Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

How Star Wars Conquered the Universe: The Past, Present, and Future of a Multibillion Dollar Franchise

Rate this book
In 1973, a young filmmaker named George Lucas scribbled some notes for a far-fetched space-fantasy epic. More than forty years and $37 billion later, Star Wars-related products outnumber human beings, a stormtrooper army spans the globe, and "Jediism" has become a religion in its own right. Lucas's creation has grown into far more than a cinematic classic; it is, quite simply, one of the most lucrative, influential, and interactive franchises of all time. Yet until now, the complete history of Star Wars - its influences and impact, the controversies it has spawned, its financial growth and long-term prospects - has never been told.

In How Star Wars Conquered the Universe, veteran journalist Chris Taylor traces the series from the difficult birth of the original film through its sequels, the franchise's death and rebirth, the prequels, and the preparations for a new trilogy. Taylor provides portraits of the friends, writers, artists, producers, and marketers who labored behind the scenes to turn Lucas's idea into a legend. He also jousts with modern-day Jedi, tinkers with droid builders, and gets inside Boba Fett's helmet, all to find out how Star Wars has attracted and inspired so many fans for so long.

Since the first film's release in 1977, Taylor shows, Star Wars has conquered our culture with a sense of lightness and exuberance, while remaining serious enough to influence politics around the world and spread a spirituality that appeals to religious groups and atheists alike. Controversial digital upgrades and critically savaged prequels have actually made the franchise stronger than ever. Now, with a new set of savvy bosses holding the reins and Episode VII on the horizon, it looks like Star Wars is just getting started.

An energetic, fast-moving account of this creative and commercial phenomenon, How Star Wars Conquered the Universe explains how a filmmaker's fragile dream beat out a surprising number of rivals and gained a diehard, multigenerational fan base - and why it will be galvanizing our imaginations and minting money for generations to come.

450 pages, Hardcover

First published September 30, 2014

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Chris Taylor

2 books8 followers
Chris Taylor (1973- ) is the deputy editor of Mashable, the world’s largest social media and technology news website. He has covered the intersection of business and culture for two decades as a writer and editor for Time, Business 2.0, Fortune Small Business, and Fast Company. A graduate of Merton College, Oxford and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, he lives in Berkeley, California.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
1,055 (39%)
4 stars
1,170 (43%)
3 stars
377 (14%)
2 stars
56 (2%)
1 star
15 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 423 reviews
Profile Image for Ashley.
2,658 reviews1,693 followers
December 30, 2015
Listen up, nerds. This book is for you.

I had never heard of it until I read the lovely Emmalita’s review, and now I am eternally grateful to her. I absolutely devoured this book. It’s one of the most thorough and interesting behind the scenes books I’ve ever read. I’ve been all up in Star Wars since I was sixteen, but reading this book made me realize I really only knew the story part of that galaxy far, far away (including the Expanded Universe). I knew very little about how the trilogy was created or its history. This book is a goldmine of all that kind of stuff, trivia and behind the scenes knowledge, but it’s also a comprehensive history of George Lucas and how (and why) he came to create the most lucrative and beloved film franchise of all time.

I was basically like a little giggling kid the entire time I was reading it.

The book smartly toggles back and forth between a chronological documentation of Lucas as a filmmaker and the influences that led him to the eventual creation of Star Wars, and the impacts both of the movies on the fans, and the fans on the franchise (for example, there is a chapter covering the creation and influence of the 501st Legion, one on the Expanded Universe, and a chapter on the fans who have a club where all they do is build their own R2-D2s in astonishing detail, to the point where they were asked to construct the droids for The Force Awakens).

