Thursday, December 8, 2011

More on the Adventures of Luke Skywalker

I’m still having a blast with the novel. Just for the chance to get quotes like this:

"I don't know anyone named Obi-Wan-but old Ben lives somewhere out on the fringe of the Western Dune Sea. He's kind of a local character-a hermit. Uncle Owen and a few of the other farmers say he's a sorcerer.”

Sorcerer. Wizard. I love when they use this names of Old Ben.

Reading this novel also makes me remember of the importance of actors like Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and (Sir) Alec Guinness – Luke, Han and Obi-Wan are hardly the charismatic character we get to see in the movie. In fact, Luke is quite annoying at the novel’s first half, while Ben has a certain sinister and manipulative aura about him, very different from Guinness’s noble and wise countenance.

Because the book was written before the movie came out, it is also interesting to see how some descriptions doesn’t exactly fit modern appearance. The author, for example, draws an interesting parallel between Tusken Raiders and Jawas as the same species (hinting that the Tuskens could be a juvenile stage of the Jawa – very weird indeed). This is clearly implausible given the movie’s visuals, but not unreasonable, given the novel's descriptions of both races as possible subhumans.

Still on the Tusken Raiders “scene”, we get extra description on Ben’s beastly hoar (mimicking krayt dragon). I always thought that that was Force ability, but the Jed Master explains that it is just a vocal cord trick. Actually, Obi-Wan Kenobi is a jack-of-all-trades in the novel – he mimics giant beasts, fixes Artoo to get Leia’s message, uses the Death Star’s computers to locate the tractor beam’s generators etc.

Leia’s holographic message is also longer different, for example:

"General Obi-Wan Kenobi," the mellifluous voice was saying, "I present myself in the name of the world family of Alderaan and of the Alliance to Restore the Republic. I break your solitude at the bidding of my father, Bail Organa, Viceroy and First Chairman of the Alderaan system."

Kenobi get a “Gandalf aura” during the play by hearing it while puffing from a water pipe. We also get information that is particularly amusing in light of the Lucas' frequents retcon (the quote is by Luke):

"General Kenobi, you fought in the Clone Wars? But... that was so long ago."

This last bit reminded me that, originally, the Clone Wars were reputed to take place some 30-40 years before A New Hope (and note it is plural: Clone WARS). Again, I can’t help but enjoy this bigger and broader history. Others loving implications of a bigger world follows (Kenobi presenting the lightsaber):

"Your father's lightsaber," Kenobi told him. "At one time they were widely used. Still are, in certain galactic quarters."

Again, maybe these impressions are just nostalgia but, nonetheless, they do lend an air of freshness and wonder to Star Wars universe, something I can't feel in the recent official material (including the Clone War cartoon). Furthermore I simply love the idea that lightsabers are not a Jedi-only weapon:

"This was the formal weapon of a Jedi Knight," explained Kenobi. "Not as clumsy or random as a blaster. More skill than simple sight was required for its use. An elegant weapon. It was a symbol as well. Anyone can use a blaster or fusioncutter – but to use a lightsaber well was a mark of someone a cut above the ordinary." He was pacing the floor of the cave as he spoke.

Note that Obi-Wan leaves in a cave, not a tiny stone home.

Even Han Solo is familiar with lightsabers:

"You're pretty handy with that saber, old man. Not often does one see that kind of swordplay in this part of the Empire anymore."

Moving on (but still on the same “scene”):

"How," he asked slowly, "did my father die?"
Kenobi hesitated, and Luke sensed that the old man had no wish to talk about this particular matter. Unlike Owen Lars, however, Kenobi was unable to take refuge in a comfortable lie.

Given Vader’s transformation – from a pulp villain to a tragic anti-hero – the quote above is pure historical irony. It is sad, but funny, how Lucas totally ruined Kenobi's morality with this retcon.

"He was betrayed and murdered," Kenobi declared solemnly, "by a very young Jedi named Darth Vader." He was not looking at Luke. "A boy I was training. One of my brightest disciples... one of my greatest failures."

And the retcon is indeed blatantly obvious due to quotes like that, where Darth Vader is clearly a name, not a Sith title.

Kenobi resumed his pacing. "Vader used the training I gave him and the Force within him for evil, to help the later corrupt Emperors. With the Jedi knights disbanded, disorganized, or dead, there were few to oppose Vader. Today they are all but extinct."

This part is simply awesome for me. There were EMPERORS, not just an Emperor (Palpatine). The Galactic Republic, in this regard, is much more faithful to its closer real world equivalent – the Roman Republic and later Empire.

Now, let me quote a part where, I believe, the novel is poorer than the movie:

Kenobi nodded. "I forget sometimes in whose presence I babble. Let us say simply that the force is something a Jedi must deal with. While it has never been properly explained, scientists have theorized it is an energy field generated by living things. Early man suspected its existence, yet remained in ignorance of its potential for millennia.

The simple mention about "scientists have theorized" really kills the Force's mystic flavor and I’m glad it didn’t show in the movies (besides it would ruin Alec Guinness’ magical performance).

While we’re addressing the Force, check this:

"The Force is in the mind, Luke, and can sometimes be used to influence others. It's a powerful ally. But as you come to know the Force, you will discover that it can also be a danger."

This quote is fascinating because it perfectly demonstrates the flavor of the Force in the original movie and why it is easy to believe in the Jedi's "source of power" as a mere superstition. The Force here is never something obvious or physical (or when it manifests physically it is rare enough for the common galactic citizen to doubt it). It is a different approach from the following movies, like Empire Strikes Back (and the Prequels, where the Jedi are clearly super-soldiers with wuxia-like abilities).

Moving now to Mos Eisley’s Cantina:

"We don't serve their kind in here," the glaring form growled.
"What?" Luke replied dumbly. He still hadn't recovered from his sudden submergence into the cultures of several dozen races. It was rather different from the poolroom behind the Anchorhead power station. "Your droids," the bartender explained impatiently, gesturing with a thick thumb. Luke peered in the indicated direction, to see Artoo and Threepio standing quietly nearby. "They'll have to wait outside. We don't serve them in here. I only carry stuff for organics, not," he concluded with an expression of distaste, "mechanicals."

I found this part wonderful, because it ended supporting some changes that I'm making to my future "un-canonical" Star Wars campaign regarding droids. I wanted to include an ancient war of the Galactic Republic between droids and everyone else. In part because I think this type of conflict is cool, the other reason been that this dark legacy could help to explain why droids are usually used for menial tasks and always with restraining system. Until the Prequels we never see battle-droids, except a rogue one (IG-88 on Empire Strikes Back) and I’m not satisfied with the way in which droids army where used (i.e. just as a f****ng market tactic for keep the movies open to G-PG audiences).

Well, these are my thoughts for now (and I believe this post is bigger enough). To close this topic, I think it’s worth mentioning that Alan Dean Foster (the true author) managed to correct that damn Han Solo quote about parsecs:

"It's the ship that made the Kessel run in less than twelve standard timeparts!"

May the Force be with you!

P.S.: In case you’re worried, rest assured, beacuse Han Solo shot first in Star Wars: The Adventures of Luke Skywalker.