Jason Fry’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi Expanded Edition ranks among the top Star Wars film movie novelizations. John Liang explores why.
Waiting for the release of Jason Fry’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi Expanded Edition was somewhat torturous, in that since the Disney acquisition, the new Star Wars movies—at least the first two — had their companion novelizations come out the same weekends as the films. Not so for Star Wars: The Last Jedi Expanded Edition, though.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi Expanded Edition
by Jason Fry
The thing is, all those thoughts pretty much disappeared once the actual reading began (with John Williams’ incomparable soundtrack playing on Spotify). Particularly with the prologue, where Luke is dreaming of never having left Tatooine, gotten married and the Empire stamping out the Rebellion via the Death Star. His awakening abruptly on Ahch-To and wondering what the meaning of the dream could be was a great introduction to him, since he wasn’t seen much in The Force Awakens.
“The oceans of Ahch-To still astonished him — an infinity of water that could transform from blank and placid to roiling chaos. All that water still seemed impossible — at least in that way, he supposed, he was still a child of the Tatooine deserts.”
The foreboding at the end of that foreword really sets the tone for the rest of the book, particularly Luke’s demeanor once Rey shows up.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi Expanded Edition: Enhancing the story
Star Wars: The Last Jedi Expanded Edition enhances the story of The Last Jedi in that the reader is able to peer inside the characters’ minds in a way that the movie doesn’t allow. The “Expanded Edition” includes many of the deleted scenes that were included in the digital/DVD version of the movie. There are even scenes in the final cut of the film with characters that — were it not for the book — one may not notice.
For instance, those “mute, purple-robed aliens that had helped the First Order blaze hyperspace lanes through the unknown Regions” in the throne room scenes, as Fry writes, were characters that were easy to miss, even after multiple viewings of the movie. But once you do notice them, you realize they have shiny, Jawa-like eyes.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi Expanded Edition also shows why characters like Snap Wexley and Jess Pava weren’t featured in the movie — they had been sent out to gather any surviving New Republic commanders. One can only hope there’s a comic or novel in the works that chronicles their adventures.
Additionally, Rose Tico’s story prior to her meeting Finn is fleshed out, including showing how she obtained the ring with the old Rebel Alliance logo that she wound up giving to the Canto Bight stableboy. It had been given to her by her surviving bomber comrade “in memory . . . of [her sister] Paige’s sacrifice for the Resistance.”
The whole scene in the movie where Poe, Finn and Rose are talking to Maz Canata via hologram is flipped over in the book, where that chapter is done from her perspective. You see her thoughts as she contemplates why the three need her help, and the larger picture from that.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi Expanded Edition also delves deeper into Rey’s experience with the Force:
“And all that her senses showed her had been but a moment. That moment was but one of trillions, part of a never-ending cycle that had begun eons before she was born and would go on for eons after she was dead. And it was itself part of something vastly larger, so enormous that her mind couldn’t grasp it, an immensity even the stars were but the tiniest portion of.”
Chances are, a lot of the dialogue featured in the book but not the movie was probably left on the cutting room floor during the film’s editing process, even if it was good. To wit:
“The galaxy may need a legend. I need someone to show me my place in all this. And you didn’t fail Kylo—he failed you. I won’t.”
Luke regarded her gravely, and when he spoke his voice was quiet.
“I don’t know who’s more dangerous: the pupil who wants to destroy me, or the one who wants to become me.”
One of those deleted scenes included in the book was on Ahch-To when Luke tells her of the marauders who come once a month to the island.
After her charging the village and belated realization that they were decidedly not marauders, Luke invites her to dance:
She looked away, flustered and embarrassed.
“I’ve never danced before,” she admitted.
Luke smiled. “You’ve never single-handedly fought a Bonthian raiding party, either.”
“Yeah, but this is scary.”
She took his hand, roughened by work and weather, and looked down to see how to position her feet correctly, trying to copy his stance. He gave her an encouraging smile and they began to dance, their steps forming overlapping squares across the stone and gravel, in time with the drums.
Another instance of the book fleshing a character out is with the apolitical, morally ambiguous thief DJ: Rose decides to internally call him DJ due to the “DON’T JOIN” metal plate on the front of his cap. Never once in the movie do Rose or Finn actually say his name.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi Expanded Edition also shows how ambitious the First Order senior officers are, with most of them scheming to take their place above everyone else.
BB-8’s point of view
Another really cool part of the book is where it delves into BB-8’s mind:
Yet organics made up for this—at least a little bit—with a talent for tackling a problem with simultaneous bits and pieces of multiple subroutines at once, what they called improvisation.
BB-8 liked to think he had developed a knack for that.
There’s even an instance in Star Wars: The Last Jedi Expanded Edition where Luke decides to join Rey, right before he sees her touching Kylo in the hut, which puts the kibosh on that idea.
The scene where Rey boards the Mega Star Destroyer has an interesting tidbit that doesn’t quite mesh with a scene in The Force Awakens movie, but could possibly be explained in the companion novelization. Fry writes:
His smile faded at the sight of his uncle’s lightsaber.
“I’ll take that,” he said. “It belongs to me.”
Rey was tempted to tell him to come and get it, as Finn had—and to remind him that she’d driven him to his knees at Starkiller Base and disarmed him. That he would bear the mark of that duel forever, and lived only because she had chosen not to strike him down.
