Review by C.J. Bunce

Not since Donald Glut’s novelization of The Empire Strikes Back.  That is the last novelization in the Star Wars universe that was as fun as Mur Lafferty’s new novelization of Solo: A Star Wars Story–Expanded EditionThat’s saying a lot, because Glut’s exciting prose is what got many of us through the 2.5 year wait period before The Return of the Jedi arrived, in the dark days before VHS.  Lafferty writes with quick, succinct sentences that zip the reader through the action-packed, roller coaster ride of a story.  This is the space fantasy and space Western nostalgia that fans of the original series were hoping for when the prequels and sequels came along.  Electric and classic like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the novelization energizes an already great movie.  Of course screenplay writers Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan deserve the appropriate praise for the bones of the story, but the novelization provides everything else that couldn’t make it into their 135-minute movie.

Best of all is a three-page epilogue that directly ties Solo: A Star Wars Story together with not just the obvious connections you already know with Han Solo, Chewbacca, and the original trilogy stories.  The novelization introduces an intersection with two other major characters from the Star Wars saga no one could possibly predict.  As good as the gambling scene was between Han and Lando at the end of the movie, it’s a shame this scene did not become part of the film.  No spoilers here, but the book is worth reading for the epilogue alone.  You’ll also find a revealing scene between Qi’ra and L3-37, and a surprising, hilarious exchange onboard the Millennium Falcon between Lando and Chewbacca.

Solo: A Star Wars Story Expanded Edition has an apt subheading, because it is precisely what sets it apart: expanding on every major character’s backstory.  Han and his encounters with Lady Proxima on Corellia and life in the Imperial Navy (including an appearance by comic book characters Tag & Bink) are told in flashback memories.  Chewbacca‘s thoughts are fleshed out, too: how he got to where we meet him in this story, and his passion to help Sagwa and the other Wookiees escape from the muddy spice mine on Kessel.  We learn what happened to Qi’ra right after Han left her behind, as she is sold to another slaveholder and finally falls into the clutches of Dryden Vos and Crimson Dawn.  Lafferty expands on the relationship between Val and Beckett, including their first encounter, too.  And most enlightening is the heavily emotional inner-workings of Lando‘s droid L3-37 and how her mechanics–plus a little coaxium–made the fastest ship in the galaxy all that it would later become.

Other nuances become more apparent in the book than in the film.  Han, Beckett, and Val soldiering on Mimban feels like an homage to Mal and Zoe in the Battle of Serenity Valley in the Firefly series.  Scenes that got chopped down in the film are smoother here, including much-needed character interaction on the Falcon, and clarity from the first appearance of Enfys Nest during the train hijacking that the marauder was a woman.

The only missed opportunity is expanding on a past relationship between Qi’ra and a certain Sith Lord toward the story’s ending.  If you’re not savvy on the alien races of the Star Wars galaxy, you could miss the reference in the novelization entirely, as the head of Crimson Dawn is not specifically named.  Most likely this was the one instance in the novelization that Lucasfilm held back on, with the possibility of expansion in future movies in the saga.  What is clear is any past relationship with Qi’ra is ruled out, and Lafferty mentions a “metallic artificial limb.”

To top it off, Del Rey has released the novelization in a sleek, retro-style hardcover with the film’s key poster art, and just like those early novelizations it includes an eight-page, full color photo section in the middle of the book.  To avoid any confusion: this expanded edition is the only novelization of the film.

Get your copy of Solo: A Star Wars Story–Expanded Edition now here at Amazon (an alternate poster pull-out edition is available via Barnes & Noble).  Plus the fourth best of all the Star Wars movies (behind the original Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Rogue One) arrives on home video today, available in digital format on Amazon here.

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