Ever since The Force Awakens hit theaters a few weeks ago, theories have been flying about the new trilogy. People are lining up to see the film twice, three, or even four times looking for hints, Reddit and Tumblr threads grow by the day, and Youtube channel theories abound. Want a source of further insight that’s 100% canon? Check out the novelization of Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster. If you’ve seen the film, read the novel, and/or aren’t afraid of spoilers, let’s talk about some of the biggest reveals the novel offers that we didn’t see on screen. I’ve included some pages from the hardback novel for reference. SPOILERS AHEAD!
Kylo Ren is definitely dark side, and not a double agent.
Despite some interesting fan theories, Kylo Ren/Ben Solo is definitely dark side by the end of The Force Awakens and was never working as a double agent. The film actually makes this clear in Ren’s monologue where he addresses Darth Vader’s helmet. “Show me again the power of the darkness, and I will let nothing stand in our way” (p. 160). There is no one else around to hear him, so why would Ren ask his grandfather to show him the power of the dark side if he was really for the light?
The novel uses omniscient point of view, letting readers get inside the minds of most characters. With this insight, it is made even clearer that Ren wants to serve the dark side. Any lingering draw he felt toward the light was extinguished the moment he killed his father Han Solo:
Accepting without quite believing, Han stared back into the face of the creature that had been his son. There was nothing to see there. Only darkness in the shape of a face: alien, unthinking, unfeeling (p. 244).
Further evidence that Ren’s allegiance belongs to the dark side is the simple fact that he uprooted everything Luke had worked for by slaying all of the new Jedi and padawan (except for possibly one, but we’ll get to that in a bit). J.J. Abrams, director and producer of Episode VII, also stated in an interview with IGN that Ren admires the work of Darth Vader and seeks to fulfill it. Ren admires Darth Vader, the apprentice of Emperor Palpatine, not Anakin Skywalker, who defeated the Sith.
This, however, doesn’t mean Ren is beyond redemption. Like his grandfather, could he turn back to the light? It’s implied that Ren is not without remorse for his actions:
Stunned by his own action, Kylo Ren fell to his knees. Following through on the act ought to have made him stronger, a part of him believed. Instead, he found himself weakened (p. 245).
Despite his commitment to the dark side, it seems Ren is not entirely without compassion.
Ren has compassion for Rey.
One of the most interesting lines from the novel comes in an exchange between Ren and Supreme Leader Snoke. Snoke tells Ren that he has compassion for Rey. Ren denies this.
“Compassion? For an enemy of the Order?” (p. 207).
Why would Ren feel anything for a girl he does not seem to know? A girl, as he points out more than once, who is nothing more than a simple scavenger from Jakku. It is because in many ways, Ren and Rey are more alike than either would care to admit. When probing her mind, Ren sees how lonely Rey’s life has been. It is implied in the film, but even more so in the book, that Ren’s hatred toward his family stems from a sense of abandonment. He was too much trouble, too hard to control, so his parents sent him away to train with his uncle Luke, hoping the Jedi could suppress the monster that was Han and Leia’s son. Of course neither Han or Leia felt this way, but Snoke has led Ren to believe this. Ren knows Rey is strong in the Force and even offers to teach her. Snoke also tells Ren to bring the girl to him. Beyond a shared use of the Force, Ren also may feel compassion for Rey because…
Ren and Rey share a past.
When news first reaches Ren that the droid BB-8 has escaped with the help of a girl from Jakku, fury overwhelms Ren at the mere mention of Rey. She is disturbingly familiar to him, even though they have never, that we know of, met.
Kylo Ren’s voice took on a timbre lower and more menacing than any the lieutenant had ever heard.
“What–girl?” (p. 94)
There are a few explanations for this, all of which seem plausible and will make for a very interesting backstory that will hopefully be explored in Episode VIII.
- There is a prophecy about Rey.
Prophecy played a large role in the prequel trilogy labeling Anakin Skywalker as “the Chosen One” who would restore balance to the Force and overthrow the Sith. If there is a prophecy that a girl will rise to lead a new generation of Jedi, and/or to overthrow the dark side, Kylo Ren would be obviously disturbed by the announcement that a female held the piece of a map leading straight to the last Jedi master, Luke Skywalker.
2. Ren senses Rey’s presence.
It is also possible Ren has had visions of the future, as Jedi sometimes do, where he is overpowered by a girl strong in the Force. He may also simply sense that there is a powerful Force-sensitive out there, a girl of unknown origin, that threatens to overtake him as the heir of Darth Vader’s legacy. Rey’s ability to block out Ren and instead read his fears that he cannot live up to his grandfather’s name, confirm his fear of weakness.
3. Ren and Ray share a past. Specifically…
Rey was a padawan and Luke sealed her memories.
This is my favorite theory at the moment and one I feel is well supported by both book and film. In the film, we see only the physical struggle between Ren and Rey as they engage in a mental battle of wills. However, in the book, it is made much clearer that Ren at first has no difficulty reaching into Rey’s mind and taking whatever information his wants no matter how hard she tries to resist. It is only when he attempts to reach into a specific part of Rey’s mind that Ren is repelled.
Ah, he thought to himself. Something there, of interest. Not the image of the map. That would take another moment. But definitely something worth investigating. He shifted his perception toward it, seeking to identify, to analyze, to–
The barrier he encountered stopped him cold. And it was he, Kylo Ren, who blinked. It made no sense. He pushed, hard, with his mind– and the probe went nowhere (p. 200).
Just pages before, Rey was broken by the pain and intrusion of Ren’s mental invasion. She was powerless to stop him despite her strength, her rage, her sadness. So is it Rey that forces Ren out of her mind, or a seal placed by a master Jedi that prevents both Ren from looking in and Rey from remembering her past?
