n.b. While the novelisations are considered canon and are thus worth considering, it’s important to note that they occupy a weird place in the canon because of when and how they are written. They are based on earlier iterations of the script/film, and that means that some of the ideas represented in a novelisation might not be reflective of the final canon. As Pablo Hidalgo puts it:
Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster
The official adult novelisation. This book was written based on an earlier draft of the script for The Force Awakens, and features some notable differences, particularly in key scenes such as Rey’s vision and the snow fight. Notable features include:
- Snoke elaborating with Kylo Ren (p. 90):
When next Snoke spoke there was an intimacy in his voice, a familiarity that stood in sharp contrast to the commanding tone he had used with Hux.
“I have never had a student with such promise—before you.”
Ren straightened. “It is your teachings that make me strong, Supreme Leader.”
Snoke demurred. “It is far more than that. It is where you are from. What you are made of. The dark side—and the light. The finest sculptor cannot fashion a masterpiece from poor materials. He must have something pure, something strong, something unbreakable, with which to work. I have—you.” He paused, reminiscing.
“Kylo Ren, 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. You know too well what did.”
Ren nodded once. “Sentiment.”
“Yes. Such a simple thing. Such a foolish error of judgment. A momentary lapse in an otherwise exemplary life. Had Lord Vader not succumbed to emotion at the crucial moment—had the father killed the son—the Empire would have prevailed. And there would be no threat of Skywalker’s return today.”
“I am immune to the light,” Ren assured him confidently. “By the grace of your training, I will not be seduced.”
“Your self-belief is commendable, Kylo Ren, but do not let it blind you. No one knows the limits of his own power until it has been tested to the utmost, as yours has not been. That day may yet come. There has been an awakening in the Force. Have you felt it?”
Ren nodded. “Yes.”
“The elements align, Kylo Ren. You alone are caught in the winds of the storm. Your bond is not just to Vader, but to Skywalker himself. Leia…”
“There is no need for concern.” Despite the Supreme Leader’s cautioning, Ren’s assurance remained unbounded. “Together we will destroy the Resistance—and the last Jedi.”
- A radically different portrayal of Rey’s vision (pp. 109-110):
Peering harder, farther, she saw in the distance a section of the famed Cloud City. Two figures were locked in combat, distant, distant. Someone, somewhere, somewhen, spoke her name.
“Hello?” Wreathed in the irrationality of the moment, she called hopefully, but received no answer.
A boy appeared at the end of the hallway. She started toward him, and the world turned inside out, causing her to trip and fall.
[Rey sees Kylo stabbing the man from behind, followed by the knights and Luke with R2]
Around her now: barren, snowy woods, the sounds of unknown forest creatures, and a conviction that she must be losing her mind. Once more she climbed to her feet, her chilled breath preceding her. From in front of her, not far away, came the sounds of battle: the cries of the wounded and the clashing of weapons. Then behind her, another voice.
“Stay here. I’ll come back for you.”
She whirled, glazed eyes desperately scanning the dark gaps between the slender trees, trying to penetrate the darkness.
“Where are you?” She started running toward the voice.
“I’ll come back, sweetheart. I promise.”
“I’m here! Right here! Where are you?”
No response. She started forward again, running, only to be brought to a sudden halt by a figure appearing without warning from behind a tree.
- An extended explanation of Snoke’s manipulation of the young Ben Solo (pp. 124-125):
He met her eyes steadily. “We’ve lost our son, forever.”
Leia bit her lower lip, refusing to concede. “No. It was Snoke.”
Han drew back slightly. “Snoke?”
She nodded. “He knew our child would be strong with the Force. That he was born with equal potential for good or evil.”
“You knew this from the beginning? Why didn’t you tell me?”
She sighed. “Many reasons. I was hoping that I was wrong, that it wasn’t true. I hoped I could sway him, turn him away from the dark side, without having to involve you.” A small smile appeared. “You had—you have—wonderful qualities, Han, but patience and understanding were never among them. I was afraid that your reactions would only drive him farther to the dark side. I thought I could shield him from Snoke’s influence and you from what was happening.” Her voice dropped. “It’s clear now that I was wrong. Whether your involvement would have made a difference, we’ll never know.”
He had trouble believing what he was hearing. “So Snoke was watching our son.”
“Always,” she told him. “From the shadows, in the beginning, even before I realized 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.”
- Kylo does not enjoy hurting Rey in her interrogation (p. 126):
“I know you’ve seen the map,” he repeated. “It’s what I need. At the moment, it is all that I need.”
When she maintained her silence, he almost sighed. “I can take whatever I want.”
Her muscles tightened. “Then you don’t need me to tell you anything.”
“True.” He rose, resigned. “I would have preferred to avoid this. Despite what you may believe, it gives me no pleasure. I will go as easily as possible—but I will take what I need.”
- Snoke accuses Kylo of having compassion for Rey, and wants to teach him a lesson (pp. 132-133):
The Supreme Leader’s voice was flat. “You have compassion for her.”
“No—never. Compassion? For an enemy of the Order?”
“I perceive the problem,” Snoke intoned. “It isn’t her strength that is making you fail. It’s your weakness.” The rebuke hurt, but Ren didn’t show it. “Where is the droid?”
