William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back

William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back




How do you top soliloquies from a Wampa, Space Slug and ATAT walkers? You have singing Ugnaughts and a mornful duet with Leia and Chewbacca.


Hot on the heels of the New York Times best seller William Shakespeare’s Star Wars comes the next two installments of the original trilogy: William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back and William Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return. Return to the star-crossed galaxy far, far away as the brooding young hero, a power-mad emperor, and their jesting droids match wits, struggle for power, and soliloquize in elegant and impeccable iambic pentameter. These two plays offer essential listening for all ages. Something Wookiee this way comes!
Read by Daniel Davis, Jonathan Davis, Ian Doescher, Jeff Gurner, January LaVoy, and Marc Thompson
©2014 Random House Audio; ©2014 Lucasfilm Ltd. and TM. All rights reserved. Used under authorization.


‘The Empire Strikes Back’ is considered by most to be the best film in the Star Wars saga. However, like Ian Doescher, I consider ‘Return of the Jedi’ to be my favorite. When considering this specific series of books though, ‘The Empire Striketh Back’ is the best of the bunch.
I think it is with Empire that Doescher found his groove. He cut down on his use of the chorus to describe the action and spent more time getting into the heads of the characters. This is how we got talking Wampas and Space Slugs.
The humor is as strong as the first edition even if there are fewer insider references to the rest of the saga. This time we get commentary on Imperial Architectural standards and their need to include large chasms in inconvenient places in everything they build. There was nothing that made me laugh harder than the Leia and Chewbacca duet that followed the freezing of Han Solo in carbonite. Sure, Chewbacca singing is about the easiest joke that could have been made but it worked for me. The Ugnaughts song is also quite catchy and periodically I get the tune stuck in my head.
Once again, this is a book that is made for audio. I can’t imagine enjoying reading the words on the page as much as I do hearing them performed by a cast.


I wrote in the previous review about how Doescher has a strong command of both Shakespeare and Star Wars. What I think is worth pointing out this time is Doescher’s ability to get inside the head of these characters and guess what they are thinking in any given situation. I am always particularly compelled by the thoughts of R2D2 because he is the only character throughout the entire saga to know exactly what has previously happened.
I also appreciate Doescher’s appearance in the afterword to talk about aspects of the production. He discusses the choice to rely less on the chorus and to have Yoda speak in Haikus. Even if a reader doesn’t agree with every stylistic choice Doescher makes, at least they are able to hear from the man himself why he made them.


The same cast that was present for ‘William Shakespeare’s Star Wars’ is back for the sequel. Only this time, they are also joined by Jeff Gurner, who narrated several clone wars era novels in the expanded universe. I was glad Gurner took part in this, as he was able to reduce the workload of Jonathan Davis and Marc Thompson.
As mentioned previously, Doescher reduced his use of the chorus from the first book. As a result, there was much less for Daniel Davis to do and that is sad. The man is quite talented and it shows that this cast has an embarrassment of riches.
Everyone puts out a stellar performance, but I think this time it was January LaVoy who stood out. She had a lot of acting to do in ‘The Empire Striketh Back’. Romantic scenes with Han, heartbroken scenes after he’s frozen and angry scenes with Lando. Sprinkle in some comedic elements and this is clearly her turn to shine. She handles everything with enthusiasm and gusto.


As is usual for Star Wars related titles, this track features the familiar Star Wars theme music and plenty of other sound effects. The chapter stops are placed at the beginning of each of the five acts. I have to mention that they even manage to make the introduction of all of the narrators quite entertaining. Apparently, Jeff Gurner is expensive. Another stellar track from Random House Audio.


Doescher notes that ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ is the film that has the most in common with a Shakespeare play due to all of the tragic elements. It is perhaps for this reason that this is the best installment in the series. If the natural fit of the two elements is not the reason for such a wonderful read, then you can chalk it up to singing Ugnaughts and the ballad of Leia and Chewbacca.


Title Author Narrator Publisher Genre Release Date Running Time Score
William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back Ian Doescher Daniel Davis, Jonathan Davis, Ian Doescher, Jeff Gurner, January LaVoy, Marc Thompson Random House Audio Science Fiction 03/18/2014 3 hours, 25 minutes 9.5/10


A copy of ‘William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back’ was purchased from Audible for review.