What’s interesting here is that in The Force Awakens movie, it’s pretty clear that Rey is unconscious after being Force-flung into the tree, culminating in Finn’s picking up the lightsaber, so how could she know what was said?
The Force Awakens novelization, however, has Rey merely “dazed and hurt,” which ostensibly could mean that she did indeed hear Finn say “Come get it,” but that’s in the eye of the beholder.
Easter eggs for hard-core fans
Star Wars: The Last Jedi Expanded Edition also has little Easter eggs for the die-hard Star Wars fans that ingest not just the movies but the TV shows and books and comics:
Snoke knew he himself was an unlikely fulcrum, just about the furthest thing from what the tattered remnants of Palpatine’s Empire had imagined as a leader. The admirals and generals who’d survived the fury of the Empire’s implosion and the New Republic’s wrath had envisioned being led by someone else, anyone else: pitiless, devious Gallius Rax; dutiful, cautious Rae Sloane; the slippery political fanatic Ormes Apolin; or even an unhinged but ambitious military architect such as Brendol Hux.
All of those would-be leaders had been co-opted, sidelined, or destroyed, leaving only Armitage Hux, the mad son of a mad father. And that one was but a mouthpiece, a miscast tinkerer whose rantings could only persuade the sort of rabble who blindly worshipped rage and lunatic certainty.
The book also fleshes out how Crait was kept secret from the First Order:
“The coordinates went in my files after the peace with the Empire,” Leia said. “The files I kept just in case.”
That made Poe nod. Most of the Alliance’s military secrets had been turned over to the New Republic immediately after its formation, and had proven critical in the short, savage war against the remnants of the Empire. But Leia, Ackbar, and other rebel leaders had made sure to keep a few things back, as a safeguard against disaster. Their secret files contained navicomputer data for secret hyperspace routes, the location of rebel safeworlds, and any number of bolt-holes and equipment caches. Without them, the Resistance would have ceased to exist soon after its formation.
(Quick aside: For more detail on this, check out Dan Wallace’s Star Wars: The Rebel Files, which features memos and notes from the characters, including one memo about Crait.)
Another cool thing in Star Wars: The Last Jedi Expanded Edition that isn’t in the movie has Rose helping set up the cloaking of the transports before leaving with Finn. Also, during the three flashback scenes of a younger Luke fighting a younger Ben Solo, Fry doesn’t do it via narration from a certain chatacter’s point of view — he writes the scene in italics and in the third person.
Fry also gets into the minds of the TIE fighter pilots — all of them itching to use their combat flight skills — when they escort Rey’s pod to Snoke’s Mega Star Destroyer.
One thing not featured in the movie is Leia openly grieving for Han — or even Luke, for that matter, after his passing. The book makes sure you see it:
Leia buried her face in the Wookiee’s warm fur, clinging to him, and finally allowed herself to weep, to surrender to the grief that had filled her to overflowing. She wept for Luke, and for Han, and for Ben. For all those they had lost.
Chewbacca made no sound but simply held her, his embrace surprisingly gentle. They stood like that, Leia’s chest heaving, until she was able to master herself and step away. She stared out into the infinity of hyperspace until her breathing was slow and regular again, and she knew she was ready to be what the people waiting in the Falcon’s hold needed her to be.
Leia and Amylin
One segment that is in both Star Wars: The Last Jedi Expanded Edition and movie is the goodbye scene between Leia and Holdo. It was the only scene in the movie that made this viewer verklempt, and the book even more so, particularly if you’ve read Claudia Gray’s Leia: Princess of Alderaan. Fry writes:
Leia fixed her with a look Holdo knew all too well. She’d seen it on Alderaan, during the pathfinding expeditions of their youth, in the Apprentice Legislature on Coruscant, and in various impressive-looking legislative chambers as the New Republic Senate moved from world to world. Her friend was marshaling her arguments and preparing to give a speech.
Holdo had no doubt that it would be an effective one. But the time for speeches was over.
Right. OK. Tissue used, back to the review.
Caretakers of Ahch-To
Near the end of the novel, Fry gives the reader an idea of why the caretakers on Ahch-To do what they do:
Alcida-Auka checked over the daughters’ work and found it had been done as it should be. She cinched her habit against the wind, which had turned cold, singing to her of snow. When the snow came, the Lanais would sweep it away from the huts and the stairs. Alcida-Auka didn’t know if the next Outsider would come during her time, or her daughter’s, or not until the tenure of a matron yet unborn.
But another would come, and find all in order. Because the Lanais would do their duty.
Whether or not Star Wars: The Last Jedi Expanded Edition itself will sway those for whom the movie did not appeal is anyone’s guess. For some it might, for others not. But that’s not the book’s job–or the author’s.
Fry’s book ranks among the top Star Wars film adaptations. His writing reads fast; one can read the whole thing during, say, an eight-hour flight from Washington, DC to Amsterdam. If you’re one of those for whom the novelizations were your entry point into Star Wars fandom, then having Star Wars: The Last Jedi Expanded Edition on the shelf at home is a no-brainer.
John Liang is a producer for the Beltway Banthas, a Star Wars and Politics podcast on the Retrozap Podcast Network. He has appeared on panels at Star Wars Celebration and DragonCon related to politics and the military in Star Wars. A journalist since 1994, John has covered the U.S. military for the past 20 years. He saw A New Hope at age eight when it first came out in theaters in 1977, but didn’t become a fan until reading the novelization two years later. He’s been a Star Wars book geek ever since.