Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Empire Strikes Back: The Review

This was sure to be one of our more eagerly anticipated entries into the EU book club and surely helped erase the atrocity that was last week's installment. But now let's get to the good stuff.

If you are reading this and you need a synopsis, well, what the heck are you even doing here? No Han and Leia fan is respectable unless they know this movie by heart. Half the time I was reading I could hear the soundtrack playing in my head. I will say that the writing in this book sort of reminded me of that way I personally write. Very straight forward and to the point without a whole lot of style.

But, the novelization gives us the opportunity to get to know some more things about certain characters we wouldn't otherwise know since there was no dialogue to explain. For instance, this book may be why we all thing Rieekan likes Han. Aside from just their interactions, the book tells us he likes him. "But he admired the young man's taking a kind of unofficial membership in the Rebellion. So impressed was Rieekan by Solo's qualities that he often considered giving him an honorary officer's commission." Of course, this completely contradicts Han's apparent official joining of the Rebellion at the end of Choices of One, but who knows if we will ever get a concrete answer on that.

More important than anything to those of us reading this blog are the little extra things we get about Han and Leia. After Han tells Rieekan he has to leave and turns to Leia to say goodbye, it says, "Solo was not the sentimental sort, but he was aware that he was emotional now." Then, after she replies coldly with, "That's right," he starts to get upset and talks about how he had told himself to not bother trying to understand women. Then we get, "But, for a while at least, Han had begun to believe that there was at least one female in all the cosmos that he was beginning to understand. And yet, he had been wrong before."

Their interaction after this, the infamous argument in the Hoth corridor, had a bit more dialogue in it. And not just the additions in the deleted scene those of us who got the blu ray got to see. She asks him if he's told Luke, he talks a bit more about Jabba and bounty hunters and senses at times that she maybe seems genuinely concerned. My favorite addition here is when he finally says the "What about you?" line. It says, "Han was careful to emphasize the last word, but really wasn't certain why. Maybe it was something he had for some time wanted to say but lacked the courage - no, the stupidity - to expose his feelings. At the moment there seemed to be little to lose, and he was ready for whatever she might say."

The rest of the argument goes on as normal, but then does include the extra stuff in the deleted scene. I don't like it here, either. It's just... too much. Actually, I saw someone boil that deleted scene to this, and it's a little crude, but, well, it kind of basically tells you what the scene is basically implying. It said: Han is telling Leia that the Rebellion is not as important as his penis. Yes, that's what it said. And, well, it kind of does seem like that's what he's trying to say, doesn't it? Anyway, moving on...

When Han goes out to find Luke it does at least mention that Han is pretty darn cold, too. In the movie, to me at least, it always seemed as though somehow Han was basically unaffected. We get to see inside Leia's head a bit when they are about to close the shield doors: "Her thoughts were occupied with pair of missing heroes. Most disturbing to her was that she found her mind focused on one of the two: a dark-haired Corellian whose words were not always to be taken literally." And later, when they are standing around watching Luke in the Bacta, Leia even tries to thank Han for what he did but he tells her to forget it.

The scene afterward where Luke is recovering has a bit of extra before Han comes in, just Leia asking Luke if it hurts. But it doesn't include the excessive ickiness of the deleted scene from the blu ray. There is no near kiss. There is no Luke attempting to confess his feelings for his unknown sister. Artoo, Threepio and Han all, thankfully, come into the room pretty quick.

The odds in the book of surviving an asteroid field appear to be better than in the movie: 2467-1 as opposed to 3720. (as an official huge nerd, I knew that second one by heart)

Their interactions in the cockpit after they shut down are a bit different. When it gets darker Han says, "Getting kind of romantic in here." And when she winds up in his lap Han notes that he could swear she was willingly embracing him and he speaks first, "Why Princess, this is so sudden." To which she replies, "Let go. I'm getting angry."

"You don't look angry," he lied.

"How do I look?"

"Beautiful," he replied, with an emotion that surprised him. Leia felt suddenly, unexpectedly shy. Her cheeks flushed pink and, when she realized she was blushing, she averted her eyes. But she still did not really try to get free.

