’s story even better. Author Mur Lafferty doesn’t just add on for the sake of adding on. She leans into untapped moments from the movie to make pretty much everything deeper, richer, and often with a stronger emotional core.
Only 80 pages into the book I found myself wishing the movie could have had at least some of Lafferty’s touches. Although I have to admit the book is also buoyed by being able to imagine every actor from the film carrying out every added line and scene. There’s so much more nuance without changing the basic story. It’s both revelatory and frustrating. If only someone could have let this author give some feedback on the script during pre-production.
The novel reads less like a heavy amalgamation of trivia points and more like a story with other priorities. There’s still nods to things but it’s less in-you-face than the movie seemed. It takes Han’s journey of a hopeful youth into a man building a hard shell around him to another level – making it easier to see the Han of the original trilogy as someone who could begin to open himself up again and find a larger tribe.
Han’s bond with Chewbacca is well-featured. This may also be the best depiction of and insight on Chewbacca we’ve ever gotten in books. Of course part of that comes from getting to have a few point-of-view scenes from the Wookiee, but it’s also in Han’s conversations with him and observations from others. Between Chewbacca and L3 during the escape from the Kessel mine I was in tears. The emotional power behind these two was so strong for secondary characters.
Lafferty wields her POV choices brilliantly too. Each character’s view adds to their own story and Han’s with minimal timeline overlap which keeps the momentum mainly moving forward. When the viewpoint switches deftly mid-scene it’s always done obviously enough so as not to lose the reader.
I know the author probably didn’t read my piece on the less-than-great choices made regarding Solo’s female characters, but reading this novel sure felt like she did. Val gets wants and her memory (along with Rio’s) lives on throughout via Beckett, which has the added bonus of making him a more interesting character. Qi’ra is much better established and easier to understand. Enfys’ gender is not treated as a surprise, but what is becomes a tool in her arsenal both for gaining sympathy and getting the upper hand.
Of course the trickiest situation is L3’s. There’s dialogue that benefits both her and Qi’ra’s stories, but the fate of L3 remains sticky. While I appreciate Lafferty’s addressing the can of worms that is a self-made, freedom-seeking droid losing all that, the story attempts to settle the issue with two seemingly opposing reasonings – the landing of which still doesn’t entirely sit well with me.
There are a couple of other hiccups in the writing itself – empty repetitions or a paragraph that didn’t make sense – but none of it is enough to weigh down the overall delightful experience of reading this Solo novelization or deter me from wanting to read whatever else Mur Lafferty has up her sleeve.
Solo: A Star Wars Story the movie was fun. Solo: A Star Wars Story the novelization stands on its shoulders, fills it out, and makes the story really shine. Between this and Rogue One – Star Wars standalone movie novelizations have been off to a great start.
The publisher provided FANgirl with a copy of the book for review. As usual opinions are my own.
Solo: A Star Wars Story: Expanded Edition by Mur Lafferty is out now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook from Del Rey and Penguin Random House.
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Kay is FANgirl's resident geek fashion expert and co-host of the Hyperspace Theories podcast. She reviews books and movies for the site with a heart for storytelling and a mind that likes to analyze. Kay's been a guest on various podcasts sharing her love and knowledge of storytelling, film-making, fashion, and of course, Star Wars.
Most days are filled with her work as a creative services professional - designing websites & branding, photographing, voice acting, editing, and more. Kay spends the little bit of free time she has reading, costuming, and, of course, making pew pew noises. She would pick up more jobs and hobbies if she was a Time Lord.
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