Friday, November 29, 2013

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse: November 2013

Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month.  Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.  If you wish to add your own review to the conversation, please sign on to the link list at the end of my post.

Title: Star Wars
Author: George Lucas (ghost-written by Alan Dean Foster)
via Wikipedia

I've made a couple of previous attempts at reading the novelization of the original Star Wars movie.  I first checked the book out of the library as a small child for my mother to read to me.  She had really enjoyed the movie but thought the book was terrible so she gave up.  I was too young to tackle it on my own.  I tried again as a young man but didn't make it much further.

I'm not sure what was different this time but I breezed right through it.  Perhaps it was a matter of expectations.  Knowing the books don't exactly measure up to the sci-fi classics, I read as a curious, lifelong Star Wars fan.  At this point, I feel I know the story backwards and forwards.  In addition to watching the movie dozens, if not hundreds, of times, I've also listened to the radio drama multiple times and read the comic book adaptation.  As such, there wasn't much in the way of new material.  There's one scene with Luke and his Tatooine pals that was cut from the movie but does appear in other renditions of the story.  The character of Biggs, almost entirely cut out of the 1977 film, plays quite an important role in the novelization.  There are other, more subtle changes here and there.  Basically, it's close enough to the movie to bring plenty of smiles to the long-devoted fan but also different enough to keep things interesting.

The novel was published several months before the film release, in December 1976.  The book reads more like storyboard plotting than a polished novel.  Setting descriptions of Tatooine and Yavin are quite thorough.  Characters, on the other hand, are not nearly as engaging as they are in the film.  Narrative tone changes are abrupt and awkward - editing clearly wasn't a high priority.  Most of the dialogue is at least recognizable to the devotee.  The "Let the Wookiee win" line, however, is nowhere to be seen.

In short, if one is expecting a satisfying science fiction novel, probably best to give this one a pass.  But if you're looking for new perspective on an old favorite, the Star Wars novelization is a pleasant romp.

Please join us and share your own review of your best read from the past month.  This month's link list is below.  I'll keep it open until the end of the day.  I'll post December's tomorrow.  Meetings are the last Friday of each month.  Next gathering is December 27th.


24 comments:

  1. Hi Armchair! I"m not a huge Star Wars fan, but often use it to teach the Hero's Journey a la Joseph Campbell to my students. Great structure. The book would be useful for this.

    Denise

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    1. A college friend of mine, Zander Cannon, is a moderately successful comic book artist. In issue #3 of his web comic Double Barrel, he has a wonderful essay about the masterful storytelling of Star Wars. Some of it is specific to visual media but there's plenty of valuable insight for the rest of us, too.

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  2. I read that when I was probably around 10. I remember liking it, especially that there seemed to be so many more fighters involved in the Death Star assault. I went on to read a bunch of Foster in the 80s.

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    1. The Death Star attack is certainly a lot more thoroughly developed - not just more fighters but more characters. It's interesting to consider classic lines like "Stay on target..." in a broader context.

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    2. It's actually Lucas added in more fighters for the attack when they did Special Edition. That was one of the things that Lucas wasn't able to make as "big" as he wanted when they made the movie.

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    3. Oh, Papa George...

      I know it's his story and all but I wish he'd have spent more of that time creating and polishing new stories than rehashing the old.

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  3. "...a pleasant romp." Love that description!

    I'm a big Star Wars fan, but have never read any of the fan fiction. Maybe I'll scroll thru your reviews and find someplace to start...and take a pleasant romp ;-)

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    1. This is my first novel but I've dug more thoroughly into the old comic books. The original Marvels are a lot of fun.

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  4. My son got on of the novelizations at his book fair. I'll have to ask what he thought of it. I'm a big fan of the movies and even short-format Clone Wars cartoons, but something about the books seems to just put me off. Maybe because I feel like I know the story too well?
    Still, I like how you give us some insight as to undeveloped/missing characters from the films being important in the book.
    Thanks!
    Veronica

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    1. Scenes with Biggs and other Tatooine friends were actually filmed, just cut later. There's a Biggs scene in the '90s remastering but without actually explaining who he is.

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  5. Ha! That's funny! I reviewed this exact same book a couple of years ago, and I'd have to say, you summed it up pretty much the same way I did. It wasn't the most fascinating read for me and, yes, the characters are lacking in the novel. I would definitely agree with the storyboard assessment. At times, I felt it read like its been patched together.

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    1. I can see how, as a filmmaker, writing things out in novel form could be helpful. But, this ain't exactly Asimov. It probably was never even intended as such - just made for handy promotional material and a way to make more dead-easy money.

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  6. Novelizations of movies are always interesting when you compare them to the movie. I've never read any of the Star Wars blogs but I do remember reading a novelization of the Abyss along time ago. It address a lot of backstory and technical details that were absent from the movie.

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    1. Yup, same here.

      Just did a quick Wikipedia search on the Abyss - I can't tell if the book or movie was released first. Orson Scott Card did the writing for that one - much stronger resume than Foster's!

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  7. I read this shortly after the movie was released. It was fine but not deep, from a young teenager's perspective.

    The Card written novelization of the Abyss is actually wonderful.

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    1. Abyss seems to have gone out of print... I'll keep an eye out.

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  8. I will have to look that one up! I read the novelizations of I, II and III; and never even thought about the fact that there'd be novelizations of IV, V and VI!

    At the time I was reading the books along with my brother...it's so much more fun reading these kinds of books when there's someone to discuss things with, right?!

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  9. "Stay on target" in a broader context might be worth it right there. That line is such a meme, at least for our family, it would fun to explore it more.

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    1. Well, it's really the character who says it that's expanded. In the book, he gets an actual name: Pops.

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  10. Great post, identifying "classic stories and characters even if this one is a little off key. Thanks for the heads up Armchair Squid.

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    1. Thanks, Spacerguy! You should join us for December.

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  11. I wouldn't read something like this as a standalone experience. I enjoyed reading all the original film adaptations, and the "Journal of the Whills" prologue remains for me one of my favorite Star Wars memories.. More rewarding than any Star Wars book I've read since, anyway...

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    1. Let's be honest, no one's into Star Wars for the books. If they are, they should really be reading something better: the Foundation series, perhaps. But they're a decent geek-diet supplement while we all wait for the next film release. I wish I had dug into the reading material when I was younger, though it does leave me with plenty to explore now.

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