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Review: How Star Wars Conquered the Universe December 4, 2014

Posted by sjroby in Book reviews, Movies.
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Review posted at Netgalley a while back in exchange for a free advance reading copy, but first, a comment about the new trailer. If you don’t know who John Boyega is, go watch Attack the Block. It’s better than any of the Star Wars prequel trilogy. And if you’re bitching about a black man in stormtrooper armor, you’re racist. It really is that simple. The troopers were clones during the Clone Wars, which is why they called them the Clone Wars. They weren’t clones during the good movies, set decades after the prequels, and there’s no reason why they should be several more decades later. Not to mention that we’ve seen Luke Skywalker and Han Solo in stormtrooper uniforms, and we don’t necessarily know that Boyega’s character is a stormtrooper any more than they were. And now for the book review.

It sometimes seems like pretty much everyone is a Star Wars fan, and virtually everyone is at least aware of it, as the book’s introduction demonstrates. But it’s also relatively easy to be a fan. You just soak it up through pop culture. Sure, there are hardcore fans and collectors, but I suspect this book will appeal most to people who’ve watched the movies a few times, maybe played the games or read the books or collected action figures, but never really looked into the story behind the story.

What you get here is a couple of books combined. There’s the history/biography that looks at how Lucas became a filmmaker and how he made the Star Wars films. Then there’s the chapters that look at some of the ways Star Wars has taken over pop culture and modern life, not unlike Jeff Greenwald’s 1998 book Future Perfect: How Star Trek Conquered Planet Earth. (Different franchise, similar idea.) The way the chapters are integrated isn’t always obvious; we get a few chapters from one of stream then suddenly we’re reading a chapter from the other, like jumping to a magazine sidebar.

Overall, though, it’s an enjoyable read and I expect a fair number of people I know will be interested in it. I’m not the best qualified to judge its factual accuracy because I’ve generally been a casual fan. Since the first movie was released, but still.

The writing is solid and readable, in a fairly casual, breezy style, with one odd choice. People are generally referred to by their last names (Lucas, Kasdan, Dykstra, etc). But Alan Ladd, Jr, whose nickname was apparently Laddie, is Laddie all through the book. Likewise Irwin Kershner, known to friends as Kersh, is usually referred to as Kersh throughout the book. It feels a bit *too* casual.

I have a few factual nitpicks, too. It’s Douglas Trumbull, not Trumball. Forbidden Planet is set on Altair IV, not Altaria. At one point, someone seems to me to be describing Stanley Weinbaum’s classic short story “A Martian Odyssey,” though Taylor doesn’t seem to recognize it. There are a few other errors of dating and whatnot here and there, but the stuff I’ve noticed is generally pretty trivial.

So, yeah, I expect this’ll get a lot of buzz and do pretty well. It’s Star Wars time again.

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