Thursday, March 9, 2017

"Rogue One" by Alexander Freed

I had basically given up reading movie novelizations until I read this book.  In fact, I initially had zero interest in reading this because I'd tried reading the novelization of The Force Awakens last year and hated it so virulently that I'd sworn off reading movie-into-book stuff.

The trouble is that, when I watch a movie, especially when I watch it over and over like I did Rogue One, I write it in my head as I watch.  I will absolutely have an internal voice-over of sorts going on that narrates bits of the action, fills in what people are thinking and feeling, and generally novelizes it for me.  One of the hazards of being a writer I guess.  Also, it really bugs me when a writer feels the need to improve a movie's dialog by changing it a ton.  If they want to add more, fine, but also give me the dialog that is in the movie the way it's said in the movie.  I absolutely do not want to spend my time thinking, "But that's not what they said!"

Actually, it was a movie novelization that made me realize, when I was 18, that I was actually getting to be a good writer.  I read the book version of The Mask of Zorro (1998) on the plane ride home for Christmas from college, and I kept objecting to the way it was written and wanting to improve it.  That was the first time I ever read a book and thought, "I could have written this better."  (And before I sound too arrogant, let me add that I've only thought that maybe a dozen times in the 18 years since.  This is a rare and generally irksome occurrence, and usually one I get with children's books.)

However, DKoren read this and loved it, for the most part.  She assured me that, while she also couldn't make it past the first chapter or two of The Force Awakens, she inhaled this book in a single day.  So I got it from the library and gave it a try.

You may have noticed that it has been listed in my sidebar as something I'm reading for weeks.  Maybe a month.  That's not because I was dragging my feet about reading it, or having trouble getting into it.  Quite the opposite!  I have enjoyed this book so much, I have read it just a scene or two at a time, so as to savor it and prolong my enjoyment.  And also because reading it was almost like watching the film.  Since it's gone from theaters now, this was the best way I could find to maintain the joy I got from watching the movie over and over.  In fact, I bought my own copy, which arrived yesterday.  I know I'll be reading it over and over in the years to come.  Especially the first scene in chapter 13.

Am I perfectly happy with this book?  No.  There are a few things I would have written differently.  I interpreted a few character reactions to events in ways this author did not.  But for the most part, I found it a wholly satisfying experience.  There were a couple of times where Freed even used the exact word to describe something that I had picked for it while watching, which tickled me.


If you read my other blog, you know I fell in love with Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) the first time I saw Rogue One.  Obviously, that meant the characterization of Cassian was going to be make-or-break for this novel.  I approved if it.  In fact, all the characterizations were awesome, and some of them even made me like a character better than I do in the movie.  Especially Lyra Erso (Jessica Prescott will be happy to hear this) -- I still object to her behavior, but I understand her choices a little better now.  Similarly, I don't find General Draven quite so horrid as I did before.  He's still a black-handed bossypants, but I get where he's coming from now.

The only thing I truly disliked about this book, to be honest, was the fact that it does have some bad language.  Not a lot, but one of the things I love about the film is that it has zero bad language.  I wish the book had been the same.

Particularly Good Bits:

The tragedy of K-2SO's existence was this:  The skills he most cherished were skills his rebel masters disdained; and the skills he considered crude and trivial were skills his masters were helpless to learn (p. 144).

He was tired of crimes he never answered for (p. 153).

Steam spilled from the iris, and as Krennic's eyes adjusted he heard a new sound:  a hollow, metallic rasp that resonated in the chamber; the desperate, hungry breathing of a creature that should not have been alive (p. 189).

Dozens of vessels winked into existence against the shroud of space, filling the void as if some mythological deity had upturned a bottle of fresh stars over the heaves (p. 252).

It was, in a sense, a delaying tactic, but delay defeat long enough, and a triumph  might eventually find its way home (p. 265).

Was this hope?  Facing fear after fear, for oneself and for friends and for the galaxy, all out of some desperate need to accomplish the impossible?  (p. 271).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for violence and language.

23 comments:

  1. I bought this for my Star Wars obsessed son. It arrived yesterday. He is rushing through the other book he is reading so he can get to it because, unlike his fickle-minded mother, he only reads one book at a time.

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    1. Jennifer, that's cool! And heh, I used to only read one book at a time too. Back when I could just sit and read for a couple hours and polish the book off quickly.

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  2. After reading this review, I definitely want to read the novelization. It seems like one of the better ones out there. :)

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    1. Evangeline, it is probably the best movie novelization I have ever read. Not that I've read lots of them, maybe 8 or 10, but still.

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  3. Oh my, I'll have to read this now! I'm still very much in love with Rogue One, even weeks after seeing it. The more I think about it the more there is to like. ^.^

    I've never read a movie novelization before and something about the idea just seems a little wrong, but your review and the quotes at the end convinced me to give a try. I'm glad you reviewed it!

    Tsk, tsk, that's sad about the language. I love that the movies usually refrains from profanity. It seems out of place in a novelization...

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    1. Meredith, that sounds like me. I'm so excited for it to come to DVD next month!

      I've read a few movie novelizations, and I like the idea of them, that instead of watching a movie, I could read it! Especially when, like with Rogue One, the film is gone from theaters but not yet out on DVD. Reading the novelization can let me re-experience it in the interim. If it's any good. Oddly enough, I tend to find "junior novelizations" that are aimed at kids please me more than the adult ones. Hmm.

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  4. Yay. That makes me happy. :-)

    My brother read this novelization too, I believe? And I'm pretty sure he liked it. I'll have to check it out!

    Wow, that's so cool that you "narrate" movies in your head as you watch them--have you always done that? Or is it something that's developed more over the years as you got more into writing stories of your own?

