William Shakespeare’s Star Wars – The Empire Striketh Back – Review

March 24, 2014

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars – The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher is the sequel to William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, a retelling of George Lucas’s space saga in the style of William Shakespeare.  I would strongly recommend picking this up as an audiobook rather than ebook or hard copy – Random House Audio’s production is top notch with an excellent cast.  It is far more like a radio play than an audiobook and the excellent cast does a wonderful job of telling the story.

What I liked

The source material.  The original Star Wars trilogy is a darn good story.  It contains a lot of strong themes which would have been as relevant in Shakespeare’s time as today: love, betrayal, youthful impetuousness, struggle against tyranny.  Doescher therefore has a strong base on which to base his adaptation.  It also isn’t too jarring, for example, when Han rails against Lando’s betrayal in Shakespearean language as it is a theme and emotion found in many of Shakespeare’s works.

Yoda.  On my first listen through I was a little disappointed that Yoda didn’t sound too different from the other characters.  In the movies, he has a unique speech pattern and I was hoping that this would be reflected in Empire Striketh Back.  It was only on reading Doescher’s commentary that I realised Yoda was speaking in haiku!  Darn I wished I’d picked that up first time.  This is intended to reflect Yoda’s role as Luke’s master – or sensei – in the mystical force giving an eastern feel to it.  Brilliant. Appropriate and brilliant.

The production.  Random House Audio has gone full out to make this a radio play rather than an audiobook.  We have a strong cast, sound effects (including the iconic swish of the lightsabres) as well as snippets of John Williams’ memorable soundtrack.  It all combines to make it a wonderful listen.  

Doescher’s Notes and Commentary.  I the ebook edition I also possess, Doescher adds some commentary explaining some of the creative decisions he made while writing Empire.  This, combined with the teachers notes provides a fascinating new insight into the book.

What I didn’t like

There was nothing, I tell you, nothing i disliked about The Empire Striketh Back.  I already have The Jedi Doth Return on pre-order.  As the trailer says “these are the books you have been looking for.”

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