Film novelizations have fallen out of favor over the years, but at still very much a thing in science fiction and fantasy—and that’s fabulous for those of us who find ourselves torn between a love of movies and a love of books. The only downside is that, in this franchise-conscious era, studios tend to keep a tighter rein on the spin-off media these days. While there are plenty of great novelizations that recreate the experience of the movie, they’re less likely to go off on weird and interesting tangents.
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When it came to the novel version of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, writer Jason Fry and Rian Johnson, the film’s director, wanted to do something different—and offer a little something extra to entice fans who have already seen the film three or eight times since it debuted in theaters before Christmas. The new book is being billed as an “extended edition” of the story, and adds in several significant scenes: some of them entirely new, some considered for inclusion in the film but cut for reasons of pacing and and flow. Given more room to breathe, the story opens up on the page, yet still feels very much of a piece with the world we saw onscreen. To put it simply, it’s a must-read for those who loved the movie. Sadly (happily?), the photo inserts included in the Barnes & Noble exclusive edition feature zero images of post-shower Kylo Ren, but otherwise it’s pretty great.
Here are six of the most significant new and expanded moments you can look forward to.
The Last Temptation of Luke
In the very opening of the book, we visit with Luke Skywalker in his old age. He’s living on Tatooine with his wife Camie. He appears to have lived a good, relatively peaceful life, albeit one in which the Empire’s control of the galaxy has been complete, and he harbors some regrets about the plea for help from a young princess that he chose to ignore.
Naturally, the scene is a clever bit of misdirection: a haunted Luke, still a hermit on Ahch To, imagining what might have been. A dream sequence might sound insignificant, but in addition to providing a glimpse of a galaxy that might have been if Luke had refused the heroes’ call, it’s provides a bit of foreshadowing as to the reluctant Jedi’s state of mind. He recognizes it as a vision; a warning that things are about to change. It’s also a neat tribute to the original film: Camie Marstap, played by actress Koo Stark, was in a deleted scene in which Luke hung out with his pals at Tosche Station (presumably whining about power converters). The character made a few appearances in the old Legends media (even rating an action figure a few years ago), but this kinda-sorta cements her existence as the only girl on Tatooine.
With You. Always.
Another big new moment comes right at the beginning: the funeral of Han Solo. Given that the movie starts with the desperate evacuation of the Resistance base at D’Qar, you’d think stopping for a funeral would slow the pace. Appropriately, the memorial service happens during the early hours of the escape. Leia realizes that setting aside a few moments to remember a hero isn’t just the right thing to do, but will provide a chance to inspire the troops with that ol’ Rebel spirit. It’s a nice bit, and cathartic for Solo fans. The evacuation also includes a few additional moments with Kaydel Ko Connix, the operations controller played by Billie Lourd, Carrie Fisher’s real-life daughter. She’s in charge of logistics for the evacuation, and provides a sense of just how daunting and complex the escape was.
Always Two There Are
There is more context given to the developing relationship between Luke and Rey on Ahch-To, above and beyond what we saw in the movie. As she recovers from the First Order attack on her flagship, Leia reaches out to her brother, awakening his connection to the Force. That’s enough to cause him to reconsider his reluctance to help Rey. Unfortunately, around the same time, Rey learns the truth (from a certain point of view) about what went down with Ben back at the Jedi school. If only Luke had come around just a bit earlier.
We also learn more about the caretakers, the Lanai, and their long history and role in protecting the island’s Jedi temple. Some of the story is related from their perspective and, no surprise, they’re not crazy about Rey. One critical scene introduces a neighboring tribe that comes for a visit, inadvertently precipitating one last spat between the cantankerous duo of master and would-be apprentice.
The Chosen One
The Snoke story arc might be one of the more controversial aspects of The Last Jedi. Much like the Emperor, who was largely a cipher until the spin-off books and movie prequels fleshed out his backstory, Snoke’s origin has thus far remained mysterious to the end (if indeed it’s the end for him—you never know). The novelization provides some tantalizing hints: we know, via Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy, that the remnants of the Empire set out for the Unknown Regions of the galaxy in the wake of its defeat, as per a contingency plan put in place by Palpatine. Here, Snoke reveals that the old Imperial forces were ill-prepared for the dangers encountered in those distant reaches, lacking information the future Supreme Leader possessed. He runs through a list of the First Order’s would-be rulers from that period, including Aftermath’s anti-hero Grand Admiral Rae Sloane, suggesting that he achieved his position by being the last being standing after the others intrigued themselves to early graves.
Storms of Crait
Leia provides new context about the old base on Crait (the planet with the salty earth that throws up plumes of red smoke during that picturesque final battle). She mentions her father’s secret outpost on the salt planet and references her trip there in Claudia Gray’s (wonderful) Leia, Princess of Alderaan, as well as the return journey that occurred in the not-yet-collected Marvel comic, The Last Jedi: Storms of Crait. It’s a nice reminder of the interconnectedness and attention to detail with the larger canon of tie-in media.
Saving What We Love
In addition to the big bits, there are several smaller new scenes and character moments that don’t change the story, but do flesh it out: more from Rose Tico, including some backstory of her life with her doomed sister Paige on their home world of Hays Minor, and the origin of the split necklace that becomes so important; extra detail about the early life of the former Ben Solo, as Leia remembers the life of her ill-fated son, flashing on moments that go all the way back to the womb.
What’s your favorite added bit?