    (Speaking of which--I watched Chariots of Fire, and it was GREAT. I also read "The Man On the Buckskin Horse" and really loved it! I hope to email you today and tell you more about both :-)



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    1. Jessica, I've narrated movies in my head for as long as I can remember. I sometimes narrate my own actions in my head too. Often in third person. "She knew she needed to unload the dishwasher, but first she had to get those clothes out of the dryer before they wrinkled, so she walked up the stairs, feeling tired, and wondered if it was too early for a second cup of coffee."

      (I got your email! I will reply soon, promise! It's been a busy weekend.)

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    2. Wow!!! That's so fascinating--it would never occur to me to do that while watching a movie, but I can see how it would be a really fun exercise! I imagine it helps you with your own writing, then, especially since you've been doing it forever and it comes naturally to you.

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    3. I don't do it on purpose, exactly. It's just how my brain works -- I think in words. So when I look at something or someone, words pop into my head that relate to them. The same thing happens when I watch a movie, and when I rewatch it, a lot of the same words pop into my head. Like the word "swarm" when all those TIE fighters come pouring out of the shield gate at Scarif. I always think "swarms of TIE fighters" there.

      And yes, it's probably useful. When I write, I'm watching a movie in my head and trying to transcribe it, basically.

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    4. I find this completely fascinating! Clearly, you don't find narrating it distracting to your experience! That's quite cool. For me, words would get in the way of immersing in the movie, but I try very very hard not to do any conscious thinking at all during a movie. If my brain starts processing a film (in a theatrical experience) in any way other than non-verbal feelings, I shut it down as fast as possible, or it will ruin the movie for me.

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    5. I still think thoughts, even when immersed in a movie. Not full, connected thoughts, usually -- it's just words here and there. Like the example above -- when I see those TIE fighters, my brain says, "Swarms of them." I think a lot of reactiony things like, "My poor Cassian!" too, but mostly it's like little snapshot words and phrases. When Jyn talks to Mon Mothma the first time, I look at Cassian and think, "lurking in the background." When we get that aerial shot of them walking quickly out of the Scarif 4 base to the ship to head off to Jeddha, I think stuff like, "Where's Cassian, where is he, where is he, there he is! I found him!" The very first time I saw him, my first thought was, "That guy has '70s hair like Han Solo!"

      So yeah, when I'm immersed in a movie, it's just like my real life -- I'm thinking, just thinking about it.

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  5. I also don't really like movie novelizations. I've read two Shakespeare Star War books, but I kind of grew tired of them. I thought the author was really talented to write a Star Wars movie in Shakespeare style, but I always criticized how the author approached characters or situations, so I've never read another movie novelization since.

    I also like it when movies don't have bad language, so it's kind of sad that the book had it.

    I also fell in love with Cassian when I saw the movie (I've only seen it once), so I'm glad the book stayed true to the movie character.

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    1. Ekaterina, I've read all three of the Shakespeare Star Wars books, and those are a whole 'nother thing. I find them quite hilarious, but they are absolutely nothing whatsoever like a "normal" movie novelization.

      Cassian was so wonderful in the book -- still taciturn, suspicious, and secretive, but not quite so inscrutable because you got to see things from his point of view sometimes. I was most pleased.

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  6. Thanks for the preview! I hadn't heard much good about "The Force Awakens" novelization, so I didn't pick that one up and wasn't even considering picking up the "Rogue One" novel. I might have to check it out now!

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it, RM! I you find this at the library or bookstore, just read a chapter or two and see what you think!

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  7. It's been far too long since I've commented on these parts!

    I'm glad you enjoyed this one. Do you know that there's a prequel novel for Rogue One called Catalyst? I've heard it's quite good in that it covers the backstory between Galen Erso and Orson Krennic. The fans I know who have read it were quite disappointed that it wasn't touched on more during the film.

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    1. Hi, Hannah! I do know there's a prequel -- a friend of mine has read it and thought it was good, but not nearly as good as this one. Perhaps I'll try that one when my TBR pile isn't quite so tall anymore.

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    2. Catalyst was good, and it did have some good moments, but overall I found it disappointing, particularly in characterizations. The Rogue One novelization has none of those issues. It was near perfect! And that's interesting that people were disappointed that it wasn't touched on more in the movie. Perhaps because I saw Rogue One before I read Catalyst, I had the opposite reaction and was extremely happy they didn't bring anything more from it in. I found that in the movie, the actors themselves brought more life and depth to Galen and Krennic and their relationship than anything the entire Catalyst novel had to offer. But that might just be me. :-D

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  8. I haven't watched the movie (yet!), but I've been contemplating trying the book. Your enthusiasm for both is quite contagious! :)

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    1. When I say "I love Rogue One," I mean, "I have a mug, a t-shirt, the soundtrack, the novelization, my own Cassian Andor action figure, action figures of most of the main characters that I play with my kids with, and I am counting down the days until it comes out to DVD. Eighteen days!!!"

      So yes, I totally recommend it. These are characters who have wrapped themselves up inside my heart.

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  9. Awww, high-five to a fellow Cassian Andor fan. I dreamt about Diego Luna last night, so that was lovely. although he was more the age from Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights than Rogue One.

    My sister LOVES all things having to do with Rogue One. She's a major rebel captain shipper, and is currently wearing what I can only term as Star Wars couture clothing of her own design. So cute. And she really adored the novel adaptation for Rogue One. I still haven't read it yet, but she keeps bringing it home from the library and I almost always run across her perusing it at least once a day. Of course, it probably helps that she's writing a ton of Rogue One fanfic. Her new passion. Maybe one of these days I'll even get that novelization read!

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    1. Carissa, high-five back to you! It's funny, but I've dreamed about DD:HN-aged Diego Luna myself.

      How fun that your sister is hardcore into Rogue One! Even writing fanfic -- very cool.

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