For fans who want the complete Star Wars experience, the novelizations of the main films are required reading. Overall, the novelizations can provide a window into the characters that complement the actors’ on-screen performances. And Rogue One‘s novelization is a prime example of this advantage of literature.
The Rogue One novelization is the second Star Wars novel from Alexander Freed, who penned last year’s excellent Battlefront: Twilight Company. As novelizations go, Freed’s adaptation of Rogue One isn’t wildly different from the film’s final cut. Still, there are several moments that enhance the film’s story with better clarity and insight into the protagonists. Here’s how the novelization sets itself apart from the film.
Major spoilers for Rogue One follow.
This Isn’t Jyn Erso’s First Rodeo
Watching Rogue One, it’s easy to miss that Jyn Erso was once a member of the Partisans. Jyn mentions that she used to be one of Saw Gerrera‘s leading soldiers, but she only says so in passing dialogue. As a result, it’s not immediately clear that Jyn’s collaboration with the Rogue One squad isn’t her first mission for the Rebellion. In fact, she’s been down this path before.
The novelization includes a passage in which a current Partisan recognizes Jyn, and the two of them speak briefly about Jyn’s past. The novelization also reveals that Jyn learned the famous “May the Force be with us” saying from Saw. That’s why Jyn offers the line as a salute to her fellow Rebels on Scarif. The takeaway from the book is that the film probably could have done a better job of emphasizing Jyn’s past career as a rebel soldier, especially since it’s a fundamental part of her life.
Mon Mothma, The Idealist
On the whole, Rebel Alliance Chancellor Mon Mothma doesn’t have much to do in Rogue One. It was a smart choice to bring back actress Genevieve O’Reilly from her deleted scene in Revenge of the Sith. Yet overall, O’Reilley’s Mothma doesn’t play a large role in the film. The novelization fills in some of the gaps, providing insight into the character and her controversial reputation as the Alliance’s leader.
According to the novelization, Mothma has her fair share of detractors, which reflects the larger fractures within the Rebellion. Some officers disagree with her effort to convince the Imperial Senate to defy the Emperor and demilitarize the Empire, dismissing such diplomacy as a lost cause.
Unfortunately, Mothma’s best line of dialogue in the novelization is absent from the film. During the Alliance briefing before the Battle of Scarif, Mothma walks over to Jyn Erso. Mothma quietly tells Jyn, “I won’t forget what we did to you.” It’s a simple moment that speaks volumes about Mothma’s character. Deep down, she recognizes the Alliance’s cumulative failures and feels personally responsible for them.
The novelization’s epilogue also includes Mothma’s eulogy of Jyn after her death on Scarif. It’s the first — and hopefully not last — indication that Jyn and her fellow Rogue One protagonists have a personal, lasting impact on the core saga.
General Draven, The Fixer
In the film, General Draven does only two notable things. Firstly, he orders Cassian Andor to kill Galen Erso. Secondly, he sends a starfighter squadron to bomb Erso’s research facility after Andor apparently goes MIA on Eadu. The novelization doesn’t give Draven much else to do, but it does offer more background for his cutthroat attitude.
In one of several passages from Draven’s perspective, the novelization shows he can be quite manipulative when he wants to be. Draven hopes to withhold Andor’s confirmation of the Death Star’s existence from other members of the Rebellion. In doing so, Draven intends to use Andor’s report as leverage to either manipulate the Imperial Senate or force Saw Gerrera’s Partisans to rejoin the Rebel Alliance.
Overall, the novelization demonstrates that Draven’s primary objective is to keep the Rebel Alliance from falling apart. Despite its common enemy in the Empire, the Alliance is prone to fracture. Essentially, Draven appoints himself as a fixer to defend the Alliance while also correcting its mistakes. If Draven ever faced off directly with Director Krennic, Draven could probably give him a run for his credits.
