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The Saga began with this one....
on 12 November 2003
In late 1976, Ballantine Books published the first edition of Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker, a novel by George Lucas. Adorned only with conceptual art by Ralph McQuarrie, it did not set the literary world on fire. As it turned out, however, the "major motion picture" it was heralding on its cover blurb became one of the biggest box office hits, and Star Wars went on to become a huge part of our culture.
Although it really wasn't George Lucas who wrote this first published tie-in to what would later be called Episode IV: A New Hope, the novel reflects the director's vision. Author Alan Dean Foster, who had adapted the scripts of the Star Trek animated series into the Star Trek Logs books, took Lucas' fourth revised draft and wrote a masterful adaptation that truly captures the spirit of the movie's characters and situations.
Star Wars begins with a short prologue that, with a few "special modifications" in the text, is really the outline for the current Prequel Trilogy. In the form of an excerpt from "the first saga -- Journal of the Whills," we are told that the once-powerful Galactic Republic, protected by the Jedi Knights, "throve and grew. But as often happens when wealth and power pass the admirable and attain the awesome, then appear those evil ones who have greed to match." Insidiously, like a house under attack by termites, the Republic rotted from within until "[a]ided and abetted by restless, power-hungry individuals within the government, and the massive organs of commerce, the ambitious Senator Palpatine caused himself to be elected President of the Republic....Once secure in office he declared himself Emperor...."
The novel then segues directly into the famous opening scene of Star Wars: an Imperial Star Destroyer (called here an Imperial cruiser) chases Princess Leia's Rebel Blockade Runner and captures it over the desert planet of Tatooine. After a brief battle, Imperial stormtroopers take over the ship, and Leia is taken before Lord Darth Vader, who wants to know what she did with secret data "transmitted by Rebel spies."
Leia, of course, has wisely hidden the data -- the plans of the Empire's ultimate superweapon, the Death Star -- into the memory banks of Artoo Detoo, an astromech droid. Artoo and his loyal but easily rattled counterpart, See-Threepio, have managed to flee aboard a tiny escape pod down to the hostile wastes of Tatooine. They are "found" by jawas, a race of small desert scavengers, then sold to a moisture farmer named Owen Lars and his nephew Luke Skywalker....and when Luke stumbles on a fragment of a message for someone named "Obi-Wan Kenobi," well, things really get interesting.
Foster's novelization is very faithful to its screenplay source, and even the "added" material (Luke's first appearance in the novel as he repairs a vaporator, or scenes with Biggs and his friends at Tosche Station) comes from Lucas' fourth revised draft (available in Carol Titleman's The Art of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope). Most of the "deleted scenes" later appeared in Brian Daley's Star Wars: The Radio Drama), and the encounter between Han Solo and Jabba the Hutt (spelled Hut in this novel) was restored and tweaked with CGI in the 1997 Special Edition re-release. Of the three Classic Trilogy novels, this is the best-written. Foster's style is crisp yet elegant, and it does not read like it's a screenplay adaptation.
The original 1976 hardcover edition (which I own thanks to the kindness of my best friend Rogers) includes 16 pages of promotional pictures and character profiles of the major roles. It's been since reissued several times, either singly or as part of omnibus collections in both paperback and hardcover, with different variants of cover art.