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Star Wars. The original trilogy slammed into cinemas back in ‘77, becoming first a worldwide hit and then a cultural phenomenon, with universally known characters, lines, and even props. (looking at you, Millenium Falcon). The moment that Vader revealed that he was, in fact, the father, the series was cemented in the public consciousness as a classic. Many, many adaptations have been made for children and adults alike, from animated TV shows to spin-off films and book adaptations. Terry Brooks, a popular epic fantasy writer, penned one of these adaptations back in 1999. The adaptation of George Lucas’ screenplay for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, was an international bestseller, read and loved by teens even two decades later.
The book follows brash nine-year-old Anakin Skywalker, a slave on the planet Tatooine and a competitive pod-racer, as he meets Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi and aids them in the rescue of the planet Naboo from the grasp of the evil Sith Lord, Darth Sidious, and his army of droids. The Jedi Knights take interest in Anakin early in the book, as he has “an unusually high concentration of midi-chlorians”, making him more in tune with The Force, an entity that controls all of the events of their world. This entity is wielded both by the Jedi, the protectors of the galaxy, and the Sith, an order of defected Jedi who would seek to destroy the galaxy for their gain. Anakin, along with his friends: handmaiden Padme, Gungan Jar Jar Binks, Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi, and R2-D2, a droid, must fight for their freedom against these dangerous foes.
Terry Brooks’ excellent and distinctive writing style is evident in his adaptation of The Phantom Menace. His use and manipulation of the source material, George Lucas’ screenplay is exemplary. As a science fiction and fantasy writer, Terry Brooks is excellent at vividly describing the settings and components of the fantastical universes he takes us to. He is incredibly skilled at utilising literary devices in his work, and this is evident in The Phantom Menace. His vivid description of the various otherworldly settings experienced by Anakin and his friends allows the reader to immerse themselves in the book, making for an incredible reading experience.
Intertextuality is a major part of this book as it is the first of a trilogy of prequels to the Star Wars’ original trilogy. Many characters that appear in the book also appear in the original films, including Obi-Wan Kenobi, C3PO and Anakin himself (although in the original films he is very different from his nine-year-old self, be warned!). The original trilogy, according to George Lucas, was designed to be an “echo” of the original trilogy, in terms of themes as well as the plot. The vague nostalgia brought by the concept of a nine-year-old Darth Vader pod-racing is enough to touch the heart of any Star Wars fan, past or present.
In the author’s opinion, one of the best parts of the book was the pod-racing scene that opens the story. The significance of this scene is the fact that it was not adapted from the film. It is original to the book, but Brooks’ addition helps to give more insight into Anakin’s mind at the beginning of the film. Random throwaway lines (such as the fact that he has never finished a race) suddenly become clear with this addition. Overall, his book is an excellent execution of a book adaptation of Sci-Fi film. However, some would dismiss entirely the very idea of a screen-to-book adaptation being worth reading. Those people would likely find such an adaptation pointless. Some are completely uninterested in Sci-Fi as a genre, which is understandable, given the wide variety of other types of fiction.
Teenagers will likely be able to connect to this story because it is centered around Anakin growing up and leaving the only home he’s ever known, in search of greener pastures, more opportunities, and new adventures as Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Jedi apprentice. The imaginative writing, interesting characters, and immersive script mean that Star Wars: The Phantom Menace is perfect for teenagers.
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