The one that started it all. Literally.
It’s hard to imagine a time where novelizations of movies came out well in advance of the movie itself, but such was the case with the novelization for A New Hope, originally titled Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker. Credited to George Lucas, the novel was ghost-written by Alan Dean Foster based off the screenplay for the movie.
Like the other pre-Disney novelizations, this one is no longer considered “canon”. Unlike those novelizations, this book was written in a world where Star Wars wasn’t a thing yet. There wasn’t this large vocabulary surrounding it, a whole world and mythology and fanbase. And it really does show.
This isn’t to the detriment of the novel at all, since it’s quite a fun read. But it’s interesting how much vocabulary we as readers of Star Wars have internalized over the years. Weird fake words like “caf” and “plastoid”, or the fact that apparently real animals don’t exist in the GFFA. This book makes mention of both dogs and ducks, which were initially so jarring, I had to pause. But without this idea of Star Wars being a big sci-fi story that needed sci-fi words, Foster was able to keep things a lot more grounded, to the point where this feels a lot more real world than any other Star Wars book I’ve ever read.
A New Hope was also great because it feels like a Star Wars time capsule. It keeps many of the deleted scenes from the screenplay intact, such as the scenes with Luke’s friends in Anchorhear, and more interestingly the scene where a Rebel pilot tells Luke he used to know his father back in the day. That scene ended up on the cutting room floor for obvious reasons, but it is available to see on Disney+ for the curious.
There are also other looks into how the world developed. Obi-Wan mentions that lightsabers are still in use by some around the galaxy – which is very funny considering what we later learn in canon, such as him meeting Ezra and Kanan in Rebels. We also notice how the speech goes from overly formal and distant to the more vernacular every day English we get in the theatrical release. Even Leia’s famous speech to Obi-Wan is simplified and made more poignant.
The most interesting thing of note to me though was the word “droid”. The word as we know it was coined for Star Wars, and is obviously shortened from “android”, but what I didn’t realize until rereading this book (after last having read it in high school) was that they don’t call them droids. They call them ‘droids.
As in, it was supposed to be androids all along, and this was just a casual way of saying it. When I tell you my mind was blown…
Ultimately, I would recommend the 1976 Star Wars novelization to anyone looking for a book that almost feels proto-Star Wars, and that helped define what the GFFA would become.
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