The Rogue One Novelization: A Review
Before we begin…
Three novels make up a great lead into the movie and novelization of Rogue One. They include Catalyst by James Luceno, Lords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp, and Tarkin by James Luceno. Now, one could just read Catalyst and be set; however, those three novels set the stage on how classic and new characters act in Rogue One!
What is Rogue One?
If you have not seen Rogue One: A Star Wars Story it is about desperate chances and hopeful steps to prevent the annihilation of the Rebellion. About achieving a major victory against the Empire, when the information was unclear. About moving past regret and doing one’s part to save the future. What hope can the future have unless it is given one? A new hope must emerge from somewhere. That somewhere was Rogue One. Six unlikely people burdened, with the responsibility of saving the galaxy from a newly emerged threat of an immeasurably powerful battle station. A planet killer…
**Spoilers of the plot to Rogue One are in this review. I do suggest watching the movie before reading the novelization.**
The novelization of Rogue One was written by Alexander Freed, who had also written Battlefront: Twilight Company (as previously reviewed here), short stories, worked on Star Wars: The Old Republic, and more. I was confident going in that the novelization was in good hands. I finished in teary eyes of empathy and sadness and hope. Sadness to the group of Rogue One. The imagery used in the novelization allowed me to empathize, with the characters on a level I was not prepared for. Before I get too far let’s backtrack to the cast of Rogue One.
“I won’t forget what we did to you.” – Mon Mothma
Characters of Interest
Director Orson Krennic: A friend to Galen Erso. By friend I mean a chronic opportunist and manipulator, who squeezed out Galen Erso’s talents until his vision of a super weapon came to fruition. Krennic was tasked with completing the Death Star.
Galen Erso: A brilliant scientist and misguided husband, who allowed his neutral stance against war and his focus on kyber crystal research to better humanity get ripped away by Krennic. Only after his whole life was stripped away did he attempt to change his fate.
Lyra Erso: An archaeologist and believer in the power of the Force, she set in motion the first escape from Krennic’s grip of power over Galen Erso.
Jyn Erso: A girl born during the Clone War, who could never truly escape the remnants of war. Daughter to Galen and Lyra Erso, and the adoptive daughter to Saw Gerrera. Will she ever be free from war?
Saw Gerrera: A radical freedom fighter, who took in Jyn Erso and gave her the skills to fight another day. A former member of the Rebel Alliance. His link to the Rebellion severed by his paranoia and extreme measures.
Bodhi Rook: An Imperial pilot, who took the leap of faith into defecting to the Rebellion. The only problem is the direction Galen Erso sent him may be to his doom.
Chirrut Îmwe: A blind Guardian of the Whills, who was cast out of his temple by the Imperial occupation. Even in bleak times his faith never faltered.
Baze Malbus: A Guardian of the Whills and bodyguard to his friend Chirrut. His faith was lost, when they were kicked out of the temple. Only devotion left in him was to his friend.
Cassian Andor: Rebel Intelligence and spy to the Rebellion, he was tasked with putting together the pieces of the looming Imperial threat. The things he had done in life, would haunt a man forever.
K-2SO: Reprogramed Imperial droid, who protected Cassian. On top of serving Cassian, he was always busy running his mouth, with blunt honesty.
What the novelization added
Rogue One was a very busy film bursting from scene to scene as the stakes kept increasing until abruptly ending. The novelization, in contrast, takes it’s sweet time setting up the story pieces. Giving the reader time to breathe. Time to understand the characters as they faced difficult choice after the next. Freed did a wonderful job exploring the thought processes of each character. The motivations were clearer than a kyber crystal. On top of that were explorations of minor characters as they were faced, with the harsh realities of their fate. Take for example, the first firing of the Death Star over Jedha. Not only did Freed explore the point of view of the main cast, but other casualties on Jedha (from an old lady to a child to an abandoned group of Stormtroopers).
In addition, the novelization features Supplemental Material segments. These were designed to be memos posted from different parties in universe, and make for a wonderful world building idea. This type of story telling usually is found in video games as the player accesses different computer terminals. I enjoyed how those parts added to the overall story, even if they did not relate directly to the plot of the story.
Story moments that the novelization enhanced
First, Mon Mothma and Draven had small roles in the movie. In the novelization, we were treated to their importance in the Rebel Alliance and their motivations. By the end of the novel, I could understand their choices. Side note, I remember the first time I saw Mon Mothma in the Rogue One trailer. The realization that she was there on Yavin IV. That she was at the center of power during that time was very moving. During the movie, her screen time was so short, but Freed was able to make up for it in this novelization. From Moving Target to Lost Stars to the Aftermath trilogy, Mon Mothma has been getting more recognition, and it is wonderful!
Second, I realized while reading this book how much an impact that hidden shelter in the cave on Lah’mu left on Jyn Erso. Throughout the novel Freed goes back to that moment, or rather Jyn puts things she wants to forget inside a metaphorical version of that place. That was until she found out her Father was still alive. Now, when I see the movie I imagine the seal cracking as the plot unfolds around Jyn. How those memories haunt her throughout the story.
Third, Jyn has a lot in common, with Luke and Leia. Luke was the easier to notice, as the director mentioned that Jyn’s story plays in almost reverse to Luke’s story in A New Hope. Luke was a farm boy stuck at home seeking adventure. Jyn was a soldier stuck in one tangle after the next seeking a home. The parallels of Leia were what caught me off guard. Jyn and Leia both had a connection to their Mother/adoptive Mother, but it was not as explored as to their Father/adoptive Fathers. On a side note, Lyra has more story time than Breha has been given at the moment, and Lyra does not have much screen time at all…
Anyways, on the Father side of things, Leia had Bail Organa and Anakin Skywalker. Jyn had Galen Erso and Saw Gerrera. Bail and Galen both lived a lie as servants to the Empire, while secretly plotting their mutiny. Anakin Skywalker and Saw Gerrera became part man and machine as they ended up on the dark path of life that was originally paved, with good intentions. When I think of the track “Your Father Would Be Proud” from the Rogue One score, I imagine both Saw and Galen smiling at Jyn.
The Rogue One novelization was a wonderful read. I could feel each final moment of the group Rogue One. I highly recommend this novelization as it is now on my top list of novelizations. I enjoyed the Revenge of the Sith novelization a lot, but I did not cry. This novel made me cry. This novelization does a wonderful job of showcasing the first major victory of the Rebel Alliance. The final Supplemental Material was also an amazing way to end the book. Sometimes what you thought you wanted. What you have obsessed about. What you needed! Never becomes a reality. However, in this case, the novel delivers!