William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: The Empire Striketh Back—and So Does Doescher
Review by Ben Jenkins
Ian Doescher’s second foray into the William Shakespeare’s Star Wars series brings the reader back to the mash-up world of blank verse, blasters, and bards. If you haven’t read Doescher’s first rendition in the series, Verily A New Hope, you must check it out, but chances are you know the story line, so if you happen to pick up The Empire Striketh Back first, you won’t be lost.
The story within The Empire Striketh Back follows the same plot line we fans have all grown to love. The brilliance behind Doescher’s book is that through the medium of a Shakespearean play we get to see elements of the story we might not normally see from a movie. Doescher’s version of the story is told through dialogue, which means we get to hear more emotion and internal thoughts from characters that might normally just whiz by us on screen.
Doescher again gives the reader the voice of R2D2 in this book, as he talks mainly in asides to the audience. “For though I speak aloud in beeps and squeaks,/ within my mind a keener tongue prevails.” R2D2 has been a mute character throughout the Star Wars universe except for a few beeps and whistles, so it is interesting to hear his personality come through in an actual voice.
Other characters, such as the Wampa on the planet Hoth, and the Exogorth space slug on the asteroid, even get a little face-time in the story. Where in the movie we just see the Wampa as a mindless beast, within Doescher’s book we get to see that he isn’t necessarily a violent creature, he just gets hungry sometimes:
“Pray know that I am Wampa simple am,/ And take no pleasure in my angry mood./ Though with great force this young one’s face I slam, I prithee know I strike but for my food.”
Likewise, the Exogor is just a lonely space slug looking for a snack. “Alas, another meal hath fled and gone,/ and in the process I am sorely hurt.”
Sadly Chewbacca is not given any more dialog or internal thought other than the occasional “—Auugh!” or “[laughing:] –Gihut, gihut, gihut!” Although there is a funny section where he and Leia sing a “song of lament” when Han is frozen in carbon. Chewbacca sings “…Muh, wroshyr, wroshyr,wroshyr.” Then Leia breaks in with “Now he is gone, and so’s my life,/ All frozen in a moment./ He my seiz’d lov’d one, I his strife,/ Sing wroshyr, wroshyr, wroshyr.”
The funniest section of the book came when two guards on the cloud city had a conversation about the Empire’s architectural requirements, which state, “any major structure shall include/At least one chasm that’s deep and long and dark.” The guards argue the point and try to figure out why each major structure the Empire builds must have one of these chasms with a high traffic walkway suspended above it. They hypothesize that the Empire “…doth command/That structures have these chasms immense because/It is through their immensity that our/ Great Empire’s strength is shown.” They also come to believe that “…should one fall in, They send a message strong and clear to all:/ The Empire is a proud and mighty pow’r/ And doth not fear sure death, but laughs at it.”
While some may argue that fans of the Star Wars universe are being inundated with too much “stuff”, Doescher’s books certainly don’t belong in the “stuff” category. These are solid and relevant texts that offer a fresh perspective on well-known characters and plot lines. While some may purchase these texts merely for their novelty, I would argue that they offer a funny and detailed look into the Star Wars universe that we don’t get with other forms of storytelling available today.
If you enjoy these books, then you are in luck. Doescher’s next title in the series The Jedi Doth Return will be available July 1, 2014.
About the author:
Ian Doescher is the New York Times best-selling author of William Shakespeare’s Star Wars. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his family. Visit him at IanDoescher.com.