I’m a regular reader of Star Wars books, but unlike Laughing Place co-founder Rebekah Moseley (who reviewed the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker novelization by Rae Carson last week), I’ve never really felt compelled to consume the novel or comic book versions of any of the pre-existing Star Wars movies. To me, I’d rather read an original tale set in the same universe, extending the adventures of familiar characters, rather than retread a story I’ve already experienced.
This past weekend, however, I listened to the Expanded Edition audiobook version of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and I have to say I found my traditional approach to have been (mostly) justified, as I spent the bulk of the more than nine and a half hours of this unabridged recording waiting for the “expanded” material to flesh out the narrative I had previously sat through multiple times in the theater.
That being said, I did enjoy the energy Star Wars audiobook veteran Marc Thompson brought to the proceedings as narrator: his enthusiasm for the material is evident, and his animated reading of the prose is endlessly entertaining, as are his attempts at impersonating The Rise of Skywalker’s cast of actors– some of which are more effective than others. His Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron and Anthony Daniels as C-3PO are right on the money, for example, and his older Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa isn’t too shabby either, but his Harrison Ford as Kylo Ren’s memory of Han Solo and warbly Wookiee roars and grumbles as Chewbacca leave a lot to be desired.
Author Rae Carson (the Fire and Thorns trilogy, Star Wars: Most Wanted) is clearly a terrific writer, and she absolutely does her best executing a difficult and thankless task. But as someone who saw Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker more times than I would have liked upon its initial release, I thought this novelization came across as a bit of a slog. Action scenes that felt superfluous in cinemas are even more drawn out here and obvious character moments are given unnecessary justifications seemingly in an effort to fill space. I admit that I thought the movie’s pacing felt too compressed and could benefit from taking its time in a slightly longer edit, but you’d probably need to have really, really enjoyed the film to want that particular story stretched out to nearly four times its original length.
We do get to spend more time with new characters like Zorii Bliss (played by actress Keri Russell in the film) and Allegiant General Pryde (Richard E. Grant, another impression Marc Thompson does his best to nail), plus we get inside the heads of ordinarily inscrutable personae such as Kylo Ren / Ben Solo and the resurrected Sheev Palpatine, which makes for some interesting third-person omniscient storytelling. The chapters dealing with General Leia’s thoughts and feelings are notably appealing, as we get to see/hear her interact with the Force ghost of her now-departed twin brother Luke Skywalker. These conversations, absent from the film, provide a more clear motivation for Leia’s actions, especially her final act of sacrifice in reclaiming her son Ben from the dark side.
While I did get a few chuckles and some scattered fascinating tidbits out of the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – Expanded Edition, ultimately I still don’t feel as though it’s the kind of thing I would ordinarily go out of my way to seek out. If you’re utterly desperate for new Star Wars content, you might find a handful of flavorful morsels in this recording, but otherwise it’s predominantly a been-there-done-that.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – Expanded Edition audiobook is available now.
Mike serves as Laughing Place’s lead Southern California reporter, Editorial Director for Star Wars content, and host of the weekly “Who’s the Bossk?” Star Wars podcast. He’s been fascinated by Disney theme parks and storytelling in general since a very young age and resides in Burbank, California with his beloved wife and cats.