Friday, 4 May 2018

The best books about the original Star Wars: a guide

George Lucas's own library. A comprehensive Star Wars collection would surely be as big

Last week, we looked at Craig Stevens' new book The Star Wars Phenomenon in Britain, and I recommended it to anyone interested in the impact Star Wars had, in the UK or elsewhere.

But what other books belong on the shelves of anyone interested in the original Star Wars the first time around?

Here's the first part of a chronological list of those I'd recommend. Watch for longer reviews of some of them in due course.

1. Star Wars: From The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, by George Lucas (Alan Dean Foster), 1976

The Star Wars novelization

Although this is primarily a list of non-fiction books, I'm including two novels that I think enlighten us about the Star Wars universe as it stood in the 1970s.

Written by Alan Dean Foster but bearing Lucas's name on the cover, it was published before the movie was finished, so it contains some interesting differences. What's more, back in 1977-78, many of us read and re-read it, and it was responsible for much of the way we perceived the movie and its back-story.

I've written about the book here.

2. Splinter of the Mind's Eye by Alan Dean Foster, 1978.

The Star Wars novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye 

It's the sequel that might have been.

George Lucas commissioned this follow-up novel about Luke, Leia, the droids and Darth Vader, on the understanding that it might make a low-budget sequel if Star Wars was a modest success.

It's an entertaining tale about the quest for a magical crystal (that old plot), featuring some exciting underground chases and a race of wookiee-like creatures called Yuzzems. And it reminds us of some of the elements we might have expected from a Star Wars sequel back then, complete with romantic/sexual tension between Luke and Leia and a showdown with the Dark Lord of the Sith.

Read some more about the book here.

3.The Art of Star Wars, edited by  Carol Titelman, 1979.

The Art of Star Wars, edited by Carol Titelman

This was one of those books that I'm sure was coveted by any fan who saw a copy, though not everybody could afford to own it.

Originally published in a large-format hardcover, it contains the screenplay of the film – complete with the deleted Biggs scenes, but accommodating a number of changes made in production and editing.

Alongside the script are a large number of gorgeous illustrations, including production paintings by Ralph McQuarrie, sketches, costume designs, photos of clothes and props, and finally some comic strips, cartoons and children's drawings of the movie. It's one to pore over.

4. Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas by Dale Pollock, 1983.

Skywalking: The Life and Films of
George Lucas
by Dale Pollock

The first biography of George Lucas was a revelation when it came out.

I had read everything I could about Star Wars, but it was all pretty much the publicity people's authorised version. 

I didn't know how fraught the production of the film was, or about Lucas's rising stress levels and his conflict with the British crew. Neither did I know about his early life and the near-fatal road accident that helped him become so motivated to achieve.

Many of these things have been much written-about since, but it was all new and fascinating in 1983 and the book remains fascinating.

5. Empire Building: The Remarkable Real Life Story of Star Wars, 1997.

Empire Building: The Remarkable Real Life
Story of Star Wars 
by Garry Jenkins

George Lucas had stopped cooperating with biographers after Pollock's Skywalking, so subsequent authors had to do without interviews with the creator himself

Jenkins mainly interviewed those who had been banished from the Lucasfilm kingdom, such as producer Gary Kurtz and actor Dave Prowse, and he relied on published sources for other elements. It's a highly readable account of the production, release and impact of Star Wars and the original trilogy.

6. Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays, edited by Laurent Bouzereau, 1997.

Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays,
edited by Laurent Bouzereau

The scripts of the original trilogy films had been published already, but this excellent book added something new.

Editor Laurent Bouzereau explains the development of each script and what the stories looked like in earlier drafts. What's more, he punctuates the screenplays with comments from those involved, including Lucas.

He also puts an asterisk next to the dialogue that was written by Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, in their last-minute polish of the Star Wars screenplay. It confirms that they wrote many of the wittiest lines in the film.

7. The Unauthorized Star Wars Compendium by Ted Edwards, 1999.

The Unauthorized Star Wars
, by Ted Edwards

Bearing a cover that stresses the book is not endorsed by Lucasfilm, this is one of the few irreverent looks at the films and mushrooming expanded universe.

Edwards takes a pretty brief canter through the production of Star Wars before moving on to the sequels, the Marvel comics, the radio series, and even a summary of the novels that existed at the time. (Before very long, there would be far too many of them to summarise in one chapter.) 

There are also some engaging and funny mini-essays, such as one by Dan Vebber called 'Death Star = Death Trap', which takes the battle station's creators to task for their flouting of basic safety roles. It's a light but enjoyable take on being a Star Wars fan.

Next time, our list will run to a lavish 30th anniversary tome, some revelations about the Star Wars cast and some engaging works by fans.

But what are your top books about the original Star Wars? I'd love to hear about them in the comments.


Eric Gilliland said...

Star Wars FAQ: Everything Left to Know About the Trilogy That Changed the Movies by Mark Clark. Maybe a little redundant, but a good synthesis of the original trilogy, specifically on their cultural impact.

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