William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope - Ian Doescher *4.75 Stars*

Scorecard: (Out of 10)
* Quality of Writing -10
* Pace -9
* Plot development -9
* Characters -10
* Enjoyability -10
* Insightfulness -10
* Ease of Reading -8
* Photos/Illustrations -10
Final Score: 76/80 = 95%

*WARNING - for anyone reading this who hasn't seen the movie: The Death Star blows up.

*The Gush*

A good review would be giv’n in iamb.
Alas! Fowl at deriving rhyme am I!
All I can do is give these talents slam
And slip another rhyme in on the sly.

As the above can attest, I am hopeless at poetry. I love reading and can even write a bit of prose and decent non-fiction, but I’d have failed my English classes if I’d had to write poetry. (My freshman English teacher did make us but took pity on me – and him – and allowed my free-style shape poetry to count. Thank you Mr. Wolfe!)

My lack of poetic ability has never dampened my love of Shakespeare. I have read three plays on my own (for fun and because I thought the stories sounded cool) and at least two for class (and was apparently crazy for enjoying that part of the year). Strangely, I’ve never had much of a problem with understanding the plays. Yes, I have to look up a few words, but I always understood what was being said and loved the Bard’s way with words.

From almost the same time, I’ve been obsessed with Star Wars. I had to take a few years off from watching the original trilogy because I could literally quote it word for word and tell you the action of the scene while doing that. I’m now finally to a point where I can watch them again; yeah! That’s not to say I quit reading the myriad books from the universe. I love the NPR radio dramatization of the original trilogy as well as several series and novels and reread them often.

One reason I love the NPR dramatization so much is it allows the reader to experience the beloved, well-known story in a way that makes it new again; it’s like stepping to the side and looking at it from a new angle. THAT is what this book does beautifully. Seeing the well-known story as a Shakespearean tragedy/comedy/historical play helped me remember how epic the story is; the movies had become so familiar I forgot the grand scale and larger implications.

And yet, it also reintroduced beloved characters. Luke is viewed through the lens of a Hamlet, Leia as an Ophelia, Kenobi as Prospero and Hamlet’s Father’s Ghost, and Han covers many characters from a variety of plays from [b:A Midsummer Night's Dream|1622|A Midsummer Night's Dream|William Shakespeare|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1327874534s/1622.jpg|894834] and others. Further adding to our understanding are the asides and soliloquies spread throughout the text. Vader’s and Kenobi’s soliloquies help bridge pieces from the Prequels with this trilogy while R2-D2’s asides in human language give insights that ring true for a beloved character that till this was given voice only through C3PO’s answers to his beeps. So many of the characters garner a second look when they are viewed through mirrors of some of Shakespeare’s iconic characters.

The above is in a great part due to one of the truly brilliant parts of this book. This is NOT just an homage to a galaxy far, far away but also to the Bard’s works themselves as well as his crafting of words. Not only is the script laboriously and ingeniously rendered into iambic pentameter, the author manages to keep the integrity of the original script while basing each soliloquy (and other character dialogue) around famous Shakespearean ones from characters that mirror Lucas’ familiar Jedi, Rebel good guys, and Imperial villains. The best examples of this are some of Luke’s soliloquies such as, “Alas, poor storm trooper, I knew you not,” (p. 124) and “Once more unto the trench, dear friends, once more!” (p. 160). The first is from [b:Hamlet|1420|Hamlet|William Shakespeare|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1351051208s/1420.jpg|1885548] and the second from [b:Richard III|42058|Richard III|William Shakespeare|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1328043960s/42058.jpg|2913597]. There are many others including one for Han modeled after the verbose leader of the actors in A Midsummer and one from Leia that reminds me of Ophelia from Hamlet. Phrases from Shakespeare, words he created, and more; this is as much about the Bard as the Rebellion among the stars.

Finally, the book is amazing because a) it is obviously a labor of love and b) the author actually discusses at the end how the book came about and why it works. You don’t render a sci-fi script into Shakespearean laden iambic pentameter without a deep love for both Star Wars and the Bard. You definitely do a good job when you care and it shows. At times it felt like two fans trading their favorite moments and bickering over little details. One example is an aside from Han: “And whether I shot first, I’ll ne’er confess.” (p. 77) What a great shared moment with the fans and so meta as well as addressing something that is ‘plaguing’ the fan community. Another was (in my opinion) a slight dig at Star Trek which, depending on who you talk to, is a rival to Star Wars. “To boldly go where none hath gone is wild!” (p. 109) (Note: I’m a huge Star Trek and Star Wars fan, so it could just be me on this). The afterword does well at answering why such a crazy sounding combo works: Joseph Campbell (note: almost any academic discussion of Star Wars will bring him up sooner or later). Doescher makes a compelling argument, however and I really understood where he was coming from. I vastly prefer the author explaining his reasoning and evidence to back him up then leaving me floundering and he does that well here.

*The NON-Rant*

There is nothing here that personally bothered me; I feel this book was all but written for me and I hope he does the next two as well. However, this book is not for everyone. I know a lot of people struggle with Shakespeare and his language and while I think familiarity with [b:Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope|599090|Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope (Star Wars, #4)|George Lucas|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1349016127s/599090.jpg|123227] will aid in the reader’s understanding, some might find this too frustrating. All books, to some degree, depend on the reader’s ‘mileage’ or their personal preferences. Some books this holds particularly true and Verily A New Hope is one such. You the discerning reader will know best whether this is a book for you.


A wonderful, different look at our favorite far, far away galaxy, Verily A New Hope is a great homage to not only a beloved movie but the works of one of our greatest wordsmiths. This is a great way to not only experience a favorite story anew, but also to look at it from a classical and mythological viewpoint. Paying tribute to fan arguments, meta, and the prequels, you will never see [b:Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope|599090|Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope (Star Wars, #4)|George Lucas|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1349016127s/599090.jpg|123227] the same way again.

P.S.: Two quick things. First, I can totally see this being performed and I can't wait for that to happen. Second, I would also recommend this to people who liked [b:Pride and Prejudice and Zombies|5899779|Pride and Prejudice and Zombies|Seth Grahame-Smith|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1320449653s/5899779.jpg|6072122] or at least the idea. Like that book, this preserves the core while presenting an idea that is beyond anything I could have thought of in my wildest dreams.