Then Han goes and ruins it by then saying, "And excited." At which point she utters her normal reply from the movie, and he instead said, "Well, I hope you don't expect more."

There are a few little things about them being close without really needing to, and then we get to the famous first kiss. The kiss is written basically from both of their points of view, we get to see bits and pieces of what each of them are feeling, which I enjoyed. We also get a few extra things between the dialogue: "Leia didn't resist his gentle pull. Now, as she looked at him, she thought he had never seemed more handsome, but she was still the princess. The lines are pretty similar, and they share a second kiss as in the deleted scene on the blu ray, initiated by Leia. And after this second kiss there is no interruption, only the two of them pulling away and looking at each other before Leia decides to silently leave. I also like that this makes it clear that while Leia is reluctant, she does want him to kiss her, she just feels like she's not supposed to want him to. But in the end, she doesn't resist.

I love that after this, there are just little things that mention how they look at each other. Leia is thinking about Han post-kiss in the cockpit, and then later when she decides to go with them to check on the mynocks: "Han looked at her affectionately as she removed a third breath mask and placed it over her lovely, but determined face."

All right, I suppose I should mention Luke a bit because he is in this book, too. He does a bit more training stuff here, and he works with these levitating balls that at times are called seekers and make me think that maybe JK Rowling did steal her whole idea from Star Wars. Okay, I don't really think that, I just thought it was another funny coincidence between the two. And the points in which the scenes with Luke and the scenes with Han and Leia intersect differently than they do in the movie. For example, in the movie, Luke has his vision of Han and Leia being in pain immediately after they decide to go to Bespin. In the book that doesn't happen until they actually arrive there. And while we're on this, one thing I have never understood is what good it would've done Luke if he hadn't gone back and tried to save them? How did him going back "destroy all for which they have fought"? I just don't get it.

Also, I will mention something that Yoda says that bothered me in only the way a huge nerd could be bothered. Right away when they meet Yoda and before they even know he's Yoda and Luke mentions he can't get his ship out, Yoda says, "Tried, have you?" He says the exact same thing in the exact same wording a few scenes later just before he tells Luke, "Do, or do not. There is no try." So... he tells him he has to try... but then he tells him there's no such thing as try. It's no wonder Luke was so poorly trained. Speaking of which, the way Yoda seemed to think Luke was 'progressing' in his training, it's amazing he didn't lose more than just his hand later on when he fought Vader.

Anyway, back to the ones we really care about... So now we are at the point when they are deciding to go to Bespin. In this case Han is the one who shut down Threepio and Leia mocks Han a bit about his being organized when he says he keeps logs. But she also pats him on the head and gives him a quick kiss after she tells him he has his moments. Then Han ruminates: "Han was getting used to the princess's left-handed compliments, and he couldn't say that he really minded them. More and more he was enjoying the fact that she shared his own, sarcastic sense of humor. And he was fairly sure that she was enjoying it, too." Yep, that sounds like the Han and Leia I've always known, too.

One thing I don't like so much in the book here is that Han seems to defend Lando a lot more once they land. Leia seems much more skeptical and Han keeps telling her that it's okay to trust him. I feel like, as in the movie, Han would be just as wary here. Not that it was entirely Lando's fault what happened, but I think they'd be on edge considering the entire Empire is after them as public enemy #1. I do like though when Lando is making eyes at Leia and Han says, "She's traveling with me, Lando. And I don't intend to gamble her away, so you might as well forget she exists."

The scene in the apartment is almost entirely different, although it still conveys the same thing, pretty much. First, Han is the one in the room first and Leia enters, at which point he decides that she looks more beautiful than he had ever seen her. Then:

"What are you staring at?" she asked, beginning to blush.

"Who's staring?"

"You look silly," she said, laughing.

"You look great."

She looked away in embarrassment.

She asks about Threepio to change the subject and then asks about Luke, much to Han's dismay. Yes, Luke still annoys him at this point, and I think he probably would. Then Han tries to kiss her and, in classic Han and Leia fashion, they are interrupted by Chewie coming into the room. Han has some more jealousy toward Lando before they meet Vader and he has much bigger problems.