There wasn’t a single part of this book that wasn’t interesting. I actually read about 75% of it in a sort of feeding frenzy one Saturday. From Lucas’s early life, to the insights into his writing process (he knows he is terrible at it), the process of creating the original movies, the chapters detailing the transition from no one believing in the movie, to the explosion of its popularity, even a whole chapter that sinks us into the mindset of what the audience would have seen in the first crucial ten minutes of that first movie. And then of course, we cover everything after: the production and reception of the rest of the original trilogy, the dry spell the company went through in the late 80’s/early 90’s, the creation and flourishing of the EU, and the seeds of the prequel trilogy being planted. I loved the way the book treated the prequels, both explaining how they ended up the way they did, and showing all the opinions they engendered, both positive and negative. My only complaint, and this isn’t even the book’s fault, is that it was published in 2014, and it’s already out of date. So much has happened in Star Wars land in just the past six months. I want there to be an updated version sometime in the next several years that takes all this . . . hoopla into account.

There is so much stuff in this book I don’t even know what to talk about so I’m just going to stop here and strongly suggest you pick this book up somehow. I need to buy myself a copy so I can have it forever and ever.

[4.5 stars]
Profile Image for Mike.
483 reviews376 followers
December 16, 2015

There is no doubt that Star Wars is one of the largest and most pervasive cultural phenomenon since the first movie was released in 1977. All around the world people are familiar with light sabers and Darth Vader, Wookies and droids, Jedi and X-Wings. It has gotten to the point of cultural background noise. Everyone knows that Vader is Luke's father to the point that even the most anti-spoiler people nary bat an eyelash at that statement. But we live in a time where Star Wars and its themes are the norm. We can't conceive of a time when there wasn't Star Wars. The story of its genesis and its cultural diffusion is fascinating and revealing.

"How Star Wars Conquered the Universe" is a fantastic look at the franchise's history, roots, and influences through early 2014 and its purchase by Disney. While Taylor is quite clearly a huge Star Wars fan, he approaches this history with the objectivity of a journalist, not accepting the official company line as Gospel and seeking out all sides to the story. Instead of being a straight forward chronological retelling of the events that led up to the movies and other media, Taylor looks at its root influences. Surprisingly, this goes as far back as the late 19th century, when H.G. Wells and Jules Verne took radically different views of science-fiction. H.G. Wells was all about the story, science be damned while Verne was all about using the limits of science to sculpt to the story. Here was the split between science fantasy (Star Wars) and science fiction (think Star Trek or 2001: Space Odyssey).

More directly, the vision of George Lucas was heavily influenced by the sci-fi serials of the 1920's and 30's; namely Flash Gordon and Buck Rodgers. Adventures in space with aliens, villainous empires, dashing rescues, and fast paced actions informed a lot of how Lucas would develop the original trilogy. Taylor also tracks the life of a young Lucas as well, one that was just as interested (arguably more interested) in racing fast cars than film making.

Taylor also does a great job telling the story of all the many people who helped bring Star Wars into the world. From the concept artist Ralph McQuarrie who was responsible for bring many of Lucas's ideas to paper and creating some of its most iconic images:



Check Kotaku out for a nice, large gallery of his work.

To Alan "Laddie" Ladd who greenlit the first movie and became its champion among executives, to Marcia Lucas, George's wife and a major editor on the original Trilogy, to so many others who helped create the final vision that was Star Wars. Reading this it becomes very clear that there was an enormous team effort to create the Star Wars we all know and love.

But Taylor does more than just chronicle the path of Star Wars, he also examines the culture that has grown up around it. From the 501st Legion, a group of folks who dress as stormtroopers, to lightsaber instructors, to droid builders, to the long history of Star Wars spoofs, to every imaginable type of merchandise you could imagine. Taylor does an excellent job telling the cultural story of Star Wars and how it has spread around the world through fan passion and dedication.

What I found most interesting was the path that lead Lucas to the dark side... I mean to making the prequels. I am on record of really not liking them at all for a wide variety of reasons. This book does a wonderful job giving me the context for what happened and why everything went wrong.

