Sunday, December 29, 2013

By my troth! A tour de force.

Shakespeare's Star Wars with Death Star tea infuser. Photo by Alli.

 This is a book that sounds like it should be horribly bad and, fortunately, isn't. Ian Doescher did an amazing job of pulling Star Wars into Shakespeare and vice versa. The language is mostly spot on for both pools of source material, though there are some concessions made for modern readers and older verb forms are mostly abandoned, and periodically a great line from the film will suffer for the sake of meter.

I'm going to assume that everyone reading this is at least somewhat familiar with both Shakespeare and Star Wars. This is a book that smashes A New Hope into Hamlet with a healthy helping of Much Ado About Nothing and Richard III. It giggles while it does so and drags you along, laughing, for the ride. Lucas has admitted that most of Star Wars is archetypal, but that won't make sense to young readers until you see how many of those archetypes litter the story and are wonderfully highlighted by Doescher's delightful verse.

C3PO and R2 are not only the pompous scholar and they wise fool, they're also the classic bickering couple (as are Han and Leia). Luke is a perfect young hero, orphaned twice and then losing his old mentor character in Obi Wan. Vader is brilliantly made out as a tortured torturer, and the storm troopers are the perfect comedy foil, sharing elements with Shakespeare's gravediggers, incompetent murderers, and drunken uncles.

There's not much to be said for the story - it's the story that you already know - but there's a lot to be said for the insight that Doescher gives to the characters; it seems like every character gets at least one soliloquy that reaches beyond A New Hope and into the deeper well of the Star Wars universe. If you haven't seen the films (seriously, who the hell are you? everyone has seen these movies) this book would give you a more complete picture of each character than the first film does. Some of the book feels a little slap-dash, but that's only to be expected when you're reading a space battle written for the stage.

My dad got this book for me (along with the Death Star tea infuser my sister gave me) for Christmas, and I have to say it's a perfect gift for a Star Wars/Shakespeare geek - if you happen to have a lit nerd in your life who was also raised on SciFi, or if you happen to be one of those yourself, this book is completely worth reading. Also, please go buy it because it is Doescher's first book and I really want to encourage him to do the rest of the series and to write other things, because this guy really gets it - here's hoping he makes it as an author and gives us lots to read for the rest of his hopefully very long and productive live.

Doescher, Ian. William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope. Quirk Books.
     Philadelphia: Pennsylvania. 2013.

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