When word got out that Disney had purchased Star Wars, I was skeptical. Basically, I envisioned a reprise of Star Wars: Episodes I and II, with tons of annoying side-kicks, annoying children, and annoying romance, with cheesy sets and way too much drama. I should have known better. Say what you like about Disney being corporate evil incarnate (I've been reading too much S.J. Maas, clearly, I keep thinking of that word, incarnate), they know how to spin a story that will appeal to the masses, and The Force Awakens is no exception. Okay, it's very similar to the plot of A New Hope (in fact, Dorkly actually did a hilarious video called 6 Star Wars Characters Meet Their New Equivalents, which is a must-watch if you're a Star Wars fan), with one key exception: the hero of this franchise is a girl named Rey, who is tech-savvy, strong, vulnerable, powerful, and interesting.
I am always defending my love for Jupiter Ascending, another female-fronted space opera movie, because critics really took the piss out of it - unjustly, I feel. It's basically a Disney princess movie set in space (although not Disney-made, it has many wonderful parallels, and I often like to describe it as Brave meets Tangled in space - with a werewolf-angel love interest, soylent Phoenix Down, and magic rollerblades). Jupiter Ascending is cheesy, but it's also vastly entertaining, beautifully shot, and has a compelling story with a female protagonist who is kick-butt while also still retaining that touch of uncertainty and reluctance that I think most people being called to being defenders of the galaxy would feel.
Part of the reason I love this new Star Wars franchise so much is because it gave me exactly what I wanted: characters from all walks of life who are complex and interesting, and not just a bunch of white dudes hashing it out in space. Leia, you could argue, was a strong character, but she was also very much a love interest and grossly sexualized in the second movie. Rey, on the other hand, has the makings of a romantic character but her agency and her power are separate from her sexuality. Likewise, we also get some diversity in these movies - Finn is black and Poe is Latino and I totally ship both of them together, or with Rey, or whatever, because all of these characters are just beautiful, developed people with great on-screen chemistry, and I don't care if it's sexual or platonic, I just want more of them, together. (Also, for those of you arguing that there have been black people in the Star Wars franchise before, so Finn is not a #BigDeal, I beg to differ: Mace Windu was not a main character, unlike Finn who is the hero. All people remember about Mace Windu was that he had a cool purple lightsaber and was played by Samuel L. Jackson. And yes, that is cool, but it is also not the same as having a person of color play a lead role in a hit franchise. Not all rep is equally significant.)
But I think the biggest reason I love this new Star Wars franchise is #Reylo. I'm a sucker for villain love interests, okay? Leia and Han, maybe. I personally didn't think they had that much chemistry (and I couldn't quite forget that she kissed her brother first, ew). Kylo Ren and Rey? Chemistry everywhere. They didn't even kiss in this movie, and it was scorching hot. 90% of the reason I bought this book was because I was hoping for some insights into the scenes between Kylo and Rey, and Alan Dean Foster did not disappoint. The man understands a fan's need to ship, and he didn't just hint (if by hint, you mean, beat you over the head with a ship) that there was chemistry and desire between Kylo and Rey, he also hinted at the chemistry between Poe and Finn, and also the chemistry between Finn and Rey. He also makes the Han/Leia relationship much cuter and poignant than it ever was in the movies. I'm not kidding - there's one scene in here where I legitimately teared up.
If you've watched the movie, you're going to know the plot of this book already (and if you haven't, I don't want to spoil it for you). This is a novelization so much of it is the same, although Foster has taken liberties with the dialogue, curiously omitting some lines while adding others. I think the creativity comes in with the scenery descriptions (he manages to do "tech talk" really well), the psychology of the characters, and the exploration of some of the nuances that were subtle in the films. I have seen the movie and I still really enjoyed the book, and now I want to check out more of Foster's works because he has an impressive vocabulary and did a good job of keeping this from being some dialed-in movie script with just a few extra scenery directions.
4 out of 5 stars