Effectively Lucas was operating under many constraints for the original trilogy: budget, timing, technology, and actor selection to name a few. All of these selective pressures caused decisions to be made that resulted in the movies we all know and love. Lucas had to compromise, rely on others for polishing up his writing, letting actors push back and adapt dialogue to suit the mood of a scene, and real sets for actors to act against. Lucas admits that the original trilogy was really only 25% of his vision (hence his consistent tinkering with it in special edition releases).

But by the time the prequels rolled around CGI technology was at a point when Lucas could realize his full vision. Star Wars was, by this time, a major cultural phenomenon already. Lucas could do no wrong, had an enormous budget, and no one pushed back against his decisions. Harrison Ford (Han Solo) once said "George, you can type this shit, but you can't say it! ".

Sadly there was no Harrison Ford on the set of the prequels and the dialogue suffered for it. Actors were accumulated for their name (since who doesn't want to be in the Star Wars franchise?) instead of their chemistry with each other. Real sets gave way to sprawling green screens, alienating the actors from their surroundings and motivations.

Finally Lucas decided to make the prequels more kids oriented (though the third prequel had a disturbing number of decapitations). In fact, some of the early Episode I scripts Taylor outlines actually sounded really good, but these were rewritten to the detriment of the story, characters, and flow. The result was a trilogy with an average Rotten Tomato score of 68% compared the original trilogy's 89%. Not surprisingly Lucas thoughts the prequels most fulfilled his vision of what the Star Wars in his head was.

My take away was the Lucas had some great ideas (and some terrible ones as some of the early Star Wars scripts reveal), but that if he was allowed to be a kid in a candy store with an unlimited budget his worst qualities would rise to the top. He needed people who were better writers around him and directors with a great eye for cinematography and good rapport with the actors.

While I greatly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone interested in the history of Star Wars, there were a few parts that I thought it came up short (hence the four star rating):

-The book has a fantastic look at the filming and development of the first movie, but subsequent movies are given a shorter and shorter treatment. I would imagine there were just as many interesting stories from those movies as with the first one. I can understand Taylor not wanting to rehash what many other Star Wars histories have done but the difference between the treatments of the movies was glaring to me.

-Similarly, this book didn't touch too much upon the main actors in the movies. There was some high levels discussion of them but not much of a deep dive into how the movies affected them and what they thought of their expereince for the most part. Once again, I can understand Taylor not wanting to rehash what many other Star Wars histories have done, but the actors are an important part of the history of Star Wars and should have been more thoroughly explored.

-I noticed a hand full of typos that should have been caught before this book went to print. Nothing major, but they shouldn't be there.

-I thought that the conclusion chapter was unnecessary. The material could have been moved to other chapters in the book. Instead of finishing with Lucas riding off into the proverbial sunset having sold Star Wars to the (hopefully) caring hands of Disney, we get another, somewhat generic, chapter.

Granted these are somewhat nitpicky critiques but I thought they did hold the book back from being a full fledged five star. In any event this was a highly enjoyable book and should be required reading for all star Wars fans. It gave me a deeper appreciation of what it took to create the franchise and what influenced its themes. I can honestly say that it gave me a deeper, more nuanced understanding of the whole series and a greater appreciation for what Star Wars has done for the world as a whole.
177 reviews65 followers
January 24, 2015
This book was a pleasingly comprehensive exploration of the entire Star Wars franchise and phenomenon, from the first scribblings of a teenage George Lucas, all the way through his entire career, up to (and beyond) the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney. It covers so much: the writing, making and marketing of the films; the early scripts and treatments that are almost unrecognisable as the final stories put to film; the Expanded Universe of books, TV shows, and comics; the endless merchandising; the critical and commercial response; and most importantly, the origins and expansion of the fandom to its present and enormous size.

It's mostly a chronological telling, although every so often there'll be a whole chapter acting as a present-day aside, where Chris Taylor profiles various groups and individuals of note within the fandom (cosplayers, collectors, and so on). The first chapter, before the history begins, is a strangely touching account of the effort to translate Star Wars into the Navajo language (the first film ever to be released in that language!).

