Star Wars: The Force Awakens: 16 questions the novel answers, like how Poe gets off Jakku and how Rey quickly becomes so powerful

The adaptation was written by Alan Dean Foster

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The Independent Culture

Star Wars: The Force Awakens may have been a massive hit with critics and the public alike, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t have some glaring plot holes. 

Luckily, the novelisation of the film answers a fair few questions, including: what happened to Poe on Jakku? How did Rey become so powerful so quickly? And why was Captain Phasma such a push over?

First, a little about the author. Alan Dean Foster actually ghost-wrote the novel for the original Star Wars, that book being released the year before the actual film hit cinemas in an attempt to build excitement. 

He was also responsible for writing the first Star Wars Expanded Universe novel, Splinter of the Mind's Eye, set in-between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.

Foster’s novelisation of Episode VII didn't just take inspiration from the final film. He was given access to a version of the script that included extra scenes and dialogue, as well as being able to talk with LucasFilm about background details.

So, here’s everything extra we’ve learnt about The Force Awakens from the novel (H/T Mashable and HitFlix).

1. What happened to the Resistance after Return of the Jedi?

Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Trailer

According to Leia’s thoughts, the Resistance won the overall battle against the Empire and formed a new Republic. However, there was a rebellion within, and many members of the public wanted to follow orders rather than be under a democracy.

The First Order came out of this, offering to return stability to the universe. In one part, Kylo Ren explains to an underling just what this new legion aims to do: “It is the task of the First Order to remove the disorder from our own existence, so that civilisation may be returned to the stability that promotes progress. 

“A stability that existed under the Empire, was reduced to anarchy by the Rebellion, was inherited in turn by the so-called Republic, and will be restored by us. Future historians will look upon this as the time when a strong hand brought the rule of law back to civilisation.”

2. Does everyone in the galaxy think Luke Skywalker is a myth?

When Rey meets Finn and says she thought Skywalker was a myth, Finn is actually surprised. Apparently he knew Jakku was a small planet but didn’t realise it was quite that out-of-the-loop.

3. Why were Han and Chewbacca shipping Rathtars?


Han gives a brief explanation to Finn as to why he’s got a bunch of deadly aliens aboard a huge ship: “I got three going to King Prana. Kings not only like to collect, they like to boast about their collections. Seems Prana’s in competition with the regent of the Mol’leaj system. The regent doesn’t have a rathtar in his private zoo. Neither does anybody else.”

4. Did that fat alien - Unkar Plutt - really do nothing about the Falcom being stolen?

Nope, he actually followed the gang to Maz Kanata’s cantina, only to have his arms ripped off by Chewbacca!


5. Was the Starkiller Base a sun or a planet?

In the movie, it is not clear whether the new Death Star was built on a planet, or if it was built around a sun. In the novel it is very clear: “The planet had been altered: its mountains tunnelled into, its glaciers hacked, and its valleys modified until it no longer resembled its original naturally eroded form. Those who had remade it had renamed it.”

6. Why didn't the Resistance know very much about the Starkiller Base?

Touched upon many times in the book, it is revealed that the resistance had no idea about the Starkiler Base until it finally shot at the Republic. Supreme Leader Snoke only used the weapon to flush out the Resistance fighters.

7. How long has Supreme Leader Snoke been about?

Emperor Snoke in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

There’s a lot of speculation as to who Snoke really is, but the book offers yet more hints. In a conversation with Kylo Ren, the Supreme Leader reveals he goes back before the prequels: “I watched the Galactic Empire rise, and then fall. The gullible prattle on about the triumph of truth and justice, of individualism and free will. 

“As if such things were solid and real instead of simple subjective judgments. The historians have it all wrong. It was neither poor strategy nor arrogance that brought down the Empire.”

In that same conversation, Snoke blames the fall of the Empire on Darth Vader’s emotions towards his son, something that should never have happened. 

8. How long has Snoke been working on turning Kylo Ren to the Dark side?

Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) with Stormtroopers in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Ever since he was a child, Snoke was working his evil ways on Ren. In one segment, Leia says to Han: “He knew our child would be strong with the Force. That he was born with equal potential for good or evil… From the shadows, in the beginning, even before I realised what was happening, he was manipulating everything, pulling our son toward the dark side. 