Han's torture is pretty brutal, though short. It tells us that it is quite possibly the first time that Han Solo has ever screamed. Later, when he is brought back into the cell with Chewie and Leia is brought in, they get a chance to hug and share a kiss. In the book it seems that Leia is still in her "pretty clothes" during this point because at the end of this scene, after they beat Han down when he lashes out, he is bleeding from his chin and Leia dabs at it with her cloak before her famous, "You certainly have a way with people," line.

Then we are at carbon freeze. Oh, I love/hate this part of the movie. It is one of the greatest moments in all of the movies between them, but then there is no more Han the rest of the movie! Leia is a bit more emotional here. She yells out, "No!" when they say they're putting him in carbonite. There are tears. Chewie goes a little more crazy, too, and Han is even the one who tells them to chain him until it's over. He also hugs his Wookiee copilot... awww....

"Han gave his partner a final farewell hug, then turned to Princess Leia. He took her in his arms and they embraced as if they would never let go.

"Then Leia pressed her lips to his in a lingering kiss of passion. When their kiss ended, tears were in her eyes. "I love you," she said softly. "I couldn't tell you before, but it's true."

He smiled his familiar, cocky smile. "Just remember that, because I'll be back." Then his face grew tender and he kissed her on the forehead.

All right, there are certainly some elements of that I liked, but I really do like how it wound up in the movie. It moves fast, as it should. I don't think they would've given them so much time to say so much before they put him in the carbonite. And I actually kind of like that Leia doesn't actually shed tears in the movie. Just her grief-stricken face to me says as much or more than tears would, and I think in the face of Vader and everyone else she would do everything she could to remain strong there and not cry. Oh, and I like that in the movie we get just the simple "I love you" "I know" rather than this other stuff. I like that the book makes it clear that she hasn't told him yet, but I don't know that she'd be able to get more than those words out.

Luke fights Vader, we all know how that goes. Not so well.

Once they get to the Falcon there is a nice little bit of Leia. "Leia, just catching her breath from their close escape, sat in Han Solo's chair. Thoughts of him rushed to her mind, but she tried not to worry about him, tried not to miss him." Awww... You'll get him back.

The rest is pretty much the same. They escape, come back to get Luke, Luke gets a new hand. It is implied that Luke knows that Leia's heart is with Han, so not sure if at some point in there we are meant to believe she told him or if he can just tell.

So, where do we rate the book? Well, given its significance in their relationship - the fact that it is the defining turning point and basically where the real relationship begins - we really don't have much choice but to give it a five. All right, so there's no sex (or I guess that depends on which trip to Bespin we're reading, but like in the movie, that trip seems awful quick!) but first kisses, first saying I love you, they are finally comfortable with each other but he can still make her blush. What's not to love? The romance is not the entire focus of the book, but of course, like in the movie, it is a pretty prominent part of it. And since this book/movie has inspired thousands of fanfic and is the greatest representation of these characters, it can't be anything but one of the top rated installments.

As a side note, my paperback copy of the novelizations of these three movies is nearly in tatters. I don't remember reading it that many times in the fifteen or so years I'd guess I've had it, although I'm sure my brother at least contributed to a read-through. But I'm not sure it will survive by the time I'm done with ROTJ.


  1. I read parts of this book once (you can probably guess which ones). It's always interesting reading the movie with the character's thoughts, along with slight differences. But you know, I'd rather just watch the movie.

    I always thought the "you will destroy all for which they have fought..." thing was about Yoda being so concerned that Luke would turn to the dark side if he went to face Vader. Although now that you've brought it up, I'm not sure how much sense it actually makes. How he could be that sure when 'difficult to see is the future', I don't know. Hmm.

  2. This has nothing to do with Han and Leia (but I do love the current background) but I also think that Yoda had foreseen Luke joining Vader on Bespin. It's pretty obvious that even when Jedi/Sith/Force-sensitives have a vision of the future, it's not set in stone, just one possibility. Maybe even the most likely possibility at that moment, but "always in motion is the future." If Luke had joined Vader, the Alliance would have lost its only (at the time) hope for the future of the Jedi, and the Empire would have had three strong Dark Side-users instead of only two. That would have spelled bad news for what Han and Leia were fighting for, to be sure.

