All the issues I really wanted to bring up in my planned Star Wars: The Force Awakens (book) review were already mentioned in Ola’s review of the movie and discussion below. But let me reiterate – I don’t blame the movie for being derivative of the original trilogy. For me it’s a (nearly) perfect mix of nostalgia and introduction to after-Return of the Jedi universe. It’s a struggle similar in nature, a fight against another genocidal empire, but history repeats itself even here. Sometimes seriously (I/II world wars), sometimes as a farce (PRL/PiS). Reddit pointed me recently in the direction of an excellent post by Gerry Canavan, Tolkien, THE FORCE AWAKENS, and the Sadness of Expanded Universes that discusses just that. I still think that [major spoiler, highlight to read] authors took the easy way out, with the New Republic power structures and military taken out of the picture with a single shot, but the basic idea – the fight continues, next generation must confront same evils – is ok by me.
And the book itself… I won’t really review it, because I don’t feel it merits a review separate from the review of the movie. I gave it three stars on Goodreads and 6,5/10, but I was disappointed – I hoped it will widen my understanding but instead I just got a movie in written form, repeated scene after scene. With small changes, enough of them to provide basis for this io9 text. Do read that one, and you can safely forget about the book.
If you need a Star Wars book, read Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy. No longer canon, but still very good. I think the time came for a re-read, although I’m not sure I’ll have time for it any time soon.
Another recent reddit find is Meta, Irony, Narrative, Frames, and The Princess Bride by Jo Walton. It starts like that:
I am not the intended audience for William Goldman’s The Princess Bride. Likely you’re not either, as you’re reading this on Tor.com. We read fantasy. We love books about heroes and villains and giants and princesses. We are not so cynical that we have to be coaxed into a story about true love and a wicked prince and a masked pirate.
My situation is similar. I eat wicked princes for breakfast, on my e-book reader, and I don’t need to be cheated into fantasy like Goldman’s child protagonist or his adult and snobby readers. I welcome Kazuo Ishiguro in our world, with benevolent smile, but self-assured in my conviction that he’s venturing into a well-established genre. We do not need acclaimed literary fiction giants to validate us. But it’s cool when they visit. Often they bring something new and interesting to the table. It certainly was the case with The Buried Giant, and, years earlier, it was the case with The Princess Bride.
Many people love this book. I like it very much. And I like the movie. It’s a very interesting story, told by a master storyteller with a very cool structure that lets the author do some interesting stuff with fantasy and literary tropes, to play with our expectations and deliver a simple, but satisfying story. It’s good for literary fiction readers who want something honest and straightforward and it’s good for genre veterans, ready to appreciate a self-aware experiment with their beloved motifs. And of huge importance is another fact Jo Walton emphasises – it’s clear that Goldman enjoys and knows fairy tales. It’s a work of love.
The problem I have with post-modernism in literature is not the books themselves. Many of them are great and I enjoy the way they play with history of literature immensely. If the author did his research. To something new on the shoulders of giants, we need to know a bit about the giants first. And to appreciate books like The Princess Bride we need to know a bit about literature and genre stories otherwise we will miss most of the fun. Even to fully appreciate Abercrombie we need a background of his more straightforward and naive predecessors. And not just from wikipedia.
To play with literary canon, we need to know a bit about the canon. But fewer and fewer people bother anymore… sigh.