I was really looking forward to the new Star Wars movie, although there was without a doubt some element of fear. Would it live up to the hype, would it erase the bad taste left by parts of the prequels, would it really deliver everything the nerd in me wanted? Why you might ask is this relevant to the book and a book review? Well, like the origin Star Wars movie, the new one assumes you know a bunch of things you have no way of knowing. It trusts the viewers to fill in the blanks. For completely new viewers, this is really easy, there’s a resistance, and the New Order, and some other stuff. However, for people who saw the original, it raises a few questions. What happens after Return of the Jedi to give rise to these new groups, is a good example of one question you might find yourself asking. There are others, but they may spoil the film or the book so I won’t mention them.
If you look on the ‘net you’ll find people asking a lot of these questions, and for some people it has reduced the enjoyment of the film. There is a solution, and this book is it.
Before the Awakening is a triptych really, if books ever can be, with three sections, covering three major characters from the new film. Each section is essentially a short story in its own right. We have Fin, Rey and Poe (in that order). It’s fair to say, without spoiling too much, that their paths do not cross in the book, but the action all takes place presumably in parallel, and all of it in close proximity to the start of the movie. The prose is plain, workmanlike, unadorned. The delivery feels like narration, you get the sense that someone is telling you what has happened, describing it to you, I’m not sure if that was intentional or not. Normally novels try and embed you in the story, but this feels remote. Not without some element of emotion, but just as if you’re truly watching it rather than being in it.
The three sections focus totally on their respective characters, they are in every scene. There is a little bit of character development for each of the three, and just enough extra background to really bring their story in focus in the film.
This is a pretty short book, 216 pages in the paperback, with about half a dozen of those being artwork. Given the limited scope, the style and the length, it felt very short as well. Not necessarily a bad thing given the intent, but I did feel like I could have done with it being twice as long perhaps.
There were a small number of emotional moments, some laughs and some interesting reveals (although given how much you learn about the characters in the movie, not that many). The most interesting bits outside of the characters are present during Poe’s section, where we learn more about the Resistance and the First Order and I found those very interesting. The most emotional bits also come within the last character’s section (Poe), and his story definitely got the best deal. There’s one moment where Poe is flying with other X-Wing pilots, and they all report in using the phrase, “Rapier Two, standing by.” (or Rapier One, etc.)
That moment dropped me right into the first film and sent shivers up my spine, but there were sadly too few of those moments throughout the whole book.
All in all, Before the Awakening is very easy to read, light on emotion or depth, but a good introduction to three of the main characters in the film. It answers questions you might have if you’ve already seen the movie, and it sets some stuff up ready for you if you haven’t. My enjoyment of the film has increased after having read the book, even without watching the film again. Well worth it for Star Wars fans, but not a good introduction to the franchise for someone who’s never experienced it before.
May the Force be with you.