Taylor packed so much history and analysis into this book, and it never stopped being gripping and readable. There's tons of highs and lows. The history of Lucasfilm is told with plenty of warts. Taylor has done a ton of research for this book, including scores of new interviews with everyone conceivably connected to the franchise and fandom. There's tidbits in here that Lucasfilm would never admit to or acknowledge.

George Lucas himself isn't idolised in the book; he's painted mostly as sort of a sympathetic character who was never happy with his work and watched it get carried away from him by fandom and hype, but his petulance as a film-maker and ruthlessness as a businessman is also touched upon. The fandom itself is shown to be a very complex organism, at times a rather demanding and cruel group, who don't exactly harbour a lot of love for the so-called Creator, and at other times a vibrant community filled with kindness and good spirit.

I tore through this book, constantly fascinated by the stories within. I say this, and I'm not even a huge Star Wars fan: I enjoy the original trilogy and I tolerate the prequels, but I've never seen any of the cartoons or read any of the Expanded Universe material. But I have to say this book has changed my outlook. It's gotten me excited about Star Wars again. I'm going to go watch all the movies again. I'm going to read the JW Rinzler "Making Of" books (if there's anything Taylor's book is light on it's stories from the film sets, but Rinzler's enormous and in-depth books already exist, so I don't think this book needed more of that). I'm going to look into a few of the novels. And I'm most certainly going to get very hyped up about Episode VII.
Profile Image for Nicholas Kotar.
Author 38 books253 followers
June 24, 2022
A lot of fun, but clearly written before the great tragedy of episodes 7-9
Profile Image for 11811 (Eleven).
662 reviews139 followers
September 25, 2016
Recommended to people who seriously geek out on the original film. TMI for everyone else.
Profile Image for Rafal Jasinski.
822 reviews44 followers
December 28, 2015
Zanim przejdę do opinii o dziele Taylora, chciałbym ze szczerego serca poprosić Was o bojkot polskiego wydania i - o ile znacie język angielski - o wyrażenie swojego szacunku dla pisarza poprzez nabycie wersji oryginalnej.

Sposób, w jaki książka Chrisa Taylora została przełożona na język polski, stopień zaniedbania ze strony wydawnictwa Znak, manifestujący się kompletnym brakiem redakcji od strony merytorycznej i powierzenie tłumaczenia osobie niekompetentnej, której zarówno znajomość niuansów języka angielskiego, jak i wąskie spektrum wiedzy z zakresu popkultury i omawianego tematu - to rzeczy, które mogą zrujnować Wam kompletnie przyjemność obcowania z tą książką. Dodatkowo styl prowadzenia przekładu jest wyjątkowo toporny a sama treść pełna błędów rzeczowych, które chcącego zgłębić wiedzę na temat franczyzy czytelnika może pozostawić bardziej zdezorientowanym, niż przed lekturą. Raz jeszcze odradzam a gwoli poświadczenia powyższych słów odsyłam Was poniższym linkiem na stronę FB, gdzie jeden z czytelników wypunktował, co ciekawsze "kwiatki", jaki uraczyło nas polskie wydanie.

Moja końcowa ocena dotyczy jednak samej treści książki, po przymknięciu oka (a uwierzcie, wyjątkowo trudny mi patrzeć przez palce na tą katastrofę) na jej polską edycję. Taylor znakomicie wywiązuje się z roli przewodnika po uniwersum Gwiezdnych Wojen, przekazując wiedzę z pełnią fanowskiego zaangażowania a jednocześnie nie szczędząc krytyki franczyzy w tych aspektach, w których negatywna krytyka jest w pełni uzasadniona.

