Novelizations can be a tricky thing to pull off well, but Alexander Freed definitely pulled it off with the Rogue One novelization. Unlike The Force Awakens novelization, Rogue One offers lots of extra information, dialog and scenes not seen in the movie. If you’re looking for a different experience from the movie, or a way to deepen your experience, the novelization is worth checking out. Each page offers insights into the characters’ heads, bringing up backstories and moments from the past that help flesh out the characters. There’s even little bonus interludes giving readers a glimpse at Mon Mothma’s thoughts on Jyn or how Galen pulled off getting the exhaust port installed on the Death Star. Aside from delivering a lot of extra content, Freed does a great job of presenting it all as an entertaining read.
When diving into any novelization, the first worry is that most of the book will be a straight retelling of the movie. With the Rogue One novelization, the very first page helps set direction of the book. This is in no way a straight retelling. Instead, Freed dives right into Galen Erso and begins expanding on the character and giving readers a better idea of who he is. This of course leads into the beginning of the movie as Krennic shows up, but every page along the way offers something different, something extra. For instance, we get a glimpse inside Lyra’s head and a reasoning on why she sent Jyn off alone and decided to confront Krennic. We get a timetable on how long Jyn stayed in that bunker before Saw got her. Plus there’s a follow-up scene with Krennic and Galen as they leave that planet in Krennic’s shuttle along with Lyra’s body. There are little things like that throughout the book that add constant insight to everything. All the details add up to create a bigger picture, answering some questions, and yet raising others.
Then there’s the supplemental data. These are two to seven page interludes that offer additional information from different characters perspectives. There a Rebel Alliance intelligence update from Mon Mothma on their thoughts on this rumored Imperial super weapon, reports from Tarkin to Krennic, information on the pilgrims of Jedha that explores their ideas on the Force, a back and forth correspondence that leads to the creation of the Death Star exhaust port, details on the Rebel Fleet, and more. While the book would have been fine without them, their inclusion certainly adds more reward for the reader. The additional content shines light on different aspects of the galaxy that the movie was not able to explore, be it internal politics, the state of the Rebel Alliance, or the ideas of the Force. It’s a nice bonus.
For those wondering about the reshoots, the novelization sticks very closely to the final film. There are no major differences in how the main story plays out, and the extra scenes depicted in some trailers is not included in the book. However, there are some changes to the dialog and some extensions of certain scenes which may have been cut from the final film or simply expanded upon for the novel. One moment that stood out to me was Galen’s last words to Jyn, which are radically different from the film. While I don’t think you can consider any of the altered dialog canon, some of it does give you a better idea of the characters or their intentions.
My one and only complaint with the Rogue One novelization is Alexander Freed’s take on Jyn. In the movie, much of her internal thoughts and motivations is left up to the viewer. Thus, if you see the movie before reading the book, you’ll most likely develop your own take on what Jyn was thinking and what her motivations were. In the book, Freed decided to take a stab at it and laid out what Jyn’s thoughts were, what she thought of her dad leaving her, Saw raising her as a freedom fighter then throwing her away, and her uneasiness of being used by the Rebel Alliance as a tool against the Empire without any consideration of her as a person. Jyn’s has a lot of distrust and misplaced anger. Sometimes she’s looking for someone to blame. Regardless, Freed’s take on Jyn was very different from the one I formed in my head from watching the movie, so I found that kind of jarring and I wasn’t entirely onboard with his take on it. The Jyn he creates isn’t as likeable as the one on film, at least that’s how it turned out for me. That said, she is fleshed out a lot more, so some readers might find a lot to like.
Overall, the Rogue One novelization offers a great extra experience for Star Wars fans. There’s tons of additional information, and Alexander Freed’s writing makes it a enjoyable read as well. I give it a four out of five metal bikinis and highly recommend checking it out when you have time.
Reviewed By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.