Monday, November 30, 2015

Audio Book Review: The Empire Strikes Back So You Want to Be a Jedi? (Star Wars Illustrated Novels #2)

Release Date: September 22, 2015
Author: Adam Gidwitz
Publisher: Disney Lucasfilm Press
Narrator: Marc Thompson
Source: Library Audio Book

Acclaimed, New York Times best-selling author Adam Gidwitz delivers a captivating retelling of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back like you've never experienced before, infusing the iconic, classic tale of good versus evil with a unique perspective and narrative style that will speak directly to today's young readers while enhancing the Star Wars experience for core fans of the saga.

This illustrated novel is the second in the highly-anticipated series and features richly detailed art by celebrated Star Wars concept artist Iain McCaig-the creative mind behind the prequels characters Darth Maul and Padme Amidala. Fans old and new will be delighted by this beautifully crafted book and the unexpected twists in this retelling of a beloved story.


Reviewer's Note: Since Star Wars is so iconic, and this is an adaptation of the fifth episode in the series, I've decided to forgo my usual spoiler-free review in an effort to better review this book, so if you haven't seen the original Star Wars Trilogy (Ep. IV-VI) I will most likely bring up spoilers from time to time. Also, since this is an adaptation and not a re-imagining I've gotten rid of some of the review sections I normally use to instead comment on how I enjoyed the adaptation and to comment on the aspects of the audio book I listened to.


Protagonist: Unlike the adaptation for A New Hope this story is told, for the most part, in the second person POV, where "you" are Luke Skywalker as he trains with Master Yoda to become a better Jedi. The use of the second person really only added to the gimmick of this book, which I'll get to later and didn't really enhance my experience of this story any. I was happy to see though that the author didn't leave out the parts of the story that Luke wasn't in, instead he used the third person to tell those parts of the story. Honestly I couldn't really feel the character development, at least not in the way I could when I watched the movie. I felt like the author stuck too much with the gimmick and wasn't able to really flesh out this world all that much.

Romance: So, I am by no means saying that the romance of this story is a large or even vital plot point of this epic saga, however since there is a bit of a love triangle here between Han, Leia, and Luke, and since we know Luke and Leia are siblings, how it was handled knowing that information I felt needed to be touched on. So first we have the whole Luke and Leia kiss thing that many people I know look back on and cringe, I felt that was handled rather well, there was nothing too romantic about it and Luke's inner monologue wasn't really in the romantic pining mood. However, even though the romance isn't vital to the story, the author does touch upon the Han and Leia romance and if he had found a way to skip it altogether I would have been fine with that, but his insistence on skipping over the "mushy parts" made it so he failed to evoke the romantic chemistry needed for the bit of romance he kept in to feel earned.

Adaptation Notes: The gimmick of this book is that it's essentially a guide to becoming a Jedi and it uses Luke's journey in The Empire Strikes Back as sort of a backdrop in explaining how to become a Jedi. Each chapter or so there would be a little lesson or test on becoming a Jedi, this usually has to do with keeping calm and not giving into fear, hate, or anger. I think for a younger audience this would be really cool, but for me, at 22, it didn't really add that much to the story. Unlike the previous installment this one felt very specifically aimed at a much younger audience. It felt as though this was aimed more at a lower-MG audience whereas A New Hope: The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy felt as though it was all ages-MG or lower-YA. The point is that this very much felt like I was being talked down to with the author explaining what everything is in a very plain matter of fact way.

Audio Book Notes: Once again this audio book is outstanding. It uses ambient sounds, sound effects, and music to really immerse the listener into this story. I think without the brilliant quality of this audio book I may have given up on this book. Marc Thompson once again delivers an amazing performance and really does each character justice. Since this is my second time listening to him I was able to more easily pick up on the fact that he was imitating the voices and that the audio book production company didn't actually sneak in James Earl Jones to read the Darth Vader lines.


So if it wasn't for the gimmick and the fact that I felt talked down to when listening to this audio book I think it could have made for a really great adaptation, but it was just kind of awkwardly fit together and the extra bits of information added wasn't very helpful.


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