    ...I should say that that's not really my idea. It comes from this fanfic: (and/or discussions with its author, but I think it's spelled out in the fic itself). But I thought that was the best explanation I've heard yet.

  3. This was a really pleasant read and you did a great job pointing out most of the awesomeness that it was. You hit all the 'tabbie' parts!

    I think Yoda's comment was about Luke either falling to the Dark Side or outright dying and taking away that hope that he was given the Alliance with the promise of him becoming a powerful Jedi and fighting on their side.

    You also mentioned Han defending Lando, I didn't think he was that much different than in the movie. At one point he did defend Lando but it was more just to win an argument with Leia as he silently agreed with her concerns in his thoughts. But that was just me.

    Also, on a different not, I think the book really shows that although these two had become friends and admirers of each other, it did not seem that they had been remotely intimate before. You know?

    I also got the distinct impression that Leia had not spent that much time on the Falcon up until that trip. Was that just me? That would lead me to believe (which I do believe this) that Leia was not jaunting around with Han on all of these missions but probably seeing him on base as he came and went while working for the Rebels.

    Overall, just thoroughly enjoyed this. Oh, and poor Hobbie! I had forgotten that he gave the 'final sacrifice' on Hoth.

    I agree on the 5 Star rating, as well! This is a quick read and def worth the time/effort.

  4. I just wanted to say that I've been enjoying your blog for the last few weeks but finally had to sign up so I could comment on this post. You brought back some great memories! I remember stealing my brother's copy of this book back when it first came out (yes, I'm exactly that old) and reading the H/L parts over and over. The "you look silly/you look great" lines and the "lingering kiss of passion" were the parts that really stuck in my preteen brain. Needless to say I had all the same highlights that you did.

    FWIW, I agree that Yoda knew that Vader would try to bring Luke over to the Dark Side. Why didn't he say so in the first place? Well, Ben didn't tell him anything either, so why start then?

    Anyway, thanks for enabling my H/L addiction. I've devoured both of your FF.Net pages and I'm glad that there are people writing such excellent new stories. Now I just need to hunt down some of the older classics that have dead links...*sigh*

  5. Welcome, MissMimi! Glad to have another commenter. And, if you were paying attention to the last poll, you are far from alone in your age bracket, so no reason to justify being old enough to read the book when it came out.

    All right, all right, apparently I'm the only one who didn't get what Yoda was talking about.

    Push, I think the part that bothered me the most in terms of Han defending Lando was in the apartment, when Leia said she didn't trust him. In the movie, Han says, "I don't trust him either, but he is my friend." Here, he's just like, well, I DO trust him. I don't know, just stuck out for me.

    I would agree that the book suggests, as I would infer from the movie as well, that nothing intimate has happened between these two as of yet.

    What stories are you looking for? I have a few backdoor, sneaky ways to get to old web sites that might help you see what you've been missing. Can't make any promises though, I don't have everything.

  6. I loved this book. I read it so many times as a teenager, my copy is pretty ripped up in places. I don't think I ever get tired of them fighting...or kissing. =) I do tend to prefer how the scenes were done in the movies over how they were done in the book. They seem to flow better, like the scene in the apartment and before carbon freeze. I've seen an alternate clip of the apartment scene close to what's in the book and while there's a very nice kiss in the clip, it's just not the same. It just doesn't seem like them.

    I wasn't sure, Push, if you're referring to them being intimate before or at the end of the book or both, but I would agree with you and Zyra. I'm just not feeling that they've been intimate yet, not even by the end of the book.

    The one moment that annoyed me was the whole Luke isn't their only hope when Luke leaves Dagobah. Obi-Wan knows about Leia and knows she's Luke's sister (or should). And I'm assuming Yoda is referring to Leia as the other hope. So why does Obi-Wan think Luke is their last hope? Perhaps he thinks Leia may not have potential as a Jedi. Or Yoda fills him in later, but then that doesn't fit with the prequels.

    Of course, I'm usually thinking during the Dagobah scenes that they need to be getting back to Han and Leia. =) I mean they could have added so much more material from that trip to Bespin.

    I hadn't heard that description of the extended scene in the South Passage before. Wow.

