"Search your feelings," Vader said, sounding like an evil version of Yoda, " you know it to be true."
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Written by Donald F. Glut
I had a thought while watching A New Hope right after finishing the novelization: the dialogue matters much more in the book than it does in the movie. There were parts in the dialogue I noticed much more clearly while rewatching the movie. It never mattered before but since I read it I heard it more clearly. Without the visuals the words take on more importance. I haven’t rewatched Episode V yet but I had the opposite happen. There was dialogue from that movie that I remembered and recognized while reading the novelization. It is so strange.
The novelization of The Empire Strikes Back is written by Donald F. Glut. He’s a better writer than Alan Dean Foster. One of the reason I say this is that Glut doesn’t have the awkward descriptions in his book that Foster had. He also doesn’t have strange, out of place references to Earth. On the subject of descriptions, both authors stay clear of visual descriptions for the most part. Glut barely describes the machinery the Rebels and the Empire use. At best, the descriptions are very vague with the exception of the AT-ATs, which he describes surprisingly well. The way he sets up the AT-AT’s attack on the Rebel base on Hoth is rather good. He’s the excerpt:
“No one on Hoth heard the sound. At first, it was simply too distant to carry above the whining winds. Besides, the Rebel troopers, fighting the cold as they prepared for battle, were too busy to really listen.
In the snow trenches, Rebel officers screamed out their orders to make themselves heard above the gale-force winds. Troopers hurried to carry out their commands, running through the snow with heavy bazookalike weapons on their shoulders, lodging those death rays along the icy rims of the trenches.
The Rebel power generators near the gun towers began popping, buzzing, and crackling with deafening bursts of electrical power – enough to supply the vast underground complex. But above all this activity and noise a strange sound could be heard, an ominous thumping that was coming nearer and was beginning to shake the frozen ground. When it was close enough to attract the attention of an officer, he strained to see through the storm, looking for the source of the heavy, rhythmic pounding. Other men looked up from their work and saw what looked like a number of moving specks. Through the blizzard, the small dots seemed to be advancing at a slow yet steady pace, churning up clouds of snow as they moved toward the Rebel base.
The officer raised his electrobinoculars and focused on the approaching objects. There must have been a dozen of them resolutely advancing through the snow, looking like creatures out of some uncharted past. But they were machines, each of them stalking like enormous ungulates on four jointed legs.
With a shock of recognition, the officer identified the Empire’s All Terrain Armored Transports. Each machine was formidably armed with cannons placed on its foreside like the horns of some prehistoric beast. Moving like mechanized pachyderms, the walkers emitted deadly fire from their turnstile guns and cannons.”
There are a few other descriptions that are worthy of being noted. For some reason, Glut doesn’t refer to the Jedi’s weapon as a lightsaber for most of the book. Instead, he calls it a laser sword. The first time he uses the word lightsaber is during Luke’s confrontation with Darth Vader: “Lightsabers clashed in Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader’s battle on the platform above the carbon-freezing chamber.” Of course, after that first use, he doesn’t stop for the rest of the book. The other description has to do with the colour of Darth Vader’s lightsaber in Luke’s vision in the cave on Dagobah. It’s blue. Why is it blue? No clue! But for a short while there is some blue on blue lightsaber action between Luke and his vision of Vader and it’s pretty cool.
I have to talk about Yoda. He talks differently than he does in the movie. He still talks in an odd way and some of the dialogue is word per word but overall it’s different to what I’m used to hearing. Glut is surprisingly descriptive of Yoda’s appearance. It’s odd that many, many other people, creatures and objects are so vaguely described if at all but two elements; two key elements of The Empire Strikes Back which are very well described. Glut describes Yoda from top to bottom. Even his tattered clothes get a mention. The main difference in his appearance in his skin is blue in the book. Blue! Yoda is blue!! I can’t get over it. He would look so ridiculous. I’ll be forever relieved that he ended up being green.
Glut does a good job showing Yoda’s unique combination of senility and profound wisdom. Credit is also due to the scriptwriter for the movie because a lot of these elements are first conveyed in Yoda’s dialogue. Glut strengthens this with Luke’s inner monologue where he directly comments on the contrast in his old teacher.
Darth Vader is also very interesting in The Empire Strikes Back. What’s going on in his head when he goads Luke to kill him? Is he taunting the novice Jedi or is he pleading to be put out of his servitude to the Emperor? Perhaps it’s a combination of both? He could also be taunting him in the hopes that Luke will complete his Jedi training under him and rule the Galaxy by his side. You have to ask yourself, is Vader proud of his son? He’s accomplished so much in so little time. Has Vader’s final conflict with Obi Wan Kenobi make him feel guilty for being absent from his child’s life? Add an element of boredom since he’s reached a point in his life where he has no true enemies worthy of his power and skill. What is driving him to goad Luke and then to choose to spare him at the last moment? He’s still stronger than his son at this point; Luke survived his time at Cloud City only because Vader let him go.
The Book ends with Luke realizing that his decision to cut his training short has cost him a hand, a friend and the discovery of a dark secret which will only serve to make his task ahead more difficult. He wisely chooses to complete his training with Yoda before facing Darth Vader another time. His hand will serve as a constant reminder of this decision.