Cassian Andor, The Hardliner
While the film briefly explores Cassian Andor‘s darker side, the novelization further fleshes out his controversial tactics. During the rebels’ trip to Eadu, the novelization dips into Andor’s consciousness and reveals he wanted to leave Jyn Erso behind. Andor believes he should have left Jyn on Yavin 4, or even on Jedha, even though she would have died there.
Andor’s musings stem from his personal conflict about whether to obey Draven’s orders to murder Jyn’s father. Without a doubt, it would be easier for Andor to kill Galen without Jyn present. In one of his darker moments, Andor recognizes the fiery spirit that drives Jyn and thinks, “Her fire would burn them all.” Even though Andor ultimately decides not to kill Galen, the novelization shows just how far he almost fell.
Krennic Suspects Tarkin of Sabotage
One of the most enjoyable parts of Rogue One is Director Krennic‘s bitter rivalry with Grand Moff Tarkin. Even more so than in the film, the novelization explains how Krennic is constantly trying to one-up Tarkin. Tarkin’s decision to test the Death Star’s superlaser on Jedha doesn’t sit well with Krennic. Not because Krennic cares about Jedha, but because he suspects Tarkin aims to discredit him somehow.
By targeting Jedha, Tarkin is testing not only the Death Star but also Krennic’s competence. As a result, Krennic goes so far as to suspect that Tarkin has sabotaged the Death Star so that it will fail the test. It’s a baseless suspicion, but it nonetheless illustrates how trust is a rare commodity among the Empire’s lackeys.
Bodhi Rook: From Victim to Voluntary Rebel
The novelization of Rogue One puts into words what some fans suspect: Saw Gerrera used the octopus-like bor gullet to torture Bodhi Rook. Interrogation often borders on torture, and that’s exactly what happened to Bodhi. The novelization explicitly clarifies that Bodhi’s encounter with the bor gullet costs him his sanity. At least until Cassian Andor reaches out to Bodhi in his prison cell and brings him back to reality.
At the same time, the novelization also does a better job of illustrating Bodhi’s progression from victim to a voluntary rebel. After they land on Yavin 4, Bodhi briefly offers his condolences to Jyn Erso about her father’s death. When Jyn suggests that Bodhi change out of his Imperial flight suit, Bodhi decides to keep it as a reminder that “I volunteered for all of this. You know?” It’s a simple yet powerful moment that expands on Bodhi’s search for self-confidence throughout the film.
The film doesn’t do much to show how Admiral Raddus is supposed to be different from Admiral Ackbar — aside from their different appearances, of course. However, the novelization taps into Raddus’s mind during the Battle of Scarif and makes him more relatable as a character.
Raddus’s personal stake in the Rebellion stems from the Empire’s ruthless occupation of his homeworld, Mon Cala. He has a family back home, including grandchildren, and he does his utmost to protect them from the Empire. He’s only featured in a few passages of the novelization, but the book shows that Raddus is a family man through and through.
Who is Jyn Erso’s Father?
We all know that Galen is Jyn Erso’s father. But since Galen abandoned Jyn at eight years old, the real question is whether Jyn sees Galen as her father. Even though actress Felicity Jones delivers a stirring performance when she witnesses Galen’s hologram, it isn’t clear whether her anguish is directed toward her father or the fact that she’s been separated from him for so long.
Rogue One doesn’t offer a specific answer, but the novelization does. Up until she sees Galen’s hologram, Jyn thinks of her biological father as a coward and a monster. Instead, Saw Gerrera became her adoptive father, but she acquired a deep-seated hatred for him after he abandoned her. Jyn certainly doesn’t have much luck when it comes to paternal relationships.
Perhaps that’s what makes Jyn’s on-screen story so gripping. Right after she reconnects with Saw and Galen, the two fathers in her life, both of them perish. The takeaway is that the film could have done more to show Jyn’s emotional core. Regardless, Alexander Freed’s novelization proves that it’s an important part of the Rogue One experience.