“But nothing’s impossible, Han. Not even now, at this late time. I have this feeling that if anyone can save him— it’s you.”

9. When was the last time Han and Kylo Ren met?

Han Solo talking to Finn in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Han hadn’t actually seen his son since he ‘became a man’, presumably between 15 and 20 years ago then: “Reaching up, he slowly removed the mask. For the first time Han saw the face of his son as a grown man — and it jolted him.”

10. What happened to Poe on Jakku?

So… There’s a pretty big stretch between Poe seemingly being dead and Poe racing to Finn’s rescue in an X-Wing. So how did he survive that crash and get off Jakku? Apparently, he was helped by some locals in a very uneventful side-story. 

“Flat in front and bulging at the stern, the speeder was an unlovely construct, but to Poe at that moment it had lines as sweet as those of the fastest fighter in the Resistance fleet. Standing in the middle of the salt flat, he began jumping up and down and waving his arms.”

He eventually meets a Blarina alien called Naka, who helps him get off the planet and back to the Resistance. 

11. Are Han and Leia married?


Yes. While not clear in the film, on their initial meeting, Foster describes how "husband and wife stood regarding each other for the first time in years.”

There’s also this very touching moment between the two, just as Han leaves for the last time: He put his hands on her shoulders, and thirty years fell away in an instant.

‘Leia, there’s something I’ve been wanting to say to you for a long time.’

Fighting to hold back tears, she put a finger to his lips. ‘Tell me when you get back.’

12. Why did Captain Phasma give up the Base's shield so easily?

Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

She was meant to be the Boba Fett of the sequels, but it seems like it was not meant to be (especially when she’s got competition from the likes of TR-8R). One of the main reasons for this is because Phasma seems to give up the Starkiller Base within seconds. 

It turns out that she actually needed a little more persuasion than just Finn pointing a gun at her, with Chewie pretty much torturing her by squeezing her head: She managed a slight shake of her head. “Even a Wookiee can’t crush First Order armor.” In response, Chewbacca tightened his grip further. Her mask emitted a slight but perceptible wheeze.

“Well,” Han said nonchalantly, “there’s one way to find out.”

13. Does Kylo Ren know who Rey is?


In the film it is implied Ren knows a lot more about Rey than the audience, almost strangling an underling for mentioning 'a girl' being with BB-8. In the book, he gives away more: “Rey appeared equally shocked that her reach for the device had exceeded his. She gazed down at the weapon now resting in her grip.

“It is you,” Ren murmured.

His words unsettled her: Not for the first time, he seemed to know more about her than she did about herself.”

There’s also the revelation that Rey was tempted by the Dark side in their final battle: "Kill him," a voice inside her head said. It was amorphous, unidentifiable, raw. Pure vengeful emotion. So easy, she told herself. So quick.

She recoiled from it. From the dark side.”

14. Why did Rey become so powerful so quickly?


One of the fantastic things about the novel is that we get the internal details that could never have made it to film. When Ren uses the Force to unlock her mind, he seems to accidentally also unlock her Force potential, breaking some sort of barrier within her mind. 

This sounds particularly like Rey’s mind may have been altered by another Jedi to forget her pre-Jakku life…

15. Did Finn survive?


Yes! "When Dr. Kalonia finally emerged from the intensive care section, Rey nearly fainted at seeing the smile on her face. The physician’s words confirmed Rey’s hope. “Your friend’s going to be just fine.”

“Thank you.” It was all Rey could think of to say.

Kalonia looked down at her. “I don’t get to treat many lightsaber wounds. It’s such an old weapon. People today prefer to fight with rifles and blasters, from long range.” She shrugged. “I suppose it doesn’t matter. Death is death, no matter the mechanism that is employed to beget it.”

Her smile returned. “But not for your friend. Not this time.”

16. Anything else about the ending we can learn?


In the already leaked film script, it was revealed how Luke knew exactly who Rey was. In the novel, not much else is given away...

"Whether motivated by her stare or by something unknown, the figure finally turned toward her and pulled back his hood.

Luke Skywalker.

His hair and beard were white, and his countenance was haunted. He did not speak, nor did she.

Remembering, Rey reached into her pack and removed his lightsaber. Taking several steps forward, she held it out to him. An offer. A plea. The galaxy’s only hope.

She wondered what would happen next."