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REVIEW: Star Wars On Trial edited by David Brin and Matthew Woodring Stover


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Star Wars and George Lucas are brought up on charges for crimes against science fiction.

PROS: Covers a lot of ground that relates to science fiction, thought-provoking essays, just a darn good read.
CONS: A few weak essays, uneven tone and a bit too much author bias in some places.
BOTTOM LINE: Star Wars On Trial should be read by every fan of Star Wars and should be enjoyed by readers of science fiction in general.

Star Wars On Trial is not like most of the other books in the Smart Pop series in that SWoT is not a collection of essays about Star Wars. Well, it is, but SWoT is structured as a legal hearing where Star Wars is being charged with various crimes against science fiction. Each charge is then argued both by the prosecution (David Brin lead attorney) and the defense (Matthew Woodring Stover lead) and their various witnesses. Each author has created an essay specific to the charge in question. This conceit works well for the most part, although I did find that the occasional courtroom cut-scene seemed a bit to forced. However, that did little to lessen the really good stuff discussed here. The charges are as follows:

  1. The politics in Star Wars are anti-democratic and elitist.
  2. Star Wars portrays no admiral religious or ethical beliefs.
  3. Star Wars novels aren’t real SF and are driving SF off the shelves.
  4. Because of Star Wars, all SF movies are nothing more than empty SFX showcases.
  5. Star Wars has dumbed down the perception of SF in the popular perception.
  6. Star Wars is really science fantasy and not SF.
  7. Women in Star Wars are portrayed as fundamentally weak.
  8. The plot holes and illogical gaps make Star Wars ill-suited for an intelligent viewer.

As you can see, the territory covered here is not just about Star Wars. There is a ton of discussion about various aspects of science fiction, along with the ubiquitous question of: ‘what is science fiction’. Each charge has an author for the prosecution and the defense, sometimes more than one on a side. And with the exception of two essays, I have to say that each of the arguments receive stellar treatment from their respective authors. SF Signal fanboy John C. Wright (religion) and SF Signal Fanboy-In-Training Lou Anders (media tie-in) make appearances for the prosecution. I don’t really want to go into detail too much about the book’s content as that could take awhile. I’ll come back to the charges in future posts. Suffice it to say that, if you like science fiction general, you owe it to yourself to read this book. You’ll discover some interesting ties between Star Wars and its effects on science fiction as it is today. If you’re a Star Wars fan, this should be an auto buy.

There are some nits though, but nothing that knocks the overall book down too much. I think there were two essays that were rather weak. One I wasn’t sure if the author was really serious about what he was proposing, and the other one was supposed to be funny but I didn’t find it to be. This leads into the next nit, the uneven tone. SWoT alternates between seriousness and levity seemingly on a whim. I guess this is to be expect as each author has their own take on how serious they should be in their essay. But for the most part, the overall book fits together well. The only other annoyance for me was the propensity of some of the authors to toss in their own political beliefs and agendas into the essay. I don’t feel this was necessary or even relevant to the discussions at hand. And even the first charge, which deals with politics in Star Wars, didn’t need reflections on today’s political climate. To me, each viewer of Revenge Of The Sith is going to see whatever political message that their beliefs lead them to see. But, this is a minor nit as the politics disappear before the half-way point.

One other cool aspect of this book is that BenBella has created a website where we can go and debate these points online with others, including the authors. This is a cool idea.

Star Wars On Trial should be read by every fan of Star Wars and should be enjoyed by readers of science fiction in general.

About JP Frantz (2322 Articles)
Has nothing interesting to say so in the interest of time, will get on with not saying it.

5 Comments on REVIEW: Star Wars On Trial edited by David Brin and Matthew Woodring Stover

  1. Interestingly, you discussed above the injection of the authors own political agendas and beliefs. All during the summer of 2005 a well known movie critic, Michael Medved (formerly one of the critics on PBS’s At the Movies), kept the constant harangue that the movie (RotS) had a specific Anti-Bush and Anti-Iraq war and an overall anti-American message. Besides, some really weak evidence from the movie; AFAIK, most of his evidence relied on statements made by George Lucas in 2004(I think) at Cannes Festival about how he was ashamed to be an American because of the Iraq war.

  2. I really wish that David Brin would stop getting involved in useless projects such as this (and the King Kong effort) and WRITE ANOTHER UPLIFT NOVEL!!!!

    How long as the starship Seeker been left hanging now? Geeeeeeezzzzz!!!!


  3. And that, Allan, is pretty much the sum total of evidence presented in the book. I’ll have to go back and re-read that particular essay (it was the defense’s turn on charge #1), but I seem to recall that the anti-Bush charges were actually irrelevant to the point being made. In other words, the essay would have been just as strong without the constant haranguing. That’s why I believe that whatever political message you may get out of RotS is really a reflection of the beliefs of the viewer going in.

  4. The empire are the good guys…they freed the slaves on the desert planet and they are all law and order but essentially let poeple alone.

    The republic and the jedi are aristacratic and class based.

    note: I do not know the name of the desert planet and that does make me cooler then anyone who does. šŸ™‚

    Note2: Knowing who Horza is makes you more cool.

  5. The only Horza I know, SF-wise, is from Iain M. Banks’ Consider Phlebas….

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