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Sunday, 1 January 2017

AFICIONADO REVIEW: 'ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY' NOVELISATION

"Welcome to Rogue One!", out now in hardback from CENTURY PUBLISHING.

The arrival of any new STAR WARS novel adventure is something to be worthily celebrated, but when it's the novel adaptation of one of the film series (especially now in this new once-a-year Lucasfilm/Disney era), then there's something even more cherished and special to be savoured. Out now in hardback from CENTURY is ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY, adapted by the well chosen dramatist warmonger that is Alexander Freed, an author of pedigree given the privileged honour of bringing to vivid life on the page the all-important first standalone movie of an  anthology series that will launch a whole new lifecycle of exploration within the George Lucas created universe. Publishing history in the making indeed...

A deadly mission for a new group of heroes.

And if you enjoyed Freed's foray into life, death and warfare with last year's BATTLEFRONT, then you're really going to love his return to conflict here- a solid and quite adult translation of the Gareth Edwards directed adventure, as seen on screen, to book form, of which the the author, following in the footsteps of greats like Alan Dean Foster and Terry Brooks, gets an intriguing opportunity to develop and expand on a diverse and truly life/battle scarred group of redemption seeking central heroes shakily pulling together to risk it all in fighting back against a galaxy-spanning and controlling Empire, and a vital quest to steal the Death Star plans against overwhelming odds - a story that sends them across all corners of enemy territory to a striking do-or-die concluding battle on the shores, skies and space of the lush beach world of Scarif.

A personal journey of courage like never before for thief turned warrior Jyn Erso.

Heroine Jyn Erso's growth from scavenger to Joan of Arc-esque figure is well structured, as is her personal destiny to find her scientist father and fear engineer Galen, after a prior life of hiding and training backstory is explored under the tutelage of her once protector in the skilled and resilient Saw Gerrera. The damaged goods "heroes" alongside her are additionally strengthened beyond the celluloid screen: her trigger ready chaperone in Captain Cassian Andor shows his tough and "necessary evil" duty to the Rebellion, born from a childhood of tragedy that has left its hardened mark on his soul. Then there are the mysterious Guardians of the Whills in Force faithful Chirrut Imwe and his less spiritual protector in the shadowy realist Baze Malbus- a unique friendship forged in honour and battle that gets some exploration, the latter showing true brutality during some neck and bone crunching retaliation against the Imperial Stormtroopers he so hates. At her sanctuary of Yavin IV, there's consequences and action of a different kind- the political ideals and leadership testing of Rebel Leader Mon Mothma given interesting examination, as is her senate history between the events of EPISODE III and ROGUE ONE- Mothma is clearly one of the best fusions of Prequel and Classic Trilogy universes that any STAR WARS fan could ask for.

Next to Jyn, though, its probably former Imperial transport/shuttle pilot with a conscience Bodhi Rook that gets the most expanded character material, especially highlighting his getting by and ignoring it all past, and during his capture and subsequent mind torture by Gerrera and his nomad army on Imperial occupied Jedha. Rook truly is the everyman character we can relate to- the guy caught up in a bigger universe and who has to show his courage in the most explosive of conflicts.

On the rain drenched world of Eadu, Krennic confronts Galen on security matters.

On the enemy side, Freed knows how to make the Empire more loathsome than ever, doing a fine job of character advancing the ambitious Weapons Director Orson Krennic and his love/hate relationship with the scientist he has used and abused for years in Galen Erso- the catalyst for the Death Star, the space station moon whose final construction he plans to cement his reputation on with and for the Emperor. Screen villain great Darth Vader's presence, as in the film, remains brief but essential- a true watchdog to the intensifying power play between Krennic and his rival in Grand Moff Tarkin, the latter as satisfyingly calculating and evil here as he was back in 1977.

With so many trailers and clips showing deleted scenes and an alternate section of the Battle of Scarif, its disappointing that only a few sections of additional dialogue and a few differing action moments make it to the finished book- thankfully, the iconic TIE fighter versus Jyn moment is one such welcome plus. As with all good adaptations, Freed wisely gets to cover up some glaring plot holes- kudos for explaining just how the Expanded Universe named Tantive IV got to be involved in the Battle of Scarif, though a few tribute errors still slip by- one glaringly obvious linked to a certain droid cameo that I can't wait to see Pablo Hidalgo explain away...

The powder keg that is Jedha explodes on the Imperials!

Adding between chapters weight to the drama and its blistering blaster fire and scorched flesh, Freed cleverly weaves in important communiques and documents from Rebel and Imperial lines, from the likes of intelligence reports to the ingenious way that Galen Erso has the thermal exhaust port weakness sneaked in to the Death Star's construction at the last minute, unnoticed by the hungry for activation Krennic - important and further complex shadings of grey added to the universe and era setting, of which Mon Mothma's final tribute to Jyn Erso is nicely handled.

AFICIONADO RATING: Putting the "War" back into STAR WARS, giving us the blood, sweat and tears of new iconic heroes fighting in a time before the return of Obi-Wan Kenobi and the emergence of Luke Skywalker, inside a story that we all wanted to see told cinematically, this is a fine adaptation of ROGUE ONE, working effectively as a continuance of James Luceno's earlier released original story CATALYST, and as the tough and rewarding lead-in to Alan Dean Foster's seminal 1976 work. 4 out of 5

Already a best seller, get the book here: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: Amazon.co.uk: Alexander Freed: 9781780894782: Books


Get James Luceno's lead-in: CATALYST:A ROGUE ONE NOVEL here: Star Wars: Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel: Amazon.co.uk: James Luceno: 9781780893679: Books

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