Book review: How Star Wars Conquered the Universe is a fun primer on the franchise

hswctuChris Taylor’s How Star Wars Conquered the Universe, out today, is one of those rare nonfiction books not fully authorized by Lucasfilm. An independent biography of the franchise, it covers from George Lucas’ own upbringing and influences to just post-Disney. Curious? Read the first chapter at Mashable (as well as one on the 501st) right now.

It’s also a pretty great read. I got my copy Saturday, finished it yesterday afternoon, and it flew. Taylor talks to fans and pros alike, highlighting both sides of the (increasingly more narrow) divide. Most of the attention thus far is on the moviemaking portion, where the book’s biggest sound bites come from.

Full disclosure: I was interviewed for and appear in the book, and received a review copy from Basic Books.

I will admit I was hoping for more in the way of the actual conquering: It’s not until about halfway through the book that Star Wars even comes out. The making of the first film and the original trilogy as a whole have filled gigantic tomes in and of themselves, of course, but it does feel (for the most part) fairly familiar. But then again: are we, the hardcore fans, really the main audience here? As one who hasn’t actually managed to read any of Rinzler’s Making of books in their entirety (it’s on the list, particularly now that I finally caved to the eBook) I did appreciate the walk-through.

There is a chapter on the Expanded Universe. This is where I show up, and it’s a tad rocky. I feel responsible. (I tend to tangent. It’s an issue.)

It’s great to see fandom acknowledged, and Taylor does know his stuff. He hits all the majors – the 501st, R2 Builders, Star Wars Fans Hate Star Wars, the White House Death Star petition and more. Even the Maureen Garrett letter to fanzines gets a mention. And of course the prequels, the backlash, and coming to terms with it – starring the internet’s most rational prequel lover, our pal Bryan Young. This part, I feel, could have stood to be expanded upon, but between the spoiler wars and the reaction that may be a book in and of itself. (And no, not that one, or the documentary. Taylor is honest about his own preferences, but he does find the right balance, without the tedious finger-pointing and lecturing that often plague the prequel ‘discussion.’)

I’d love an unauthorized book focused mainly on the fandom itself, but I can’t fault Taylor for not providing it. But even if you’re a Star Wars savant, it’s a fun read. (I had completely forgotten about the pre-TPM fansite Counting Down, for instance.) Hell, give it to your friends and family who are casual fans – they’ll be sure to get a kick out of it as well.

Grade: grade-aurebesh-a

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