Buoyed by the praise, Hux turned and strode quickly out of the hall. That left Snoke to fix his eyes on its sole remaining occupant.
“Kylo Ren. It appears that a reminder is in order. So I will show you the dark side. Bring the girl to me.”
- Kylo saying “it is you” to Rey during the snow fight (p. 158).
“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. But she had no time to ponder his comment, nor was she inclined to do so anyway; she was too consumed with rage.
- Rey hears a voice urging her to kill Kylo Ren (p. 160):
One downward cut, she saw. One quick, final strike, and she could kill him. The landing lights of a shuttle appeared in the distance, coming over the trees in her direction. She had to make a decision, now.
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.
Star Wars the Force Awakens Junior Novel by Michael Kogge
The official junior novelisation. Kogge seems to have been working from the same draft of the script as Foster, but his book generally features more emotive descriptions. Notable features include:
- Rey dreams of being left behind (p. 35) (n.b. this scene appears to be unique to the junior novelisation):
Stay here. I’ll come back for you, sweetheart. I promise.
‘Yes, I’m here, I’m here!’ Rey shouted. Her eyes popped open and she looked about the walker. BB-8’s dome lights glowed on low illumination. The doors were shut. Nothing in her home was out of place.
As always, there was no figure to the voice.
She’d been haunted by a dream. Or a nightmare. At this point in her life, she couldn’t decide what it was. All she knew was the voice came and went as it pleased, sometimes staying absent for months. But when she least expected it, the voice would return, never leaving her alone permanently. Never.
- Snoke elaborates with Kylo Ren (pp. 99-100):
Snoke’s voice assumed a fatherly tone. ‘I never had a student with such promise … before you.’
‘It’s your teachings that make me strong, Supreme Leader,’ Ren said.
‘It is far more than that. It is where you are from. What you are made of. The dark side,’ the Supreme Leader said, hesitating before saying the next words, ‘and the light.’
Ren felt the Supreme Leader’s eyes, incorporeal though they were, probing him. ‘Kylo Ren,’ he went on. ‘I watched the Galactic Empire rise and fall. The historians have it wrong. It was neither poor strategy nor arrogance that brought down the Empire. You know, too well, what did.’
Ren spit [sic] out the answer as if it were poison. ‘Sentiment.’
‘Yes. Sentiment,’ the Supreme Leader said. ‘Had Lord Vader not succumbed to emotion at that critical moment – had the father killed the son – there would be no threat of Skywalker’s return today.’
Ren understood that the Supreme Leader had brought up Vader to test him. ‘I am immune to the light,’ Ren said, standing tall and firm.
‘There has been an awakening in the Force. Have you felt it?’
‘Yes,’ Ren said.
‘The elements align, Kylo Ren. You alone are caught in the winds of a powerful storm. Your bond is not just to Vader, but to Skywalker himself. Leia-‘
‘There is no need for concern. Together we will destroy the Resistance,’ Ren assured his master, ‘and the last Jedi.’
- A different vision (pp. 116-117):
The door she had entered had been replaced by a dark hallway. At the end, two silhouettes – one in a helmet and cloak, the other a young man seemingly not much older than her – dueled each other with laser blades. One red, the other blue. Lightsabers.
She searched to see who had spoken her name. ‘Hello?’ No one responded. Not even BB-8. Where had he gone?
At the end of the hallway, a strange boy stared at her.
[The book describes the scene in the rain, followed by Rey seeing Luke with R2]
In the blink of an eye, she was kneeling in a forest. Snow blanketed the ground and the limbs of trees. She’d never seen real snow before. Only sand.
She stood, shivering. Deep in the forest she heard the sounds of war. The ping of blasters. The sizzle of lightsabers. Death.
Someone spoke behind her. Calm, kind and eerily familiar. ‘Stay here. I’ll come back for you.’
She peered into the darkness between the trees. ‘Where are you?’
‘I’ll come back sweetheart. I promise.’
Rey did not want the owner of the voice to come back. She wanted the speaker to stay. ‘I’m here! Right here! Where are you?’
As in her dreams, she heard no reply. She continued to dash through the forest, not giving up in her search.
- Snoke accuses Kylo Ren of having compassion for Rey, and implies that he will use her to teach Kylo a lesson (p. 140):
‘You have compassion for her.’
‘Compassion? For an enemy of the Order? No, never,’ Ren insisted.
‘It isn’t her strength that is making you fail. It’s your weakness.’
Hux saluted and marched out of the command room.
‘Kylo Ren,’ the Supreme Leader said, ‘it appears that a reminder is in order. I must show you the power of the dark side. Bring the girl to me.’
- Han forgives his son for his own murder (p. 167):
Han forgave his son for what he had done. He prayed someday his son would forgive him in turn.
- Leia promises that Rey won’t share Ben’s fate (pp. 183-184) (n.b. identical dialogue can be found in the adult novelisation):
Leia waited near the boarding ramp. She adjusted the fit of the new flight jacket Rey wore: ‘I’m proud of what you’re about to do.’
Rey looked into Leia’s eyes and saw more than pride. ‘But you’re also afraid. In sending me away, you’re … reminded.’
Leia let go of the girl’s jacket. ‘You won’t share the fate of our son.’