(Note: This review refers to the 2002 25th Anniversary Special Edition Star Wars Trilogy hardcover)
In 2002, to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the premiere of Star Wars and coinciding with the release of Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Del Rey and Lucas Books published a new hardcover omnibus edition of the Star Wars Trilogy's novelizations.
It wasn't the first time that Del Rey, a division of Ballantine Books, had released a three-novels-in-one-volume edition; in 1983, when Return of the Jedi premiered, there was a "Star Wars Saga" trade paperback volume, as well as a less-expensive boxed set of three paperbacks. Later, when the Star Wars franchise was rejuvenated by the success of Timothy Zahn's Thrawn Trilogy and the 20th Anniversary Special Editions, Del Rey once again published omnibus editions both in trade and mass-market editions, as well as hardcover editions of each novel with the new artwork for the THX remastered VHS videos. (These circa-1995 reissues featured not only the new artwork, but also introductions written for each novel by director George Lucas; these introductions reappear in this commemorative edition.)
Having read the original paperback movie tie-ins (plus a hardcover edition given to me by my best friend Rogers), I noticed that the only change Del Rey had made to any of the text was to fully capitalize "TIE" (the acronym for Twin Ion Engine) when the Imperial fighter is mentioned by name in Star Wars (a.k.a. Episode IV: A New Hope.)
Part Two: Brief Commentary About the Novels
Star Wars -- Episode IV: A New Hope
(Formerly Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker)
Adapter: Alan Dean Foster (Credited to George Lucas)
Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars (Above Average)
In December of 1976, Ballantine Books published the first edition of Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker, a novel by George Lucas. Adorned only with conceptual art by Ralph McQuarrie, it did not set the literary world on fire. As it turned out, however, the "major motion picture" it was heralding on its cover blurb became one of the biggest box office hits in history, and Star Wars went on to become a huge part of our pop culture.
Although it really wasn't George Lucas who wrote this first published tie-in to what would later be called Episode IV: A New Hope, the novel reflects the director's vision. Author Alan Dean Foster, who had adapted the scripts of the Star Trek animated series into the Star Trek Logs books, took Lucas' fourth revised draft of the script and wrote a masterful adaptation that truly captures the spirit of the movie's characters and situations.
Star Wars begins with a short prologue that, with a few "special modifications" in the text, is really the outline for the Prequel Trilogy. In the form of an excerpt from "the first saga -- Journal of the Whills," we are told that the once-powerful Galactic Republic, protected by the Jedi Knights, "throve and grew. But as often happens when wealth and power pass the admirable and attain the awesome, then appear those evil ones who have greed to match." Insidiously, like a house under attack by termites, the Republic rotted from within until "[a]ided and abetted by restless, power-hungry individuals within the government, and the massive organs of commerce, the ambitious Senator Palpatine caused himself to be elected President of the Republic.... Once secure in office he declared himself Emperor...."
The novel then segues directly into the famous opening scene of Star Wars: an Imperial Star Destroyer (called here an Imperial cruiser) chases Princess Leia's Rebel Blockade Runner and captures it over the desert planet of Tatooine. After a brief battle, Imperial stormtroopers take over the ship, and Leia is taken before Lord Darth Vader, who wants to know what she did with secret data "transmitted by Rebel spies."
Leia, of course, has wisely hidden the data -- the plans of the Empire's ultimate super weapon, the Death Star -- into the memory banks of Artoo Detoo, an astromech droid. Artoo and his loyal but easily rattled counterpart, See-Threepio, have managed to flee aboard a tiny escape pod down to the hostile wastes of Tatooine. They are "found" by jawas, a race of small desert scavengers, then sold to a moisture farmer named Owen Lars and his nephew Luke Skywalker....and when Luke stumbles on a fragment of a message for someone named "Obi-Wan Kenobi," well, things really get interesting.
Foster's novelization is very faithful to its screenplay source, and even the "added" material (Luke's first appearance in the novel as he repairs a vaporator, or scenes with Biggs and his friends at Tosche Station) comes from Lucas' fourth revised draft (available in Carol Titleman's The Art of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope). Most of the "deleted scenes" later appeared in Brian Daley's Star Wars: The Radio Drama, and the encounter between Han Solo and Jabba the Hutt (spelled Hut in this novel) was restored and tweaked with CGI in the 1997 Special Edition re-release. Of the three Classic Trilogy novels, this is the best written. Foster's style is crisp yet elegant, and it does not read like it's a screenplay adaptation.
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Adapter: Donald F. Glut
Rating: 4 of 5 stars (Above Average)
Donald F. Glut's novelization of Lawrence Kasdan's screenplay for Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, based on a story by George Lucas, is among one of the better adaptations in the continuing saga of the Galactic Civil War and the adventures of Luke Skywalker.
Three years after the Battle of Yavin, the Rebel Alliance is fighting for its very existence. Though they had won a significant victory with the destruction of the Death Star, the evil lord Darth Vader survived and made his way to the Imperial capital, where Emperor Palpatine gave him the ultimate assignment -- to find and destroy the Rebel leadership and crush the Rebellion once and for all. For three years Vader's Imperial Death Squadron of six Star Destroyers -- including his own massive flagship -- has pursued the Rebels from system to system.
