Was Star Wars a book before it was a movie? Yes it was.
Well, kind of. Star Wars, a book by George Lucas, was published in America in 1976. The movie was released in 1977.
But as I’m sure you know, the movie was not based on this book – it was a novelisation of the movie. In fact, it was not even written by Lucas, but ghost written by Alan Dean Foster. He was also the author (credited this time) of the very first Star Wars sequel, Splinter of the Minds Eye.
When I was a child, these novelisations were one of the key ways I engaged with Star Wars movies after seeing them at the cinema. As I look back, it seems amazing that I managed to remain interested in the movies. I’m pretty sure my daughter has seen the original Star Wars trilogy more times at age 5 than I did in my entire childhood. There was no way to watch at home on TV (although there were some 8 minute super-8 film versions for those few who had a projector). We saw the movies at the cinema. That was it.
But that wasn’t enough. So we found other ways to revisit the galaxy far, far away. I played with the toys. I read the comics. And I poured over the novelisations of the movies, which have all been re-published.
Reading them is to remember a time when my fandom was born. The exciting thing about the first book – which I read years after the movie came out – were expanded elements of the story that were ultimately cut like Luke and Biggs friendship and Solo meeting Jabba. Elements of these were reinstated in the special editions.
The Empire Strikes Back novelisation was written by Donald F. Glut, a fellow former film school student like George Lucas. He was a writer who’s credit I saw a few more times in my childhood, on some Spider-Man cartoons and various comics. As these Star Wars books were based on screenplays, and not finished movies, even differences in classic dialogue stands out. For instance, no “I love you,”, “I know.” exchange here, as that was ad-libbed by Ford on set.
Return of the Jedi (by James Kahn) was a book I clearly recall reading before I saw the movie. So, the big revelation of Luke and Leia’s relationship was one I experienced not in the movies, but with my nose in a book at home. This book was also the first time I read how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader – here there is mention of a duel between Obi Wan and Anakin, which ended with Luke’s father falling into lava. My 11-year-old self was pleased that this was later reflected in Revenge of the Sith twenty years later.
These books are now available in a paperback omnibus, and in addition the adaptation of Star Wars has also been re-released in a hardback 40th anniversary edition, featuring the best and most iconic Star Wars poster of all by the Brothers Hillderbrant.
Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope: Official 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition has an RRP of £16.99. Star Wars: Original Trilogy has an RRP of £12.99.
I was sent copies of these books for the purposes of this review.