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.
"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.