The book also makes it clearer than in the film that the island surrounded by an ocean that Ren sees in Rey’s mind is not a result of her seeing BB-8’s map. It is a place she dreamed of as a child on Jakku. It’s either that she had a vision of the future of the island where Luke is, or she’s been there before training with Luke, or simply that she shares an existing Force connection with Luke.
Her having training, but no active memory of it, also explains some of why Rey is so quick to be able to control the storm trooper that freed her and why she could go head-to-head with an injured Ren in a lightsaber battle.
Further proof that Rey may have some Force training comes from the visions she sees when she touches Luke’s lightsaber. Some say she is seeing Luke’s memories of when Kylo Ren killed all the new Jedi, that rainy night when he turned to the dark side. She clearly sees Kylo Ren standing in the rain over dozens of slain bodies. But is this Luke’s memory or her own?
I think it’s her own. Here’s why. The next vision that comes is that of Luke placing his hand on R2D2, and then the very next scene is that of Rey being left on Jakku as a child, implying a connection between the 3 events and that they may have happened soon after another. But who left her there?
Rey was left on Jakku by a family member.
In the book, some elements of the lightsaber vision are missing from those shown in the film, particularly Yoda and Obiwan’s words. However, one bit of dialogue is made clear in the book that is omitted from the film. Someone tells Rey, “I’ll come back for you, sweetheart. I promise.” It may well be that this is Rey’s mother. But could it be her father? Could Luke, knowing Rey was in danger from Ren, have sent her far away to spare her life? Could that be because Rey is his daughter?
More reasons Rey is likely a Skywalker.
There are several reasons Rey is likely Luke’s daughter, but I’ll stick to the strongest. The book confirms that Rey is 19, almost 20, years old which is the same exact age Luke was when he (also an abandoned teen on a desert planet) found a droid with information that changed his life.
Anakin/Luke’s lightsaber answers to Rey. No one else.
R2D2 sparks to life after years of dormancy only when Rey returns to the Resistance base.
Mark Hamill’s dialogue in an official trailer for Episode VII (the opening shot of which is Rey riding across the desert), which does not occur in the film, but may come into the sequel, may also be a conversation between himself and Rey. If so, why would he be telling her the Force is strong in his family and that “you have that power too” if she wasn’t part of the family?
As has been stated many times, Star Wars has always been a story about the Skywalkers. Why change that now?
But the biggest evidence exclusive to the novel comes from this passage in which Rey is saying goodbye to Leia before setting out to find Luke:
Standing at the foot of the ramp, an uncertain and uneasy Leia found herself fiddling with the seals on the front of the jacket Rey was wearing. Foolish nonsense, she told herself even as she continued. Unworthy of her status and position. But it felt so right, and so natural, to be doing so (p. 258).
Snoke has been after Ren for years, and Leia knew about it.
Perhaps the most important “bonus scene” from the book is an extra bit of dialogue between Leia and Han about their son. In it, Leia tells Han that she has kept a secret from him for too long. She has known since she was pregnant with Ben/Ren that Snoke would go after him because the Force would be strong with him. Snoke has always, she said, been there, manipulating their son from the shadows (p. 196). This means…
What are your thoughts on these theories?
Other minor insights:
Unless you’re a big shipper, these won’t mean much and are rather obvious, but the book does reveal that:
- Han and Leia are married.
The book confirms Leia and Han are husband and wife, they have simply been separated a number of years due to the anger and grief of losing their son to the dark side.
2. Finn and Rey are gonna be a thing.
Star Wars isn’t known for building subtle romances. And while this is only the first of 3 films and things could change, if it wasn’t obvious enough on screen, the book makes it abundantly clear the Finn has feelings for Rey and Rey feels the same beginnings of a potential romance. Sorry to all the Poe/Finn shippers out there, but there’s nothing in the book that strongly suggests any feelings other than friendship between the pair. There is a possibility, when read in a certain light, that Poe could have a thing for Finn, but Finn definitely does not at this point have eyes for anyone other than the Jakku scavenger. Two drawn-out moments of Rey and Finn simply staring at each other, one of which makes Han particularly uncomfortable, make the obvious even more so. Frankly, I’m glad the moments were removed from the film, as I prefer humorous romance-building (“Stop taking my hand!”) to the cheesiness of the prequels (don’t we all?). But given Rey’s future as a Jedi, and the uncertainty of attachment rules, there’s really no telling whether the two will end up together in the end.
A summary of my thoughts on the book can be found in my Goodreads review:
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The novelization of The Force Awakens is certainly a worthwhile read. Though it doesn’t offer any galaxy-shattering insights about fans’ biggest questions (particularly Rey’s parentage), the book does offer fans a few “deleted scenes” not included in the film. These extra tidbits and the ability to get inside the characters’ heads through the omniscient POV do rule out a few fan theories regarding certain characters’ motives and emotions. They also help us get to know our favorite new villains and heroes better.
As the novel is based on what I assume was an early run of the script, don’t be surprised if some lines or even some events don’t play out in the book the exact way they do on screen. In some instances, it’s clear the choices made for the big screen are better than those originally thought out by the writers of The Force Awakens, especially in the few instances characters decide to state the obvious, over-explain, or converse in ways that feel rather contrived. No one’s going to be giving philosophical speeches when running for their lives.
I’m a little surprised many Star Wars novelizations seem to be based on the primary versions of the scripts as that’s a little like publishing a book in its first draft. It’s still very good, but as with the bits of awkward dialogue and other issues, there were a few things that could have been ironed out that I’m honestly surprised the book’s editors didn’t catch or simply chose to ignore. For that, I can’t give the book 5 stars. But still a very enjoyable read.