Mur Lafferty’s first venture into a full-length Star Wars project took a grossly underrated spinoff film and crafted something completely new in Solo.
WARNING! This post contains SPOILERS for the Solo novelization and film.
The novelization of Solo: A Star Wars Story hit store shelves and doorsteps on September 4. Though I expected it to feel and read like most other Star Wars novelizations I’ve come across – so close to the movie that I couldn’t concentrate on the words in front of me without hearing the actors speaking their lines – my expectations were exceeded. By many, many parsecs.
No, Mur Lafferty’s story technically isn’t new. Yes, it follows the script – events, characterizations, and dialogue included. But it’s much more than a movie in book form, as many novelizations are. It’s something different enough that you almost can’t compare it to the movie. Almost.
Does the expanded material matter?
Yes, yes, and yes.
Though the expanded scenes in the book will technically appear as deleted scenes with the film’s home release, this is the first time we get to see more of Han and Qi’ra’s escape. Han’s time at the Imperial Flight Academy. Qi’ra’s backstory and relationship with Dryden Vos … and in case you were wondering, he might not actually be fully human. Awesome.
More from Solo: A Star Wars Story
- A look back at ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ 5 years later
- How many Oscars has Star Wars won?
- How did the Millennium Falcon make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs?
- Emilia Clarke would love to reprise her Star Wars role — she just hasn’t been asked yet
- Will Alden Ehrenreich return as Han Solo?
We get to know a lot more about Qi’ra in Lafferty’s version of Han Solo’s origin story. We feel for Beckett a little bit more. And we gain a deeper understanding for why Enfys Nest risked so much and sacrificed so many lives to get her hands on that coaxium.
What a novelization sometimes does better than a film is force a reader to develop emotional connections and attachments to characters they already know they’re going to lose. Lafferty’s ability to develop dynamic characters even further was a nice and welcome reward.
Plus, there’s a specific Rogue One connection I know I wasn’t expecting. If nothing else, it definitely makes the epilogue worth checking out.
There were a few things about this book that upgraded it from a “good” book to an “amazing” book in my mind. You can definitely tell Lafferty is a Star Wars fan, and not just a sci-fi/fantasy author writing a Star Wars book. I think there’s a difference.
- The chin scar origin story. It’s there, and it didn’t need to be there, but I’m not complaining.
- Beckett’s grief. The movie didn’t have room to show how much Val’s sacrifice shook Beckett. And it’s good that they didn’t force it in – it could have slowed down the film’s pacing. But there was plenty of room for it in the book – and it made his death hurt a little more.
- Qi’ra. Her character in the book almost feels like a completely different version than who we get to know in the film – but there’s a reason for that. The book’s narration allows us to see into the mind of someone who’s really only interested in using Han to gain a sense of freedom. It makes her into more of a villain, and I’m fine with that.
- A new copilot. I don’t usually get chills when I’m reading a book. But the moment Han and Chewie act as pilot and copilot for the first time gave me all the happy feels. I’m getting chills right now just remembering it.
- The epilogue. There’s a reason it didn’t make it into the movie – but Rogue One fans will be glad it’s part of the book. Enfys Nest meets secretly with anti-Imperial Saw Gerrera – and has a conversation with 11-year-old Jyn Erso. I don’t know about you, but when Star Wars books make connections to other Star Wars books, I get excited. (Side note: If you liked Rogue One, pick up Rebel Rising by Beth Revis. You won’t regret it.)
Photo Credit: [Solo: A Star Wars Story] Lucasfilm
I can’t review a Star Wars book without giving a balanced analysis. No Star Wars story is perfect – in text or on screen. It was difficult to pick out weaknesses, but a few small things stood out during my read.
- “Chewie.” For a page or so before Han asks “The Wookiee” his name for the first time, Lafferty refers to him as “Chewie” in the narration – even though Han doesn’t even know his Shyriiwook name yet. It didn’t seem like the scene was deliberately being told from Chewie’s perspective, but I might have just missed that POV shift. It was jarring enough to take me out of the story for a second. A very small detail picked out by the brain of an editor-by-trade, but significant enough to make me scratch my head. You might not even notice. Except I just pointed it out. Sorry.
- It’s still a novelization. Despite the well-crafted prose, there are still going to be moments you feel like you’re “reading” a movie. That’s the curse of the art of adaption. It’s not the fault of the writer – just the reality of the process. I just wouldn’t recommend reading the book too soon after watching the movie.
Neither of these things make Solo a “bad” book by any means.
Every Star Wars book goes to great lengths to make obvious references and connections to other movies and books. Every novelization sometimes feels like it’s over-explaining things that its movie seemed to gloss over. Things get cut from movies. People get confused. To me, it’s the perfect time to clarify things for anyone who cares to give the books a thorough read.
Is the book worth buying?
If you usually skip Star Wars novelizations in favor of the movies (or not …), I’d advise making an exception this time around.
Lafferty’s version of Han Solo’s origin story adds several layers of depth a film simply can’t convey. It’s not a word-for-word copy of the script with a few sentences of description added between each line to fill in the gaps.
The book stands alone as its own work of art that simply can’t be compared (extensively) to the script from which it was derived. You can’t say the same for many previous novelizations that came out of Star Wars movies. And that’s a pretty big deal.
I feel for the next author who agrees to the trying task of transforming a Star Wars movie into a book. Lafferty has set the bar higher than it has ever been – as long-time fans of her award-winning work knew she would.
Should Mur Lafferty write more Star Wars? Did the expanded content in the Solo novel change the way you view the film?