Vader is driven, too, to find one Rebel commander in particular: Luke Skywalker. Sometime after the defeat at Yavin, Vader discovered that Luke was the pilot who, with the assistance of the mystical energy field known as the Force, fired the torpedo that destroyed the Death Star. Realizing the young Rebel's untapped -- and untrained -- Jedi powers, Vader has made it his mission in life to capture Luke and, eventually, turn him to the dark side of the Force.
So when an Imperial probe droid spots evidence of a hidden Rebel base on the remote ice world of Hoth, Vader unleashes his legions of stormtroopers against the small Rebel force. In a brief but violent battle, the Empire overwhelms the Alliance troops fighting a rear-guard action, but the bulk of the Rebels, including Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, Luke, and the droids escape.
Vader doesn't know, however, that the Star Warriors have set out on diverging paths. While Han, Chewie, Leia and See Threepio fly off in the damaged Millennium Falcon in a desperate attempt to rejoin the Rebel fleet, Luke and Artoo are on their X-wing starfighter on a different mission altogether. For the spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Vader's former Jedi Master and now Luke's spirit-guide, has sent Luke to the Dagobah system. There, he will seek Yoda, the Jedi Master who first instructed Kenobi.
Although Glut (like all Star Wars adapters) had to use an earlier draft of Kasdan's screenplay (Yoda, for instance, is described as being bluish and with long white hair parted in the middle), he is a good enough writer and captures the essence of the film's characters and new settings.
Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
Adapter: James Kahn
Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars (Average)
Return of the Jedi is divided into two halves, one almost independent of the other but predetermined by the events of The Empire Strikes Back. The first half begins with a short prologue in which Darth Vader arrives at Endor, a small sanctuary moon where the Empire is building a second Death Star. The Emperor, it seems, is not happy with Moff Jerjerrod's "current lack of progress" and has sent the Dark Lord to "find new ways to motivate" the Death Star commander and his men to complete the battle station as planned.
Then, using material later deleted from the final draft of the screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan and George Lucas, Luke is in Ben Kenobi's Spartan hut, hard at work on his new lightsaber. Then Kahn takes up the film's plot threads and describes how Leia, Chewbacca, Lando and Luke rescue Han Solo from the clutches of the vile gangster Jabba the Hutt.
The second half of Jedi starts with Luke returning to Dagobah to complete his Jedi training, only to find that Yoda, his 900-year-old Master, is dying. "No more training do you require," says Yoda on his deathbed, but warns Luke that the true final examination as a Jedi will be to confront Darth Vader.
"Luke knew this would be his test," Kahn writes, " it could not be otherwise. Every quest had its focus, and Vader was at the core of Luke's struggle. It was agonizing for him to put the question to words, but after a long silence, he again spoke to the old Jedi. 'Master Yoda -- is Darth Vader my father?'
"Yoda's eyes filled with a weary compassion. This boy was not yet a man complete. A sad smile creased his face, he seemed to grow smaller in his bed....
"Luke stared at the dwindling teacher, trying to give the old one strength, just by the force of his love and will. 'Yoda, I must know,' he whispered.
" 'Your father he is,' Yoda said simply."
Kahn then follows the three separate threads of the Battle of Endor: a mission led by Han to destroy the shield generator that provides the unfinished Death Star's main protection; Lando Calrissian's starfighter attack on the battle station itself; and Luke's desperate personal struggle to reclaim his father from the thrall of the evil Emperor Palpatine. It is classic Star Wars action, with heroic deeds, huge space battles, and a final, decisive clash of lightsabers between father and son.
Kahn, who is also a recovering emergency room doctor and has published a science fiction trilogy of his own, has done several novelizations of movie scripts, including Poltergeist and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. His style is clear and snappy, although Foster and Glut are better writers.
What I Like About This Book:
Although I really did not need this book, per se, because I already have the individual novels (and had a trade paperback omnibus edition), I just couldn't resist "the dark side" of temptation when I saw it at Waldenbooks. I bought it, along with the paperback edition of James Luceno's Star Wars: Cloak of Deception, simply because the book cover was so nifty looking. Instead of the stereotypical "Darth Vader-on-the-cover" art used in all the other Trilogy reissues, there is the original Ralph McQuarrie concept depiction of Luke holding a lightsaber against a plain black background above the words "The Star Wars Trilogy" and the names of the three credited authors (Lucas, Glut, and Kahn). I really didn't have many Silver Anniversary collectibles beyond the three action figure 2-packs (Swing to Freedom, Death Star Escape, and Final Duel), hadn't gone to the convention in Cincinnati, and Episode II hadn't yet been released on DVD.
But even if it was just a redundant buy, I still think it was a good purchase. My mass-paperback edition (which doesn't have the introductions by Lucas) is dog-eared and without its front cover, and my trade paperback was in danger of meeting the same fate. Having the three novels in one volume and in hardcover makes it both convenient to take on a trip -- one book takes up less space than three, after all -- and won't easily suffer from wear-and-tear as the cheaper paperbacks do. In addition, the larger print size means my eyes won't tire as quickly as they do when I read ordinary paperbacks.
© 2012 Alex Diaz-Granados. All Rights Reserved