    Welcome, MissMimi!

  7. My copy of ESB is tattered as well. and the binding falls open to the first kiss scene automatically because it's been there so often. the front cover, held on by scotch tape, has the purchase date inside, and based on the date I am guessing I went straight from the Cinema2 to Waldenbooks when the movie ended.
    I'd like to point out that in the days before movies were on DVD ten minutes after they left the movie theatre, this was the only way one could relive the movie experience. it was my way of rewinding it over and over and over.

    of course this is a five.

  8. I thought the same thing julz about the book being the only way we could relive the movie experience.

  9. Thanks for the welcome, everyone. I really enjoy reading your thoughts about the movies and characters.
    Zyra, thanks for offering to help with my fic search. I was able to get most of the stories from the old Corellian Embassy sites (both of them) with the Wayback Machine, but it couldn't retrieve part 2 of "Tricks of the Mind" by Cindy Olsen. That one's really killing me-poor Han!. Also, it looks like Leela Starsky's password protected site still isn't working. She suggested her Yahoo group but it only has some of her stories.
    Off to start the day-have a good one!

  10. Welcome MissMimi! Glad u decided to sign up and comment.

    AmaraZ, u r right about Ben's comment. It totally doesn't fit with the prequels because for sure he knew about Leia. Unless he just thought that she was untrainable or whatever. I'm listening to the radio drama right now and Ben actually talks highly of Leia when he is describing her to Luke. I think it's the prequels that need to be explained, though...or totally rewritten...

    MissMimi: I may have part two of that story. I'll check ASAP.

  11. Push, you are not wrong about the prequels.

    MissMimi, thanks for the tip about wayback machine. I found some things I was looking for..

  12. I do have that entire story by Cindy Olsen in pdf format (I started saving some of my favorite stories so I could find them more easily). Are you on I have to figure out how to send it to you. We'll probably have to trade e-mails. Shoot me a note on

  13. Thanks for the offer, but I'm good for now. That's one of things I managed to download this morning.

    I am on as RatherKissAWookie. =) And Zyra has my email address.

  14. Oh, I was talking to MissMimi, she was looking for Tricks of the Mind Part 2 and I have that entire story.

  15. I love that some of you have your old copies of the book still. During this last read the binding started to fall apart for mine and yup, it was the kiss where the pages started peeling away.

    Yeah, this is why some people debate whether or not George knew all along Leia was going to be Luke's sister. Maybe while filming the movie, Luke IS the only hope. Or in the back story (without Jar Jar) he had in his head at the time, Obi Wan wasn't going to know. Some say it was just a convenient way to wrap up the love triangle. No more complications there. You know, instead of it just being obvious that she and Han are great together.

    This changing of lines brings up something else I forgot to mention which was that in the book it has the original (REAL) dialogue the Emperor said to Vader when he contacted him. I was never a fan of that change. I guess it sort of makes sense to put in the Emperor how he wound up looking in ROTJ because in ESB originally he looked pretty different, but still, didn't like that change.

  16. Push: You are AWESOME! I'm in the habit of saving the good stuff too (my Kindle has an appalling amount of fanfic on it) but I was afraid I had missed my chance with this one. I'll shoot you a PM on FF.Net. Thank you!!

    Amara z, I'm glad I helped you. The Wayback Machine is me best friend sometimes.

  17. I'm pretty sure that Luke and Leia being siblings was NOT planned as of ESB. I know that Mark Hamill and Gary Kurtz have both said that as far as THEY knew, anyway, it was not. It's possible that Lucas had the idea and just didn't tell anyone, but it seems more likely that he just wanted to tie up the love triangle and kill the Luke/Leia ship. Which doesn't make huge amounts of sense to me; Luke was already going in a different direction from Han and Leia at the end of ESB, and if people want to write fanfic about something that doesn't mesh with canon...well, it's just fanfic, I don't really see what that hurts, but whatever. *shrug*

    For all of the WTF-ness of the reveal in ROTJ, we also got EU and fanfic authors dealing with the idea of Leia learning about the Force, so there's good and bad there, I guess. ;)

    I don't like the changed dialogue in ESB either. If they'd done it when ROTJ was first released, so that Ian McDiarmid looked the way he did in ROTJ, instead of the way he looked in the prequels, and kept the dialogue the same, I'd be all for the changes. But now he just appears to have changed drastically in the space of about 6 months between ESB and ROTJ, and the dialogue's not as good!

