The last of the OT and the last of the canon-flexible novelizations. This is Return of the Jedi by James Kahn.
The part that sticks out the most, which changed considerably is Obi-Wan’s reveal that Owen Lars is his brother rather than Anakin’s. Even his assertion that Luke and Leia’s mother took Leia to Alderaan herself can be hand-waved away as him trying to conceal the circumstances of her death from Luke. But I can’t help but wonder at the people – if any – who read the novel before seeing the movie, and to went into it thinking that Obi-Wan and Owen were brothers, only to watch that fall apart 20 years later when Attack of the Clones came out (If this came up in Legends at all, I have no idea).
Another major, more pronounced change, is the way Han Solo is written. It boggles the mind that on their third go, and their third movie with Harrison Ford, the script – and the novel by extension – doesn’t manage to capture his particular swagger-filled voice. Like the different, wordier “I love you”/”I know” from ESB, Han’s dialogue in the novelization is bizarrely earnest. His appeal to the Ewoks to join in the fight is a lengthy, impassioned speech about doing the right thing, as opposed to the more direct, impatient explanation he gives 3PO.
Speaking of the Ewoks. I watched their animated series and their two movies this year, and have really come to love them. Seeing so many of them get name dropped in the novel – including my faves Teebo and Master Logray – made me extremely happy.
The novel also has its unexpected moments of beauty. While most of it is pretty straightforward, Kahn referring to the moment where Anakin removes his helmet as a “face that hasn’t seen itself in 20 years” was especially resonant, particularly when adding in the additional context of the prequels.
Reading the novelizations of the original trilogy was an interesting experience overall, mainly for how much they each feel like a time capsule of their era. There’s something so wholesome and early-80’s sci-fi about them, as opposed to being straight “Star Wars”. If you’re able to find a copy, I highly recommend them.
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