Ta książka rzeczywiście jest (w wersji oryginalnej) doskonałym kompendium wiedzy na temat Gwiezdnych Wojen. Co prawda, Taylor nie wyczerpuje w pełni tematu, dość pobieżnie traktując niektóre elementy składające się na markę. Nieco po macoszemu potraktował, na przykład gry komputerowe i komiksy, które niemal w równoważnej do książek z EU poszerzały historię i geografię uniwersum SW. Cóż, zakres tematu jest jednak obszerny a książka i tak stanowi już solidną "cegłę". Nie dziwi więc fakt pewnych cieć, zwłaszcza w obszarach, w których Taylor najwyraźniej nie czuje się wystarczająco pewnie.

Nieco irytującą wydała mi się struktura książki. Rozdziały dotyczące powstawaniu kolejnych odsłon sagi, mieszają się z sekcjami poświęconymi zjawisku fandomu. I nie byłoby to w sumie złe, bo opis zróżnicowanej aktywności fanów stanowi element konieczny do uzyskania odpowiedzi na postawione w tytule pytanie. Problemem jest jednak fakt, że Taylor bardzo często skacze chronologicznie o kilkanaście, lub nawet kilkadziesiąt lat w tę i z powrotem, co - w moim odczuciu - zabija nieco rytm opowieści. Na przykład, umieszczenie historii o powstaniu Legionu 501 tuż po rozdziałach omawiających wczesny etap twórczości Lucasa wydaje mi się tutaj pomyłką.

Jakkolwiek, całość składa się na kompletną i rzetelną (pomijając przekład) opowieść o tym... "Jak Gwiezdne Wojny podbiły Wszechświat". Książka Taylora jest lekturą ciekawą i pełną nieznanych mi - średnio zaawansowanemu fanowi uniwersum SW - faktów i anegdot. W żadnym wypadku nie jest to laurka wychwalająca życie i twórczość George'a Lucasa, ale rzecz mówiąca o tym, jak dzięki wysiłkowi i pasji wielu ludzi (nie tylko "Stwórcy") otrzymaliśmy bodajże najbardziej rozpoznawalną markę na świecie.

Książkę polecam, powtarzając jak mantrę - w ORYGINALE! (lub po poprawionym wznowieniu, o ile wydawnictwo ma na tyle honoru, by to uczynić).

Link do wspomnianej "wyliczanki" błędów: https://www.facebook.com/197132843720...
Profile Image for Lady*M.
1,069 reviews99 followers
August 17, 2015
On the scale of Star Wars geekdom, I am merely a padawan. I never ventured into the Extended Universe (Star Wars Rebels is exception), I have a laid-back attitude towards the prequels and certainly don’t know much of the background and legends surrounding this universe. This was why I was nervous about this book – I was afraid I would be bored by unnecessary details. My worry was unfounded.

Chris Taylor examines the origins, influences and making of the series, many people that contributed to Lucas’s vision as well as culture that surrounds it, including the passionate fandom. He shows the ways it became the global phenomenon and how it is still spreading. Taylor is obviously a fan, but offers fairly objective view of the franchise (his preferences and opinions occasionally peek through, but that just adds to the earnestness of his effort). The amount of research that must have gone into this book is mind-boggling.

I have seen some people complaining about the narrative that doesn’t follow the strict timeline and jumps from theme to theme. Personally, that made me turn the pages faster. Just when you get fatigued by numerous drafts of original movie and problems haunting the production, Taylor jumps to the creation of 501st Legion, an organization of fans that dress as stormtroopers and now have branches in over 50 countries.

The parts of the book I enjoyed the most (in no particular order): development of science fiction and space opera (that’s the literature geek in me), connections between the various geek icons – from Lucas, Spielberg, Coppola to Marvel’s Feige, all the ways the franchise influenced the global culture – from Regan’s Star Wars to Darth Vader leading civil unrest in Turkey and, of course, the Star Wars fandom in all its creativity. Dedicated fans will be familiar with much of the facts, but I bet Taylor manages to surprise them as well.

The book pulls you in and never lets you go. Whether you are rabid or casual fan, the book, like the franchise it is dedicated to, invokes the sense of belonging to a large community. The book ends with the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney and announcement of Episode VII. If you though you couldn’t be more excited, you are wrong.

