Return of the Jedi by Joan D. Vinge has two strikes against it before readers even crack the cover.
First, it’s a book based on an action-fantasy-adventure movie packed with special effects.
Second, it’s a sequel to two previous storybooks, The Star Wars Storybook and The Empire Strikes Back Storybook, both of which were based on action-fantasy-adventure movies packed with special effects.
The storybook doesn’t have any special effects.
When readers to the first page, Return strikes out.
Here’s a paragraph from page 1:
An Imperial Star Destroyer moved toward the monstrous superstructure of the half-finished Death Star. Darth Vader, the Dark Lord of the Sith, was on board the destroyer. He had come to check on the progress of construction at the battle station. He boarded a shuttle and flew toward the waiting Death Star.
Don’t those lines sound like something read aloud by a fifth grader in a special ed class?
Return of the Jedi does have some good points. It’s short—about 60 pages—and every page has one or more stills from movie.
Unfortunately, the photos have no captions, so they are meaningless to anyone who didn’t see the movie.
If you didn’t see the movie, get the DVD instead of reading its appalling storybook.
Making a movie version of a great book rarely turns out well. If E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, is anything to go by, turning a great movie into a book is a disaster.
Even people who didn’t see the movie know the general outline of the story: A being from outer space who comes to earth to gather botanical samples, misses the space ship trip home, and is befriended by an American kid, 10-year-old Elliott Thomas.
E.T. gets Elliott and the other two Thomas children, Gertie and Michael, to get him the additional parts he needs to build a transmitter from the Speak and Spell so he can contact his space ship and arrange to go home.
The entry of an UFO into American airspace hasn’t gone unnoticed.
All the resources of America’s government are on the trail of the extra-terrestrial.
They’re no match for the juvenile Dungeons & Dragons fans on bicycles who rush E.T. to the landing site just in time to catch his return flight.
The movie’s special effects made the silly story an entertaining fantasy suitable for children of all ages.
The book renders the story too ridiculous for any reader.
The 1954 bestseller list is about evenly divided between novels by big name authors of the mid-twentieth century and novels by authors who names scarcely warrant a Wikipedia entry.
I cannot present the list without throwing in some gee-wiz facts about one of the lesser-known novels on the list.
Mika Waltari wrote and published The Egyptian in Finnish in 1945. The novel became wildly popular and was translated into more than three dozen languages. An English translation by Naomi Walford of The Egyptian ranked first on the 1949 bestseller list in America. (I read the Walford translation.)
Hollywood took note.
In 1954, The Egyptian was made into a movie by the same title. Again, the novel soared to the bestseller list, this time, however, in fifth rather than first place.
You may recall that something similar happened with The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas. It made the bestseller list when it was first published in 1942, stayed there for a second year, and reappeared on the bestseller list a third time in 1953 when the movie version appeared.
Here is the list of the 1954 bestsellers. The date my review is scheduled to appear here is in square brackets.