William Shakespeare’s Star Wars trilogy (Verily, a New Hope; The Empire Striketh Back; and The Jedi Doth Return)
by Ian Doescher
(Jedi only) narrated by Ian Doescher, Daniel Davis, Jonathan Davis, January LaVoy, & Marc Thompson
(science fantasy, parody, play)
Wow. Just wow. I thought I’d enjoy this trilogy, but I really decided to read them only to see what the author did with them. I thought it would be an amusing way to pass some time. Indeed, toward the beginning of book one, I wondered if I would be able to finish the trilogy because it took me a while to get into it. By the end of the third, however, I loved the whole set.
Let me start with the premise: if you’re not sure what this book trilogy is, it is what could have happened if William Shakespeare had written the (original) Star Wars trilogy. Granted, it’s not period-authentic. There was no concept of light sabers in Shakespeare’s time, nor epic space battles, nor blasters. No one had invented an AT-AT. Also, I don’t think haiku had made its way to England – or if it had, it certainly wasn’t a poetic form that Shakespeare had employed – yet it is present in this parody trilogy.
If you are a Star Wars fan, you will likely be amused by this. If you are a Shakespeare fan, you might enjoy this as well. If you are a fan of both, then you need to pick this up and give it a try. Granted, I don’t think this trilogy is for everyone, but I think that fans should at least look at it. (Even better would be to listen to it on audio book, but more on that later.) If you are a fan of neither, you might enjoy this as an academic experience, but could probably give it a pass without missing anything. This trilogy was made by a fan, for the fans, and as such it shines.
For me, it started slow. I did enjoy the way the book opened, with the iconic scrolling titles turning into lines for the chorus. But the action at the beginning of the play was a bit slower than the rest – which is true to the source material, but was harder for me to get into than the movie, probably because I have seen the movie countless times already. (Again, the audio version would have helped here.) Once the play got truly started, though, I enjoyed it a lot. Other than the slow start, I think my biggest complaint is that now I find myself thinking in Shakespearian English, and have to keep directing my thoughts back to modern English when speaking to others or writing work emails.
I got the first two books from my library, because I wasn’t sure that I’d like a parody version of Star Wars. However, it’s not really what I normally think of as a parody. It has been described as such, and so I expected the same type of parody treatment I have seen in other books (most notably Bored of the Rings.) However, it’s nothing like that, and I enjoyed it all the more as a result. It is more an adaptation (albeit stylized) than a parody.
I listened to the Audible version of the third book, and wish now that I’d listened to the first two in the trilogy instead of reading them myself. They are SO MUCH BETTER when performed. (I’d stayed away from the first two audio books because I generally dislike audio books with multiple narrators. However, for a play, it just makes sense to listen to it this way.) It is also great that Lucasfilm was involved with producing the audio books, and so the voices used for the characters feel right, and the music playing in the background is the real movie music. I think I will go back and pick up the other two audio books in this series at some point for the full experience. The only thing you miss in the audio version is getting to look at the illustrations scattered throughout the book.
So to summarize: if you are a fan, you need to at least try this trilogy. (Tastes vary, and you might not enjoy it as much as I did, but it’s worth the attempt.) And if you can, get the audio version. This is a play, after all, and as such it is meant to be performed. (Could you imagine a staged version? Oh, that would be fun to be a part of!)
Rating: 5 stars (series average)