How Star Wars Conquered the Universe is the Star Wars book I’ve always wanted to read. It’s a well-written, frank, vivacious, irreverent, reverent look at the most popular film series of all time and the phenomenon it heaved out into the galaxy. Others have tried to do what Chris Taylor does but have been hampered by the strictures of working within the Lucasfilm Empire or their own Sithy ambitions. What Michael Kaminski took 500-plus pages to do in his admittedly essential but not exactly fun to read The Secret History of Star Wars, Taylor does in much easier-to-digest form. We get the gist that despite his usual rap, George Lucas really did not have much of a plan for his space opera.
Crucially, Taylor also spends a lot of time away from the making-of history (mostly focused on the 1977 film) that is the meat and bones of his book. Its heart is all those other little weird detours that make Star Wars much more than the sum-total of two great, two OK, and two straight-up lousy movies. Taylor realizes that he would not have told the full story without chapters on the kooky super-fans, the merchandise, the fellow sci-fi contemporaries, and the cheesy rip-off flicks Star Wars inspired. He dispels some myths (apparently, Lucas’s dad was not the villainous Darth Vader stand-in historians often believe him to be) and lets us know how the phenomenon affected such bit players as affable pothead Bill Wookey, who enjoyed a bit of fame because of his famous name, and the sadly infamous “Star Wars kid”, whose life was nearly ruined by a video a trio of assholes leaked (no worries though, people; Ghyslain Raza seems to be doing just fine now).
Taylor also dabbles with the seedier side of Star Wars—the backstage sex, drugs, and porno watching—that never would have made it into a book with the official Lucas stamp of approval. The author never wallows in these asides, so How Star Wars Conquered the Universe never becomes seedy itself. They’re just in there for the sake of completeness, and as satisfied as I was with this book, I still wish there was more of it simply because it was so much damn fun to read.
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