Review: Star Wars: The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight by Tony DiTerlizzi (or, Sorry, I Just Drooled On Your Artwork)
Oh boy. Oh baby. Oh lordy loo. How does one review a book with artwork of this caliber? This is the man who gave Star Wars its distinctive look. To look at a picture is to not only revel in the technical accomplishment, but to be overwhelmed by a flood of memories. Tony DiTerlizzi, the author of this book and the one who delivers us this children’s interpretation of the films, relays to us in the foreword of how, when he was seven years old, he first watched Star Wars on the big screen and became enamored with the masterpiece. I couldn’t help but be propelled to when I was of a similar age, first watching A New Hope. Although, technically, my first memory wasn’t of the movies. If you’re able to recall, when the Special Editions came out in 1997, they came in a large box set that housed the three movies, and when you put in the first tape (how old that word makes me feel) to the VCR it started with a short documentary on the special effects. I vaguely recall a bit of the Death Star miniature, and a car that kept on driving by it, for whatever reason. Though really my first clear memory was of making fart noises by opening the special edition box set. What? Don’t tell me you never did it. I know you did. For you see, I was watching you.
I digress, but I hope you understand just what type of experience Ralph McQuarrie’s artwork can evoke. Even so, despite my love of the absolute gorgeousness of the book, I must confess to not being entirely enamored with the book as a whole. While the writing was for the most part good, there are some parts that I found I didn’t like as much, and it’s those parts, I think is best for the review, I should explore first.
Naturally, if you haven’t seen the movies or read this book, there are spoilers from here on out.
Chewbacca is Luke’s father!
Search your feelings; you know it to be true.
Anyway: The story is, in essence, the story of the original trilogy from the perspective of, for the most part, Luke Skywalker: farm boy and whiz-kid extraordinaire. It starts with a flourish: ‘This is a story of good versus evil, of light dispelling darkness. This is a story of hope.’ I quite liked that; it was a nice touch, reminiscent of Matthew Stover’s Revenge of the Sith novelisation. But then it quickly settles in to a more simpler retelling of the films, with a few extra touches of flair and elegance dotted around. Several sequences from the film have been omitted, which is eminently understandable, given that this is a story based on the adventures of Luke Skywalker. Some scenes have been moved, which is again understandable, though in this case it is due to aid in the pacing of the narrative. Of these changes, I approve.
However, there are some scenes that have been omitted which, I believe, ultimately harms the story. Principally: the discovery of the remains of Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen, and later, the realization that the Empire has utterly annihilated Alderaan. On the one hand, it’s a children’s book, I can understand not wanting portray or mention those actions to children (the market for this book is 7+, after all). But on the other, I feel it’s doing a disservice to children of that age. Like Diterlizzi, I was around 7-8 years old when I first watched the movies and, while those were certainly terrible events, I felt mature enough to handle them. Of course, other children may not have been, so if you feel your child isn’t (which is entirely fine, by the way, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise) then perhaps this counts as a bonus in your book. Yet also, beyond that point it is an important part of the story and Luke’s (hero’s) journey and even just for that reason I felt it should have been included.
Another aspect which I feel hindered the story is the other characters, or rather lack thereof. Han, Chewie, Leia and the droids did of course feature, but they were very much relegated to the sidelines – and none more noticeable than Leia. Leia, who is the sister of Luke, an important character, not just in her own right but important to Luke. One who barely speaks in the first two thirds (save for ‘Help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope’ and ‘Luke! No, don’t, it’s a trap!’) and who wasn’t, by the reading of the book, even present on Jabba’s sail barge, and whose sibling revelation is barely touched upon. Now, the side-lining of the other characters is somewhat understandable. This is Luke’s story, after all. It’s about him, centered around him, and from his perspective. So naturally other characters won’t feature as much – but Leia, I feel, should have been more prominent. Part of my task as a reviewer is to imagine what it’s like for someone who’s entirely ignorant of the films. I imagined, if such a person read this, their reaction to Leia being Luke’s sister would tellingly be ‘who’s Leia?’
Those are my main complaints, but I do have one more (minor) gripe that I want to relate before moving on. Often, as I was reading, I was a little confused. Some minor facts or details would be left out of the narrative, and that I think would confuse someone who wasn’t entirely familiar with the story. Indeed, as I read to The Kids I often found myself including a few little titbits of information, to add a bit more detail to the scene. So in terms of story: if the story is the main draw for you, if this is the story that you’re going to read to a small human that is unfamiliar with the films, then you may wish to be prepared to add some information to the narrative as I did.
I hope I haven’t been too harsh. Apart from these aspects, the writing of the book was generally good, it flowed well, and given it’s from only one character’s perspective, it does a good job of telling us, the readers, of what is happening to the other characters. And certainly The Kids enjoyed the story thoroughly. But admittedly that may be down to my awesome story-telling skills. Certainly it had nothing to do with the amazing story that George Lucas crafted all those years ago. Nuh-uh. All me, dude.
Having said all that, I think it entirely reasonable to suppose that you and your kids are familiar with the films, and that you (or they, if you can’t suffer another ‘oh please read it to me again!’ – I sympathise) can fill in the blanks. And what’s more, that the main draw is to see the story alongside some simply fantastic artwork, and if that’s the case I think you will like the book.
As far as I’m aware, none of the drawings are new, but ones that can be seen in previously released books. But, for me at least, that isn’t a problem. It is just an absolute pleasure to read the story and see these drawings side by side, to see the (mostly appropriate*) original artwork of the very scene you’re reading and imagining. And furthermore, to the best of my knowledge having the original artwork alongside a written account of the films is a first – but I’m not a particular font of knowledge on this aspect. But a friend of mine, Skuldren (his parents had an odd sense of humour) over at Roqoo Depot, happens to be very knowledgeable on such things. According to him, there’s no such similar book in fiction. However: The Illustrated Star Wars Universe by Kevin J. Anderson tries to tell the stories behind Ralph’s artwork.
* By appropriate I don’t mean rude, just that they don’t line up entirely with the movie, but given it’s concept art of a film that, at that point, wasn’t even made, and given the inherent difficulties in lining up pictures with words in a book of finite dimensions, I think we can be forgiving. Unless you’re Darth Vader. In which case, can I have your autograph, O Darkly Lord and Sithy One?
In conclusion: I think the main draw of the book is the pictures and, if your child is of a particularly artistic persuasion, then I think they’ll very much enjoy looking adoring and drooling over these pieces of art.
Star Wars: The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight by Tony DiTerlizzi and Ralph McQuarrie (post), published by Egmont, is out now in UK bookstores. Thank you to Egmont for sending the book for review purposes.Powered by Sidelines