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William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher

William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back (William Shakespeare's Star Wars, #2)Premise: The Rebellion seems to be gaining strength ever since Luke Skywalker destroyed the Death Star, but the base on Hoth is discovered by the Empire, so they must find refuge elsewhere. The rebels scatter and the Empire continues their pursuit of crushing the opposition. Luke seeks one of the last living Jedi in order to take up the mantle himself. It is in a remote swamp that Luke begins his Jedi training with the Jedi master Yoda.

Han, Leia, and crew go to Han’s scoundrel friend Lando for protection, but the Empire’s reach is long and they are found in the Cloud City and captured. Han is given over to the bounty hunter Boba Fett and the rest are held as bait for Luke to rescue. Will Luke come to the rescue or will new revelations destroy any hope the Rebellion had for victory?

Themes: In The Empire Striketh Back, we begin to see the feelings between Leia and Han blossom through their tumultuous interactions. The romance builds as their feelings are laid bare for the reader but held close to themselves until they can no longer contain their feelings. But it isn’t until Han’s life is forfeit that Leia expresses her true feelings to him.

People can change, including the biggest scoundrels, but sometimes they fall into their old ways. When Han Solo falls in with the Rebellion, he does his best to put his past life as a rogue and a smuggler behind him. It manages to catch up to him when he trusts Lando Calrissian to protect him and his friends. Lando’s betrayal only enforces Han’s lifestyle choices, but perhaps at that point it is too late.

Temptation and confronting fears play a large role in The Empire Striketh Back. Luke faces his fears first in the swamps of Dagobah when tested by Yoda in becoming a Jedi. Luke learns the dangers of giving in to the dark side, but he learns the true temptation of the dark side when confronted by Darth Vader with the truth of his father.

Pros: Doescher continues showing his fine grasp of Shakespearean language in The Empire Striketh Back while making some interesting character choices through their dialogue. The choices that stand out are with making Boba Fett speak in prose instead of iambic pentameter to show his lower class and with Yoda speaking in haiku to show his different speaking style. Doescher infuses more emotion into Empire than he did with Star Wars, done so with a lot of monologue asides that aren’t really in the movie but I felt actually added to the story. This is especially true for Leia and Han but includes other characters like Lando of which we don’t get as much character development. The author also makes sure to include important lines, like Han’s famous response to Leia professing her love for him: “I know.”

Cons: I did catch a handful of times where the meter dropped or added an extra beat, which isn’t necessarily unheard of in Shakespeare’s work. Probably the most famous instance of this is “to be or not to be, that is the question” with its extra beat. My Shakespeare isn’t nearly as refined as it probably should be, but I know that he used this to express extra emphasis and emotion. Whether or not Doescher did this for the same reason, I’m unsure. I do know that it made my reading of Empire more difficult. While I appreciate the need to give each character their own representation, I didn’t think giving the Wampa a voice was entirely necessary. I also liked the space battle sequence in Verily, A New Hope better than how the battle was executed on Hoth. It felt more epic while keeping within the restraints of a play. Also, making the AT-ATs into characters just seemed silly.

Recommendations: One of the things I like most about The Empire Striketh Back is that Doescher manages to continue with the humor necessary to make something like this work while capturing the more tragic ending of the movie with Han being frozen in carbonite. Doescher makes more artistic choices in The Empire Striketh Back than he did with Star Wars, and they mostly pay off except for a couple I didn’t care for (see Wampa and AT-ATs). Still, The Empire Striketh Back continues the Star Wars trilogy in strong fashion, and in some ways mirrors the movies by being superior to Verily, A New Hope in that it is infused with more emotion, more peril, and more humanity. If you liked William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, don’t stop there or else you’ll miss out. While you can appreciate the book wearing a scholarly Shakespeare hat, keep in mind that these are supposed to be fun.

Ian Doescher’s website
William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back on Goodreads
Buy William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back on Amazon
Download William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back for your Kindle
I received a copy from the publisher to write this honest review.

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2014 in Humor, Science Fiction

 

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William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope by Ian Doescher

William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, a New HopePremise: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away there was a civil war happening between rebel fighters desperately trying to overthrow the reign of the evil galactic empire. Plans for the magnificent and terrible Death Star have been stolen with the hopes of getting them into the hands of the rebel leaders to destroy this menacing weapon.

Wielding the power of the Force, Darth Vader shows his immense power to destroy while Obi-Wan Kenobi is summoned to find the next Jedi knight. That knight might just be in the form of the boy Luke Skywalker.

The fighting comes to a head as opposing forces strike against each other in a battle for control. And all of this is done…in iambic pentameter.

Themes: Politics reign supreme in Star Wars as each player pushes and pulls others to engage the outcome they each desire. Whether it is subtle like the workings of R2D2 or overt like the powerful Darth Vader, each has their wishes and their part in this story.

Luke has a huge desire for adventure as he wishes to travel, see the galaxy, and to escape the drudgery of his uncle’s moisture farm. Meeting Old Ben Kenobi and two droids changes his life and gives him exactly what he wishes for, but at a great cost.

