Wednesday, January 12, 2011

10. The Empire Strikes Back

I enjoyed the novelization of "The Empire Strikes Back" much more than the novelization of "A New Hope". I think it is mostly due to the writing of Donald Glut. It's unfortunate that he has not written other novels for the Star Wars Universe. While Foster's writing of "A New Hope" seemed dry and uninteresting, Glut's writing really brings "The Empire Strikes Back" to life. The characters and scenes are more vivid, and the book is simply more enjoyable to read.

This novelization also follows the film a lot more closely than the novelization for "A New Hope". There are only some minor differences, although there is more information in the book regarding Luke's training on Dagobah. It's mentioned that Yoda is a blue-skinned alien, and at the end Luke actually falls out of Cloud City and is still falling when the Millennium Falcon rescues him. There are other examples, but really they are just adjustments to scenes and nothing consequential.

In case you're not familiar with it, the story picks up with the Rebels hiding in a secret base on the ice planet Hoth. While on patrol, Luke is attacked and captured by a monster. He manages to escape using the force, but collapses in a bitter, freezing snowstorm. Before losing consciousness, he has a vision of Obi-Wan, who instructs him to go to Dagobah and find Yoda so that he can complete his Jedi training. Han volunteers to search for Luke in the storm and finds him, and they are both rescued in the morning.

Han and Chewbacca were also responsible for destroying an Imperial Probe droid, but not before the droid was able to send a message indicating the presence of the rebel base. The Empire attacks, forcing the rebels to flee. While Han, Chewbacca, and Princess Leia get trapped in an asteroid storm, Luke goes to Dagobah as instructed. Han, Chewbacca, and Leia escape the asteroid storm, but are followed by the bounty hunter Boba Fett.

While Luke finds the diminutive Yoda and begins his training, the rest of the heroes flee to Cloud City, a mining facility run by an old friend of Han, Lando Calrissian. Lando, however, has been forced into a deal with the Empire, and turns the heroes over to Darth Vader and Boba Fett. This is all part of an elaborate trap that is being set for Luke Skywalker.

One odd thing that struck me as I was reading the book is that the time span of these two stories seem wrong. It seems as if the time that Luke spends on Dagobah is measured in months, while the time the heroes spend on Cloud City is at most a couple of days. But then they somehow end up on Cloud City at the same time. Maybe my perception is just wrong.

Darth Vader tortures the captured Han Solo knowing that Luke will be able to see his pain through the force. Luke does and prepares to leave for Cloud City. Yoda and the ghost of Obi-Wan advise against this, saying that Vader will be able to turn him to the dark side of the force, but Luke persists. As he's leaving, Obi-Wan laments that he was their last hope, but Yoda cryptically replies that there is another.

At this point, Han Solo has been frozen into a carbonite slab, but he is still alive. Boba Fett prepares to take Solo to Jabba the Hutt to collect the bounty, but Luke arrives and causes a disruption. Luke follows his feelings which lead him to a conflict with Darth Vader. Meanwhile, Lando has had a change of heart and releases Leia and Chewbacca, telling them he knows how they can save Han. Unfortunately they do not arrive in time, and Boba Fett leaves with Han Solo. Lando, Leia, and Chewbacca make their way back to the Millennium Falcon and prepare to depart.

Luke's battle with Vader is still raging, and reaches a climax when Vader cuts of Luke's hand, leaving him defenseless. But Vader does not kill Luke, but instead tries to recruit Luke to help him overthrow the Emperor. His efforts intensify when he reveals that he is actually Luke's father. Luke can't believe him, even as he realizes it is true. But instead of giving in and joining with Vader, he decides to jump to his death instead.

However, Princess Leia, now aboard the Millennium Falcon, feels Luke's distress, and orders Lando to guide the ship back to Cloud City, where the rescue Luke and prevent him from falling to his death. The story ends with Luke receiving a bionic hand, and Lando and Chewbacca leaving to search for Han Solo.

As I said previously, I really enjoyed this novelization. Even if you've seen the movie, you will enjoy some of the insights into the thoughts of the characters that can't be communicated through film.

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