Book review: ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ tie-in novel expands the story

The latest Star Wars movie — “The Last Jedi” — certainly got fans talking; people are still debating all the plot twists and discussing the film’s implications for the franchise as a whole. It was also a somewhat divisive film, and if you weren’t a fan of the movie, the newly released tie-in novel, written by Jason Fry, probably won’t change your mind. However, if you’re like me and really enjoyed the movie, the book adds some interesting new details to the story.

Released in early March, the novel has been branded as an “expanded edition,” which is fitting because it really does read like an expanded version of the film. While most of the dialogue and story beats that you already know from the film are there, the book has additional scenes and interactions between the characters that flesh out the narrative.

While the Star Wars movie tie-ins have been a bit hit or miss, “The Last Jedi” ranks among the stronger ones. I still think the best is “Rogue One” by Alexander Freed, which added even more depth and emotion to the story and helped you get to know the characters better. Yet like I said before, if you enjoyed “The Last Jedi” and want an expanded version of the story, this is definitely worth a read.

I won’t go into a lot of detail about the themes or the plot, because you probably already know all that from watching the movie. Fans were definitely quite vocal about their feelings for this film, one way or another. ? I will say that “The Last Jedi’s” themes of failure, responsibility, and letting go of the past particularly resonated with me, since big-budget blockbusters are often hesitant to let their characters experience this much self-doubt and create plans that go this spectacularly awry (and actually do more harm than good). However, the willingness to explore failure — and how we grow and learn from it — made the story more powerful, at least for me, and I liked seeing all that further developed in the book.

I know some fans did not like Rose’s character, or the entire Canto Bight subplot in the movie; if you didn’t like those parts, you might initially be tempted to start backing away slowly when I say that these two things get quite a bit of expanding in the book. ? I personally don’t get the hate for Rose; even though she wasn’t necessarily a standout character for me, poor Rose doesn’t deserve to be compared to Jar Jar Binks. If you liked “The Last Jedi” overall but weren’t as much a fan of Rose, I recommend you give her a second chance. The book delves a lot more into her relationship with her sister and her partnership/tentative friendship with Finn. It explains more about why she thinks and acts the way she does.

You also get more insight into Finn’s actions, and the book really drives home his development from reluctant Resistance supporter to proud Rebel fighter. The book emphasizes how he joined the Resistance just because he cares about/wants to help Rey. Wanting to help Rey is definitely not a bad thing, but at least at the beginning, he doesn’t really care about the broader cause (a fact that frustrates the more idealistic Rose). Yet through his experiences with Rose, Finn sees that the Resistance really is a cause worth fighting — and dying — for. I would have liked to see a longer confrontation between him and Phasma, both in the book and in the movie, but if you bought the Blu-ray (or should I say, Blu-Rey? Sorry, couldn’t help myself with that one), there’s a nice deleted scene between those two.

I enjoyed getting to read more about Poe and his tense relationship with Vice Admiral Holdo. You can empathize with Poe’s frustration, even though we watch him make wrong decisions that ultimately have very serious consequences. I know I said I wouldn’t dive too deep into the themes here, but l liked how the story reflects on leadership and maturity. Poe has potential as a leader but learns to take that responsibility more seriously, especially when lives are on the line. He’s an interesting contrast to General Hux, who also gets a lot more development in the novel. I thought it was really interesting how General Hux basically gets a position of power due to his father, and the older ex-Imperial officers quietly resent him and question his leadership.

Overall, my favorite part of “The Last Jedi” film was seeing Luke’s journey and the unexpected connection between Rey and Kylo. I was kind of hoping the book would delve into that Rey/Kylo connection more than it ultimately did. I loved how the movie handled this, but the book didn’t necessarily add a whole lot more to what I’ve been referring to as their “Force Skype” sessions, for lack of a better term. ? I did really like how the book covered Kylo’s decision not to fire on the bridge of the Resistance ship where his mother was, and how the text jumps back and forth between Kylo and Leia’s perspectives in this part. I also liked how the book added more to the scene where Rey first arrives on Snoke’s flagship and then she and Kylo’s elevator ride up to Snoke’s throne room. You also get several pages from Snoke’s POV, fleshing out his backstory a little more.

I think the book is a nice companion to the movie, although I do have to mention that some of the scenes don’t transfer as well to print. Some examples are those Force Skype sessions I already referenced; Kylo and Rey’s falling out after killing Snoke; and Leia and Luke’s reunion in the bunker on Crait, in addition to a few others. For whatever reason, these moments just seem to work better visually. Part of it could be that when you read these scenes vs. watch them, you miss out on the actors’ expressions and tone of voice, which is often a big part of the impact. Maybe the author also tried a little too hard in a few places to stay true to the movie vs. doing something a little differently that would have worked better in print. In a few scenes it feels like Fry is simply transcribing events vs. reflecting on them.

Still, as I’ve mentioned many times before (perhaps too many?), ? I really loved “The Last Jedi” film and I’m glad I added the novel to my collection as well. I’m excited to see how the story wraps up in Episode IX!

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