This is a review of the Expanded Edition of the novelization for Solo: A Star Wars Story by Mur Lafferty.
**It will contain spoilers for the film and the book.**
The Expanded Edition of by Mur Lafferty brings the events of the motion picture to the page, including scenes not seen in the final film and familiar scenes filled out with additional dialogue, or told from a different point of view. And she does these things aptly. If you enjoyed Solo the film, the book will be a joy to read.
Like the film, Solo tells the story of a young Han Solo around the ages of 19 and 22 years old — from his origins as a scrumrat on his home planet of Corellia, through his time in the Imperial navy, infantry, to his meeting with Chewbacca and as a member of Tobias Beckett’s crew, to the infamous Kessel Run, and his winning of the Millennium Falcon from Lando Calrissian.
A large part of Han’s story also includes his relationship with Qi’ra, fellow scrumrat from Corellia. His desire to get off world and become the galaxy’s best pilot is matched by Qi’ra’s desire for freedom, and the book opens with the two plotting their escape from the clutches of Lady Proxima and the White Worm gang. This is also the start to the expanded edition feature of the book.
As the opening of the film shows us Han boosting a speeder after a deal gone wrong, the book goes a bit further back in the timeline to show us the deal itself. It also gives us telling scene focused on Qi’ra as Moloch confronts the two and brings Han before Proxima. We get many additional insights into Qi’ra throughout the book, shedding more light on her feelings regarding Han, and her motivations as a survivor of the harsh worlds and situations she finds herself in.
Author Mur Lafferty deftly captures the spirit of the film — the fun, humor, adventure, and the heart. In her expansion of certain key moments — such as Han’s time as a pilot in the Imperial Navy (and his demotion to the infantry), Qi’ra recounting to L3-37 how she came to be in the service of Dryden Vos, or L3-37’s integration with the Millennium Falcon — she enriches the film in a meaningful way.
One such example is the relationship between Tobias Beckett and Val. We get a sense of what they mean to each other in the film, but on the page we get more of their backstory, and the true measure of the grief experienced by Beckett upon Val’s loss. It's something that haunts Beckett throughout the book, and that will add considerable depth to his character next time he is seen on-screen as Solo sees its home release later this month.
Lafferty also harnesses the voices and personalities of the characters, so much so that if you hadn't seen the film, you could still envision and “hear” them easily. In particular, I appreciated the way she portrayed Han Solo. Full disclosure: Han was never a favorite character of mine. Over 40 years of fandom, and I never felt a connection with him. However, the movie changed all that for me. Now Han sits comfortably in my Top 3. I finally connected to Han on an emotional level, and I was hoping the novel would expand upon my new-found appreciation — And it did. Qi'ra tells Han he's the good guy, and as much as he tries to brush it off, he absolutely is. That doesn't mean he's perfect, and Han most definitely has his fair share of quirks — but he's there when it counts the most.
For all we learn about Qi'ra, she does remain enigmatic, which is fitting. We know Han's ultimate fate, but Qi'ra has yet to unfold. Hopefully her story will be explored further at some point.
One thing that surprised me — and clearly indicates an assumption that most people would have seen the film prior to reading the book — is the reveal of Enfys Nest isn't saved for the endpoint on Savareen. The movie-going audience only learns that Enfys is a young woman when she removes her helmet, to the surprised reactions of the characters in the film — who presumably were unaware of her real identity prior to the reveal. I know it's neither here nor there if you've seen the film — you already know there's a young woman under the mask. It did seem an odd choice to me, to be honest, though. Why not keep that moment from the film in the novelization? I suppose it's a nitpick, but I am curious.
That said, the Epilogue makes up for any nitpicking. Without spoiling what occurs (in case you avoided the excerpts posted previously on StarWars.com), tying Solo to Rogue One is worth everything — especially since those are my favorite films of the new era of Star Wars.
As someone who saw Solo: A Star Wars Story many times during its theatrical run, the novelization is everything I hoped it would be. It captured what I loved about the film, and built upon that framework. Between this novelization, and the deleted scenes included in the upcoming DVD/Blu-ray release, I look forward to a richer experience when I sit down to watch Solo: A Star Wars Story again… And again.
You can purchase the Expanded Edition of Solo: A Star Wars Story by Mur Lafferty now from Amazon.
Thank you to Penguin Random House for providing a copy of this book for review purposes.Powered by Sidelines