The Good: Revitalizes the character of Padme, Fills in important plot holes
The Bad: Jedi jargon, Glosses over many descriptions
The Basics: When Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi investigate the abduction of Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, they are set on a course that will change the galaxy and their relationship.
The fundamental problem I had with the film Star Wars Episode III Revenge Of The Sith (click here for my review!) was that certain Big Things did not make any sense. For example, in the movie, it makes little sense that Yoda would simply give up and go into exile when fighting Darth Sidious and why Obi-Wan did not dispatch Anakin with a mercy kill as he's screaming, near death at him still boggles me. And how Darth Sidious dispatched three out of four Jedi with no problem just bugged me to no end both times I watched the film. Indeed, in the movie, one Jedi meets his end - apparently - simply by being pushed out of frame.
It was with that take on things that I picked up the novelization of Revenge Of The Sith. I wanted answers on key questions from the movie that were just left unanswered. Fortunately, my time was not wasted.
High above Coruscant, a battle wages and Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker fly through the chaos to General Grievous' ship to attempt to rescue Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, who has been captured by Grievous and Count Dooku. They rescue the Chancellor, but Grievous gets away and Anakin and Obi-Wan begin to investigate the abduction, realizing that such a bold move could not have been pulled off without inside help. This leads Anakin and Palpatine to grow closer and Obi-Wan and other Jedi to head off to the far reaches of the galaxy to find Grievous and end the war.
This is a political novel. However, as George Lucas has been accused of commenting too much on United States current politics in the film Revenge Of The Sith (though I honestly felt he could have done more), novelist Matthew Woodring Stover neglects the parallels between the dangerous political situations in the United States and focuses on the intricate conspiracies of the galaxy far, far away. Thus, there is a great deal of concern over bills that reduce the power of the Senate and whose control the Jedi fall under and if they could be disbanded by an executive order. So, while this is a political novel, it is certainly a political novel of a fantasy galaxy.
In a similar vein, the novelization is very much geared toward fans of Star Wars well beyond the movies. This is a book that nails on an excessive amount of jargon, making it rather inaccessible to the general reading audiences. In short, to read this, you need to be fluent in Star Wars geekspeak. So, for example, when Mace Windu is fighting Darth Sideous, the author calls his fighting style by name (Vapoo or some such) and then does a fairly significant description of the fighting style and what it is all about. To those more cynical, Stover attempts to explain why actor Samuel L. Jackson might look like he's having fun hacking at Darth Sideous and why that isn't leading Mace Windu rapidly down the road to the Dark Side. This is but one example, the novel is very much packed with jargon like that and it distracts from the flow of the story.
In the other vein, many of the battles seem truncated. One might suspect that Mr. Stover was given an advanced script to write the novelization but was not told what most of the special effect shots would look like. So, for example, in the opening sequences of the movie, much time is spent getting Anakin and Obi-Wan onto General Grievous' ship. In the novelization, it takes the pair much longer to get from the landing bay of Grievous' ship to the Chancellor.
The battles that are not truncated are the lightsaber ones and - fortunately - the novelization makes the attempted arrest of Palpatine make sense. It's a shame it was not presented in the theaters the way it is presented in the book. Not only would it have been entertaining, the awkwardness of the scene would have been eliminated and not distracted from the flow.
The best part of the novelization is the expansion of the Padme character. Padme in the novel is vital, interesting and, most importantly, active. Padme is vigorously fighting for the survival of democracy and her actions cause some strain between her and Anakin as Sideous manipulates Anakin. It makes the end of the novel and movie make a great deal more sense when there is some friction between Anakin and his secret wife. Thus, in the novel, love is not the only cause motivating Anakin and his turn to the Dark Side reads as even more real.
So, those looking for a strong female character will not be disappointed by the novelization of Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith. Those who were bothered by some of the big questions left by the film will find many answers here (though the big one of "If the Dark Side is not more powerful than the Light Side, why is it able to win so easily?" is not answered) and are likely to leave with a greater appreciation for the series. But most people like that would do well to get the novel out from the library rather than purchase it. The specificity of the language in this book makes it ideal for the hard-core Star Wars fans, but few others.
For other science fiction novels, please check out my reviews of:
The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
Neuromancer - William Gibson
Watchmen - Alan Moore
For other book reviews, please check out my index page!
© 2010, 2005 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.