The Secret History of Star Wars by Michael Kaminski
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book upended the way I’d thought about the Star Wars movies and stories for the past 20 years. First of all, given George Lucas’ original intention of having an endless James Bond-like serialized series of movies removes any arguments I had about what Disney has been doing with what has frankly been a mostly neglected franchise (film-wise) since the first movie came out in 1977. Second, the book explains why Lucas changed his mind – a combination of his divorce draining him of money and the movies draining him of life. Third, and the biggest reason Kaminski wrote this book, it dismantles the legend of episodes 4-6 (as we now know them) having been the middle of a story that Lucas always had in his head. The truth is both better and worse; especially as we see other ways the story could have gone if he hadn’t been drained by the experience.
Finally, I listened to an audiobook read by Josh Robert Thompson and that is one VERY talented voice actor. He has voices for every quote in the book. I’m not going to say his voices would stand up to scrutiny side-by-side with the people he’s impersonating, but some of his voices are so good that I thought at first he was playing back interviews with the folks – particularly Lucas and Hamill.
The book whipsaws between fascinating and boring as Kaminski is as detailed as if this were his PhD thesis paper. So after a while the evidence can get tiresome to hear (especially when it’s repeated in different chapters), but it does make the book stand up to scrutiny in a way that it needs to when dealing with the Star Wars fandom. The only other criticism is that I wish the book had been updated with an epilogue post-Disney buyout. I know it doesn’t fit with his thesis, but I think it would have been a nice cherry on top after all the talk of movies 7-9 and what could have been.
I’m a passing Star Wars fan (loved 4-6, suffered through 1-3, and haven’t seen 7,8, or any of the side movies). If you like Star Wars anywhere from that much to being a true fan, I recommend the book to you and the audiobook is GREAT to listen to.
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