Well that was better than expected, especially after The Force Awakens novelisation.
This is more what I was hoping for. What was really great was that though all the major battle scenes were there they weren’t dwelled on in great detail, instead the author made more of the moments in between to allow the characters to grow and to show what they were going through. There are additional scenes here that really help with the characterisation. One I especially liked was the opening of Luke imagining an alternative timeline where he never went with Obi Wan Kenobi back in A New Hope. Very interesting but there were more scattered throughout.
Finn and Rose’s story in the film was fairly pointless and kind of annoyed me at the time. However here it really shows is what that was about was to show Finn’s growth from somebody out for himself (and Rey) to truly caring about the Resistance. We didn’t get too many POV’s from Finn, mostly from Rose and hers was more interesting as we could feel her exasperation and gradual change of heart.
The same could be said of all the characters in some ways. It has made me reappraise the movie somewhat. I did like it when I first watched it (though I did, and still do, hate some of the more obviously played for gags moments, especially the ‘crank call’ at the start) but this has given me a new appreciation of what the director was trying to achieve. Everybody wanted Luke to come back and we were expecting a legend, instead we got a bitter and disillusioned old man. Finn did great breaking his training but he is utterly self centered and is still basically just trying to run away. Poe is a hotshot pilot but has no idea of the big picture and his reckless disregard for orders basically destroyed the Resistance. Rey is looking for someone to show her the way but is betrayed by both Luke and Kylo. I could go on about how the whole movie is a subversion of our expectations but you get the drift.
The novel isn’t perfect. As usual everyone goes from strangers to best friends within a few minutes. I also wish we’d gotten more from Kylo Ren’s perspective. He does feature of course but it’s fairly minimal. I really hope we get a book or two from his perspective once the new movie is out, he’s by far and away the most interesting character and there’s a lot there to explore. Anyway I think this is exactly what I was hoping for and think it pairs well with the film in that it explores areas that the film just can’t due to time and other considerations.