Star Wars: The Force Awakens had a whole lot to do in its perfectly respectable runtime of 2 hours and 15 minutes, so there were more than a few questions left unanswered. Now, the internet is scouring the novelization of the movie by Alan Dean Foster for hints and explanations that were left out of or cut from the film, and they fill in a ton of noteworthy blanks.
Spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens follow!
What is the relationship between the New Republic, the Resistance, and the First Order?
I loved The Force Awakens, but I did wish they had explained the state of the galaxy a little bit better, as the politics of the new trilogy are quite interesting. The New Republic is a highly bureaucratic, fairly ineffectual government which draws some parallels to the U.N. It has trouble maintaining control, especially since much of the galaxy didn't feel oppressed by the Empire. As a result, they fail to take adequate action when the fringe First Order arises, leading to the formation of the Resistance. The Republic supports the Resistance off the books, but denounces them in public, meaning that General Leia Organa is persona non grata and there's a chance her life is in danger much of the time.
Snoke is no Darth Sidious
In the movie, it was unclear who Supreme Leader Snoke was in relation to the other characters. Does anyone outside of the First Order even know that he exists? The answer is yes, according to an in-depth review by StarWarsNewsNet
, he is hiding in plain sight.
Snoke seems to be a well-known figure at this point in the Star Wars universe. There is no Darth Sidious, pulling-the-strings in the shadows. Leia knows who he is. Han knows who he is. It sounds like he has been around the galaxy for a very long time, and that he took an interest in Ben Solo at a very young age. Leia speaks about trying to protect her son from Snoke's influence and being haunted by her failure to do so.
Why did Han and Leia's relationship fall apart?
Han and Leia obliquely allude to their relationship in the movie, which seems to have gone downhill when their son went over to the Dark Side and killed his uncle's students. But according to the novel, there was another wrinkle to the Ben Solo tragedy:
There is an interesting exchange between Ben Solo's parents that is present only in the book, and not one that I remember from the film. Leia confides in Han that she never told him their son had the potential to walk down the dark path. Han says he wishes she would have told him.
Does this mean that Leia never told Han that Darth Vader was Ben's grandfather? Apparently, Leia thought it was solely her responsibility to protect her son, as the Force-sensitive parent, and the revelation of her foreknowledge exposed trust issues and cracks in the Han and Leia relationship.
Kylo Ren's motivations
There are some signs that Kylo Ren is not a purely evil figure, mostly as a result of Adam Driver's layered and multidimensional acting, but in the novel, the character is more conflicted than he appeared in the film:
Kylo Ren is also presented as much more conflicted throughout the story about most every decision he makes. Kylo seems to mirror his grandfather, not so much the grandfather of the scorched Vader mask, but the insecure and desperate for control Anakin Skywalker of the prequels... We see Ren hesitate many times, specifically when he is initially presented with the chance to eliminate Rey on Jakku via the Finalizer's search party, but it is ultimately Hux that carries out those orders.
Kylo Ren wants to fix Darth Vader's mistakes
In the following passage from the novel, it is revealed that Kylo Ren dismisses Vader's heroic turn as "sentiment," and sees it as the one huge mistake of an otherwise great man:
"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."
Why doesn't Snoke want Luke to be found?
Where Kylo Ren is keen on finding Luke Skywalker, for reasons that are likely both professional and personal, Snoke seems like he would rather the Jedi weren't found, and, in the novel, even seems to be afraid of him.
"One thing is much clearer in the book than the film: Snoke is afraid of Luke Skywalker. In his final conversation with Kylo Ren, before Rey escapes, Snoke is prepared to destroy an entire system so no one finds where Luke is, himself included. Destroying the Resistance is Hux's motivation, but he is practical, seeing that the system has vital resources the First Order could use. Snoke will have none of it. Destroy the system so that no one can ever find Luke Skywalker. It may appear bold and sadistic in the film, but in the novel, it reads as desperate. Snoke constantly speaks to either destroying Luke via Kylo Ren or the First Order's military, or making sure Luke stays where he is."
Who are Rey's parents?
This is the big question, isn't it? It's heavily implied in the film that she's a Skywalker, and probably Luke's daughter, but it's made even clearer in the book. For example, the Force flashback is significantly altered, and shows Rey witnessing Kylo Ren killing Luke's students right before she is abandoned on Jakku.
One thing that surprised me was the book's lack of detail in her Force flashback. The scene mentions nothing about hearing the child-Rey crying out for her family. Instead she appears in Cloud City, watching two familiar figures duel, she sees a boy, and as soon as she moves toward him she sees the Jedi-carnage surrounding the Knights of Ren. Rey actually witnesses Kylo Ren kill a Jedi before she is transported to the snow-covered forest, then hears a familiar voice. The only indication it's familiar is because Foster italicizes the word "that", as in "that voice". All the voice says to her is: "I'll come back, sweetheart. I promise." Rey does not mention the disturbing childhood recollection we see on Jakku, where she screamed hysterically at a departing starship. This may be another example of a scene the filmmakers changed at the last minute in the editing room, leaving it for future films in the trilogy to answer.
Kylo Ren knows Rey's identity
Kylo Ren seems to sense some kind of kinship with Rey, particularly when he tells her that Han Solo will "only disappoint her." But in the novel, it's made even more explicit that he knows she is a Skywalker.
First, during the lightsaber fight, Kylo has a line of dialogue that was ultimately cut from the movie that implies he knows Rey's parentage:
Kylo Ren calls Luke's lightsaber to him and it flies right past him and into Rey's hands. In the novelization, Kylo says to himself, "It is you".
Snoke also has a line at the end of the novel that is different from his last line in the film, and implies that Kylo has a secret about Rey:
The last line we hear Snoke say in the TFA film in regards to Kylo Ren is "It is time to complete his training". In the novel, after he orders Hux to leave Starkiller Base, retrieve Kylo Ren, and come to him, Snoke says, "It appears that he may have been right about the girl."