As it turns out, Rogue One doesn’t get any less sad when confined to the page. Arguably, it gets even worse.
If anyone critiques Rogue One it’s usually to say it feels disjointed from the rest of the movies, or relatively devoid of stakes or a reason to care because they all die at the end. I personally don’t share the assessment that someone needs to be multiple stories to matter on a minor or major scale. That said, if you’re looking for the cast to be given larger meaning or context in the novelization, you will find it lacking. As I had no such expectations, I enjoyed it overall. With that, let’s dive into Rogue One by Alexander Freed.
Parts I Liked
Because it’s been a while since I read this, I was expecting my favourite part to be the deep dives into each of the members of Rogue One, but the novel doesn’t actually go that in depth into their pasts. It does insofar as it makes quick mention of their pasts and what brought them to this moment, informing who the adults (and droid) turned out to be.
We know Cassian has been in this fight since he was six years old, and we learn that he sided with the Separatists during the Clone Wars, but we don’t learn more beyond that. We don’t need to, though I imagine we’re getting our fair share in Andor when it comes out on Disney+.
We don’t get as much of Baze and Chirrut, though they do have a book of their own focusing on their past. Jyn does as well, and in the single most brilliant move of the whole book, Alexander Freed makes the choice to refer back to Rebel Rising on several occasions.
Yes, we have all the scenes with Saw Gerrera, who features in both Rogue One and Rebel Rising, but beyond that, we see mentions of other rebels in his cadre that Jyn worked alongside. Names we, as readers, would recognize if we’ve read Beth Revis’s book. We see Jyn reflect on the things she had to do for Saw’s rebels, the missions she had to carry out and the complicated feelings she still carries.
What really makes this novel work as a novel and not just a retelling of a movie is the sheer effort Freed puts into connecting this text to the others around it, and really making it feel like part of that overall, coherent Star Wars narrative.
I also love the way he describes Jyn and Cassian in relation to one another. Theirs is a great Star Wars ship that never was, and never will be, but Freed manages to put just enough in there that you can get a sense for how much they grow to care for each other in a short amount of time, and how much more they would have come to care for each other if they had been given the time to do so.
He also leaves the elevator scene juuuuust ambiguous enough that you can tell yourself they kissed if you want to.
Parts I Didn’t
I think you all knew this was coming, but my complaint with Freed now is the same as it always is, and that’s that I recognize how much he enjoys action scenes and fight scenes, but I just don’t jive with them.
You can see the precursors to the Alphabet Squadron trilogy with this book, with the sheer level of detail he gives to the ins and outs of aerial combat. It’s obvious he loves it, and for that reason alone it doesn’t drag…much. It did start to feel after a while though that it was getting in the way of time spent with the characters. I know by necessity Star Wars needs the “wars” component, I just wish there didn’t have to be so much of it.
I’m torn as to whether I want more of Bohdi Rook or not. On the one hand, I love him and find him very endearing. That said, of them all, he breaks my heart the most as it is, and I really don’t know if I could handle more.
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