  18. Yeah, the new Emperor dialogue just seems so unnatural and like screaming, "See? We knew he was his son the whole time and were just waiting! Remember the prequels? Go watch them again, they're more important and have negated a lot of the things that happened in these movies, even though most of the stuff we changed makes things suck way worse." And aside from the Emperor looking older, it also seemed interesting to me that it seems like technology took a step or two backwards between the prequels and the new ones, at least as far as, say, spaceships go. Everything looks more futuristic in the prequels. And even Artoo is practically a superhero what with his flying and such. Yet they tried to combat that with Anakin's very much not human-like prosthetic arm. Are we really supposed to believe that in an already so technologically advanced galaxy in which they can do pretty much everything that they will be able to do 25 years from then, there would be that much advancement in prosthetics and they wouldn't have already been able to make life-like ones?

    Ok, I should stop now because that rant was super geeky, but I needed to get it out!

  19. This novelization brings back memories for this old lady. I bought it from the Scholastic book club in 8th grade to many snarky comments from my English teacher. It didn't fit in with her perception of what the girl who had read all the books on the high school reading list should be reading. She also didn't realize that I'd seen the movie 13 times by that point.

  20. I absolutely agree about technology in the prequels! The galaxy has forgotten everything it knew about manufacturing vehicles and droids in the last 20 years, and yet has made amazing advances in the area of prosthetics, and ONLY in the area of prosthetics. Yes, George, that makes perfect sense! The run-down appearance (and behavious *eyes the Falcon*) of the ships and other technology in the OT was one of the things that gave it its charm anyway. It might not have been so bad if they'd basically had the SAME technology but it was shiny and new in the PT (showing that, I dunno, people on Tatooine are so broke that they drive the same landspeeders for decades, the Alliance has to make do with what it can salvage or steal, and the average Joe doesn't have the money for a new droid under the Empire? That makes more sense) But no, all of the shiny silver spaceships disappeared, and THEN they had time to develop lots of bulkier new ones AND wear them out? *sigh*

    ...okay, that was pretty geeky too.

  21. Hi. I've enjoyed perusing your blog and for your fics. Like MissMimi, I've been following dead links and using wayback machine to read old fics, but I've hit some roadblocks. I love Cindy Olsen, and I'd really like read The Wager and One Day at a Time. Can anyone help?

    Also, MissMimi, if you're interested, I contacted Leela Starsky directly and she emailed me word document files of 40 Days and One Night on Bespin. Since she did that, I don't think she'd mind if I shared them with you. You can read the other two follow up stories on her yahoo groups site, although Tatooine is incomplete.

  22. krtmd: I have "The Wager". Contact me on and I can send it to you. I don't have 'One Day at a Time'.

  23. Krtmd, can you send me a message at RatherKissAWookie on I would love to get my hands on the full 40 Days story.

  24. I had such great luck before, so I thought I'd try again. Does anyone have "A Marriage of Convenience" by Cindy Olsen? The links I've found are dead, even though wayback machine.


  25. Hmmm... I tried that one and you're right, the links to the story specifically are coming up empty. I'm really, really annoyed that nobody warns us when they are getting rid of their web sites. There is so much lost fanfic out there it makes me sad!

  26. Am looking for some of those stories mentioned above that also seem to have disappeared off the 'net (who says the Internet is forever). Have contacted Leela starsky as well and hope to be able to read Bespin and Family Matters on her site but would appreciate it if anyone could mail it to me madyellowduck [at]

  27. Good morning everybody! Same thing but more than a year later:

    Could someone please, please send me Leela starsky's Bespin stories? I've been trying to read them for a while now, but I just can't find them. My friend and I have been searching them for the whole week!, and we couldn't find them anywhere without a password. We're getting kind of desperate now, since it's so referred to everywhere. LOL

    I don't want to type my email here. Is there anybody I can contact to in private?