Pros: William Shakespeare’s Star Wars definitely reads like a Shakespearean play, down to the monologue asides and narrative descriptions of space battles. Everything is written expertly in iambic pentameter, lending to the feel of being written by Shakespeare himself. Star Wars reads humorously, especially the dialogue between C3PO and R2D2. Star Wars buffs should enjoy Doescher’s interpretation, especially since he does such a good job of telling the entire story in such short order without missing a beat. The cheeky illustrations also helped get me into the feel of the story.

Cons: Some readers might find the rhythm hard to capture, to which I might suggest reading aloud. Others might simply feel the iambic pentameter tiresome and get bored too quickly, especially if they’re not exactly fans of Shakespeare. The one thing I found difficult was reading R2D2’s beeps and boops in rhythm. The space battles aren’t exactly easy to do without on screen special effects, so forcing readers to use their imagination could be a stretch for some. My guess is most reading a book like this won’t have that problem.

Recommendations: William Shakespeare’s Star Wars can be appreciated at different levels, whether you’re a beginner or expert of all things Star Wars or Shakespeare. Doescher does such a good job telling the story it actually helped me catch a couple things I missed in my years of watching Star Wars. Reading this book also makes me want to pick up my complete volume of Shakespeare’s plays and read a few with a new appreciation for the art. Go get a copy whether you want something light to read or want to better appreciate the worlds of Star Wars or Shakespeare or both…verily.

Ian Doescher’s website
William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope on Goodreads
Buy William Shakespeare’s Star Wars on Amazon
Download William Shakespeare’s Star Wars for your Kindle
I received a copy from the publisher to write this honest review.

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2014 in Humor, Science Fiction

 

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Dear Creature by Jonathan Case

Dear CreaturePremise: Dear Creature is a graphic novel starring Grue, a sea monster living in the remains of an atomic submarine who is the only one of his kind. His inclination is to feed on young lovers, with sarcastic crabs urging him on to eat his leftovers. But when he starts finding pages of Shakespeare in soda bottles he learns the flowing language and begins to yearn for finding the person sending out those pages as his kindred soul. He finally finds her, but Giulietta is an agoraphobic recluse living in a broken dry dock boat with her sister and nephews, afraid to go out into the world.

Our poetic sea monster goes to her and she immediately opens her heart to him until she discovers that he had something to do with the death that Joe, her nephew, is being blamed for. Her sister, Zola, wants justice for her son, and Henry is a policeman who will do whatever it takes to follow through with that, even if it means giving up his badge. Grue is captured and Giulietta is put in an institution until the conclusion of the story that you’ll just have to read for yourself.

Themes: The most obvious theme in Dear Creature is the passion of romantic love and the extent one is willing to go to for it. Grue must overcome his monstrous desires to close the gap between him and Giulietta (as in Shakespeare’s Juliet), but it means facing his past deeds and the obstacle of their obvious differences.

Our poetic sea monster must make a moral decision and choose between succumbing to his hunger or becoming the more civilized and loving being that he wishes to be. With Giulietta being his motivation, he uses the inspiring language of Shakespeare to express his desires to her while the scavenging crabs urge him on to his more base inner cravings.

You would think that this story is all about Grue and his inner struggle, but Giulietta, who is considered crazy by just about everyone, is actually the character who makes the most impact on people’s lives. Giulietta is the one who reached out to Grue with Shakespeare and changed him from a monster to a poet. Giulietta goes with Zola and Robert to come to America and finds a love for poetry with him, but she stays with Zola after Robert never returns, and holds out for her sister to eventually help her find a husband. As she explains to Grue:

“My bottles brought you and Zola got a husband. That’s all I wanted.”

Pros: It wasn’t until I got to the end and I read the humorous Invertebrate’s Guide to Iambic Pentameter that I realized that Grue was actually speaking in iambic pentameter the entire time. It was done so fluidly that I had to go back and reread more of his dialogue to make sure. It makes me appreciate the subtleties in this story, with interesting characters and beautiful language to match the stunning art. My favorite parts were of the crabs playing the part of the devil on our hero’s shoulder, pressing his buttons to get him to kill, but mostly irritating him at all times. They brought humor to the dark side of Grue’s nature as a sea monster.

Cons: I loved the illustrations, but after seeing the cover I wanted the entire thing to be in color. This isn’t really much of a con because the whole thing has the look and feel of an old newspaper comic, but I just liked the color palette of the cover enough that I wanted more.

Recommendations: Dear Creature is an enchanting visual story that said many profound things in so few pages, and it even left me with a greater appreciation for Shakespearean poetry. It is odd to use so many different words to describe something, but this story is dark, romantic, humorous, and inspiring all at the same time. There was just a true sense of humanity in every character that I hope to see more from Jonathan Case.

Dear Creature on Goodreads
Jonathan Case’s website
Dear Creature website
Buy Dear Creature on Amazon

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2011 in Fantasy, Graphic Novel, Science Fiction

 

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