This review of the novelization and audiobook for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will contain spoilers for some of the expanded content.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker marks the end for the 40-plus year journey of the sweeping Skywalker Saga. Whether you were satisfied with how the saga wrapped up, or were less so, it's probably fair to say we can all agree the film raised a few questions we'd love answered. That's one reason the expanded edition novelization for The Rise of Skywalker by Rae Carson should be included on your to-read list.
Admittedly, sometimes it's more gratifying to leave certain things to your own imagination. It's what captivated so many of us as kids, and helped us pass the time between films — which came at longer intervals than what we've become used to in the last few years. I think that still applies to an extent, but there are times when you just want to know. Right? That's when novelizations come in really handy. They're good at filling in the gaps, those areas a film might not be able to delve into for the sake of time and pacing. For me, Rae Carson's adaptation of the film to the page excels in achieving that purpose.
Without question one of the biggest revelations from the film was the return of Emperor Palpatine, and his relation to Rey. We've all seen Return of the Jedi, and we know the Emperor's fate at the hands of Darth Vader. (Or rather, the redeemed Anakin Skywalker.) Now it's obvious we didn't know the whole story, and it's the novelization for The Rise of Skywalker that clues us into the facts of the Emperor's seeming resurrection. Given his propensity for cloning technology, it should come as no shock he had measures in place should Vader follow the usual Sith practice of apprentice killing master. That cloning technology also explains Rey being Palpatine's granddaughter.
Being an expanded edition, the novelization gives us scenes we didn't see in the film — such as Kylo Ren interrogating a certain beloved prisoner, and Zorii Bliss getting off Kijimi with Babu Frik before its destruction — as well as more in-depth examinations of key moments. Going into the thought processes of the characters, understanding a bit more their motivations and actions, only serve to enhance the film experience.
One of the more welcome expansions from the novel is more time spent with Leia. Of course there were limitations on how much we could see of our dear princess in the film, but Carson allows us valuable time with Leia. Seeing where she is at this moment, how she feels about her son, training Rey, and the Resistance. Her relationship with her brother, Luke. It's lovely to have that to ease the sense of loss.
There's also more exploration of the bond shared by Kylo/Ben and Rey, and how it affects the way they relate to and feel about each other. The dyad they had no conscious knowledge of before, but always felt in the absence of one another.
Interesting to note the book starts differently from the film. While The Rise of Skywalker drops us right into the action with Kylo Ren on Mustafar in search of Vader's wayfinder, the novelization begins with Rey's meditation on Agen Kloss. I tend to prefer the film's version, but I do wish it included the deleted scenes from Mustafar as presented in the book. There are some amazing visuals I would've loved to see onscreen.
If the novelization gave me a greater appreciation for the film, the audiobook gave me a deeper appreciation for the novel. All three taken together complement each other perfectly.
The unabridged is narrated superbly by Marc Thompson. He captures the voice and essence of all the characters (his Allegiant General Pryde in particular is spot-on), the urgency of the story, and the emotional impact of the personal interactions. For example, Han Solo's visitation to his son, Ben Solo, made me cry every time in the theater, while reading it on the page, and listening to it during the audiobook presentation. Nothing was lost from one medium to the other.
The sound effects, musical cues (many from the prequel trilogy, which fit the tone nicely), and nature of the narration really brought the ‘Star Wars‘ to the audiobook. It's an exciting listen, and moves along at a rapid pace — even at 9 hours and 36 minutes! It's about as close to watching the film as one can get. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Even on the best of days, it's not possible to please everyone. I understand The Rise of Skywalker falls into that category, but I can only address my thoughts and judgement in this review. I was emotionally satisfied with the film while also acknowledging it wasn't all perfect. Initial misgivings I had on opening night lessened with subsequent viewings, and the novelization further allowed me to make peace with whatever issues I still carried. Listening to the audiobook only cemented my true affection for The Rise of Skywalker. Perhaps that will be the case for those who experienced disappointment. That's my hope.
Audiobook Presentation: 5/5
Thank you to Penguin Random House and Penguin Random House Audio for providing the book and audiobook for review purposes.Powered by Sidelines