Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
That’s right people, you read the headline correctly, the genius and poetic beauty of Shakespeare and his iambic pentameter has found its way into a galaxy far, far away, and not a single Jawa or droid has been overlooked, resulting in this fabulous, albeit awfully familiar, book.
William Shakespeare’s Star Wars is the latest mash-up offering from the independent publishing company aptly named Quirk Books, and is the creation of mega Star Wars and Shakespeare fan, Ian Doescher. Quirk is a company that has been around for some time, and if you are like me, part pop culture fanboy, part literary book-worm, then there is no doubt that you have come across a book or two from Quirk. If you have never heard of Quirk Books then shame on you, because if you love anything to do with sci-fi, zombies, steam-punk or any other fanboy troupes, then Quirk is certainly something you should check out, and Shakespeare’s Star Wars is certainly a book every Star Wars fan should at least take a look at. Some of Quirk’s more famous works include the best-selling and rather famous Pride, Prejudice and Zombies, as well as Sense, Sensibility and Sea Monsters, and The Last Policeman.
As you can see from two of the books I have mentioned from Quirk they have a history of taking classic, and quite serious literature, and putting a unique, fun and rather accessible spin on them, such as adding zombies, monsters or in their latest offering a Wookiee.
The first thing I must say about this book is that from an aesthetic point of view, you can tell a lot of love and effort has gone into the creation of it; from the sublime artwork on the book jacket, to the design and look of the actual book underneath, which is made to look like a long-lost Shakespeare play, old and worn away. The great artwork on the front of the jacket depicts legendary Lucas creations such as Darth Vadar, Luke and Leia, but in a Shakespearean style and clothing from the era. This type of imagery is frequently included throughout the book, and the woodcut style of each picture, as can be seen below, which were drawn by Nicolas Delort, are so beautifully drawn that I hope they will one day be released as artwork.
The artwork is not the only aspect of the book were you can tell a lot of love, effort and attention has gone into its creation. As previously mentioned, Doescher is clearly a massive fan of both Star Wars and Shakespeare, as not only has he gone through every line of A New Hope and has somehow managed to translate it all into iambic pentameter, as well as making modern English phrases sound more archaic (and believe me, as an English graduate who studied Shakespeare, that’s pretty damn impressive), but there is also not one aspect from A New Hope that Doescher does not put emphasis on. The inclusion of Luke and Leia kissing, as well as how weird that is once we find out they are brother and sister, as well as fanboys’ favourite discussion of Han shooting first, not Greedo, are all playfully included within the book.
If, like me, you are familiar with the works of Shakespeare, then no doubt you’ll find this book more rewarding than if you hate Shakespeare, as the greatest parts of the book are when Doescher manages to take legendary lines and soliloquies from some of Shakespeare’s most iconic plays. Moments such as Hamlet holding Yorick’s skull, Mark Anthony’s ‘Friends, countrymen, Romans’ speech and King Henry V’s battle cry of, ‘Once more unto the breach dear friends’, are taken and injected with Star Wars iconography and mythology. The results are Luke holding a Storm Trooper’s helmet instead of a skull, ‘Friends, countrymen, Romans’ being altered to, ‘Friends, rebels, starfighters’, and ‘Once more unto the breach’, altered to, ‘Once more unto the trench,’ in Luke and the rebels’ final attack upon the Death Star.
The biggest flaw of the book is that if you are not a fan or familiar with Shakespeare then you will not get much out of it. Aside from Doescher exploring characters’ emotions and psyche a bit more in depth, such as Vadar giving soliloquies in which he reveals subtle aspects of guilt for all the acts of murder and evil he has committed, as well as Obi Wan actually voicing his reasoning for allowing himself to die, rather than Lucas making us guess and R2-D2 revealing he is not just a foolish droid that beeps, but instead is masterminding the entire plot, the book is basically an exact retelling of Episode IV. This means that at times the book can be quite hard to get through, as although it is quite short, if you have seen Episode IV the amount of times a regular Star Wars fan has, i.e. a lot, the book can be quite boring. This isn’t Doescher’s fault, as the guy has done a great job with the book, I just feel this book would have had more of an impact if it was published two decades ago, rather than now, when the plot line and characters of Star Wars, especially A New Hope, have been watched and parodied so much that every aspect of the film has been ingrained within western culture, so much so that at times this book feels redundant and just not needed.
However, arguably one of the best aspects of the creation of this book is that hopefully theatrical production companies may actually one day stage this play, as even the complexity of the space dogfights between the Millennium Falcon and Tie-fighters, as well as the attack on the Death Star, can be solved via models on sticks, as is shown in the book. Therefore there is absolutely no reason why this book can’t live on through theatrical adaptations.
Overall the satisfaction a reader would get from this book truly depends on how familiar they are with the two materials that have been mashed-up. If you love Star Wars to death, but hate Shakespeare, this probably isn’t the book for you. If you love, or at least have appreciation for both sources of material then there is no doubt you will find fun and enjoyment within this book. I just hope that both Episode V and VI get the same treatment soon.
William Shakespeare’s Star Wars is available now.
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