Travis_J_Smith’s #CBR5 Review #132: William Shakespeare’s Star Wars by Ian Doescher

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In order to purchase Rainbow Rowell’s latest, I had to sell some old textbooks I had left sitting around from college. My plan, before one of those textbooks was deemed to be in “unacceptable condition” by Amazon, was to buy this and that together. Without that book, though, I didn’t receive enough credit for my trade-ins to afford separate shipping for each. I’ll just wait, I decided. They can ship together when Fangirl comes out in September. It seemed like an okay plan until I started growing impatient for both it and Fangirl. Amazon has always been notorious for being slow when it comes to notifying me, via text or email, when my order is either out for delivery or has been delivered. Whenever I’m out and get a text saying it’s out for delivery, I know that means it’s already long since arrived. This time, however, it was far worse, with the tracker itself getting in on the fun. One morning, it said it’d arrived at the carrier facility here at 7am, and I grew hopeful that it’d go out for delivery that same day. Nope. Tomorrow, then, I thought. I worked 8-4 and was checking the tracker constantly. No change. Naturally, I was irate. Does it seriously take two days to get it from the carrier facility in Butler to our house!? Is Amazon purposefully dragging this out so I don’t get it too long before the estimated delivery date? I would’ve gotten it two days before that if it’d gone out for delivery the same day it arrived in Butler. Yet, when I got home, there it was, and I didn’t receive the text/email notifying me of this until 8pm! Way to raise my blood pressure over nothing, Amazon, and whichever postal carrier was in charge of the tracking.

By the time I sat down to read William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, it’d been I believe at least a month since I initially placed the order. In other words, I had plenty of time to build my expectations up to unattainable heights. A contributing factor was my preference for Shakespeare adaptations. His plays as written do about nothing for me, minus Hamlet, but what they’ve inspired is something different altogether as I discussed in an earlier review, most likely the one for Eleanor & Park, since Eleanor herself rightly disses Romeo & Juliet. Put simply, Akira Kurosawa’s Ran good, William Shakespeare’sKing Lear, which it’s based upon, bad. That goes for Star Wars, as well. The movies are hit-or-miss in my eyes, but the parodies? Not as spot-on as some of the Twilight parodies I’ve seen not namedVampires Suck (which, you know, sucks), yet probably second best in terms of quality parodies inspired. Due to this, William Shakepeare’s Star Wars sounded like the perfect melding of the two to me. It doesn’t necessarily mock the film it’s rewriting in Shakespeare’s style, but it does greatly improve upon it, as I’ve always hated the writing in the series, original and prequel. I also couldn’t resist after seeing the book’s trailer, with actors saying Ian Doescher’s words out loud.

The costuming, the performances, everything are just ridiculously on point. Someone get the guys who did The Complete History of William Shakespeare (Abridged) together with Doescher and have them collaborate on a proper stage show because it sounds heaps better when spoken aloud than read, much like Shakespeare’s plays. They could add in an extra layer or two of good-spirited ribbing of Shakespeare and Star Wars alike. It would be some kind of wonderful. No, as much as I love Some Kind of Wonderful, better than that. It would be worth it for the costumes and sets alone. What even do they call that ruffly thing Vader’s rocking around his neck? My coworkers didn’t even know what I was talking about when I tried to explain this to them. Whatever it’s called, I’ll simply call it “perfect,” since that’s exactly what it is.

Conversely, William Shakespeare’s Star Wars is not. Doescher got many a respectful applause from my self – yes, I literally set the book down to applaud in a couple instances – for his clever Shakespeare nods, including the one seen in the trailer in which Luke mirrors the infamous skull-holding speech fromHamlet, except with a fallen Stormtrooper’s helmet. I also was fond of how he gave R2D2 a real voice beyond those beeps and boops, and made him a little fed up with C3PO’s shit. And he wrote the entire thing in iambic pentameter. Now that’s commitment to a bit. Despite my appreciation of this and more, he did thee and thou it up a little too much, which is to say he tried too hard to be Shakespearean at times, and his writing did read a little wonkily on occasion, though I do feel it would sound loads better read aloud. On top of that, he had to stay pretty close to his source material (Star Wars), which happens to be one of the films I’m not particularly fond of, and no amount of cleverness, short of outright parody, is going to make me change my mind on the story as a whole. Shakespeare’s Star Wars would, I think, have even more changes than Doescher made himself because, while I’m not overly fond of him, he’s a far better storyteller than any of the screenwriters Star Wars has used in the span of its six (soon to be 7+) films. Next up for Doescher is William Shakespeare’s The Empire Strikes Back, though, so I’m expecting a lot more from him with that. I don’t foresee him raising The Return of the Jedi (or The Phantom Menace, if he moves on to the prequels when he’s done) to any sort of respectability. If he does, though, the man will forever have my admiration.

For those less critical of the series than me, which is to say nearly everyone, and fans of Shakespeare, I shouldn’t need to tell you to read it because you probably went about acquiring it the moment you watched that trailer, much the same as I did, and then started wondering when exactly in 2014 the next two are due out. Whenever they are released, I’ll be adding them to my collection, reservations aside, if only for the fabulous covers and illustrations. These are books that will look great on my shelf and yours, and they combine two of humankind’s favorite things, so what are you waiting for?

Travis Smith’s blog, containing this review, as well as others, photography, and more, can be found here.

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