How Star Wars Conquered the Universe is accessible gateway to Star Wars phenomenon and well worth your time. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Thom Willis.
273 reviews58 followers
September 5, 2015
This was probably the most entertaining book I've read in a while. When I heard about this book I was not initially very interested, but I was able to get it for free or at a low cost through Audible, and started listening to it when I ran out of other stuff to listen to.

This book is simultaneously a biography of George Lucas, a history of science fiction and space fantasy, a film-making documentary, and a record of a cultural phenomenon of really unbelievable proportions. Taylor spins it as a gripping narrative, and digs deep into the history of the film saga, revealing aspects and influences of the franchise that head honchos at Lucasfilm have generally kept secret, or at least de-ephasized to the point that people forget it.

I will listen to this again, maybe twice more.

I think that anyone who likes biography, film history, or even cultural commentary would be entertained by this book, not just Star Wars fans. And veteran fans like myself who think we know everything about the Saga, both in-universe and out, won't be bored.

Star Wars is forever!!
Profile Image for Chris Comerford.
Author 1 book20 followers
January 11, 2016
Chris Taylor manages to eruditely say a lot of what I've never been able to when it comes to Star Wars. This is a lovingly written and exhaustively researched companion, detailing the history of George Lucas, the pulp science fiction scene, the evolution of digital filmmaking and, of course, Star Wars itself.

How Star Wars Conquered the Universe is informative, comedic, reverential and critical all at once; above all, though, it's never boring. I hesitate to say anything is the "Definitive" version of a thing, given that our definitions of things change on a daily basis, but I'd say Taylor's work is as close as we'll probably ever come. It smartly cannibalises aspects from multiple established sources - including Alan Arnold's "Once Upon a Galaxy" and Michael Kaminski's "The Secret History of Star Wars" - and touches on damn near every name, for good or ill, associated with Star Wars: Lucas. McCallum. Coppola. Kurtz. Kennedy. Abrams. Kershner. Marquand. Ainsworth. Binks.

The book also divides its history of the franchise, interspersing the narrative journey with chapters exploring the contemporary impact of Star Wars on the real world. The diehard fans of the R2 Builders Club and the 501st are highlighted as the end result of Lucas's "little space thing" that began in the 70s, and continues far into the future.

Taylor's own view is present, but never becomes didactic; his writing clearly demonstrates his great love for the films, the characters and the universe, even if he's not afraid to gently knock the prequels or put Lucas in his place when his claims contradict each other across decades.

This is, quite simply, an engrossing, compendious book that illuminates the Star Wars franchise like no lightsaber's glow ever could. Definitely one for Lucas enthusiasts, pop culture scholars and, of course, Star Wars fans.
6 reviews2 followers
February 15, 2016
O tym jak pewien nerd stał się miliarderem dzięki spełnianiu własnych marzeń Genialna, obszerna i wielokontekstowa analiza przyczyn powstania, a także późniejszej popularności całego uniwersum stworzonego przez George'a Lucasa.
Autor przybliża nam postać Lucasa starając się wyjaśnić jak doszło do tego, że stworzył on jeden z najbardziej kultowych (jeśli nie najbardziej) elementów popkultury.
Dowiemy się w jakich bólach i trudach rodził się pierwszy szkic pierwszego filmu, i jakie trudności napotykał reżyser podczas kręcenia kolejnych części. Dowiemy się również dlaczego trzeba było tyle lat czekać na kolejne trzy epizody i czemu są tak różne od części IV, V i VI. Dowiemy się sporo o całej franczyzie Star Warsów. O ludziach wiązanych z jej tworzeniem a także z jej wielbieniem. Poznamy psychofanów i maniaków a także osoby, które związały się z tym wyimaginowanym uniwersum z czystej, dziecięcej fascynacji i trwają w niej przez dziesiątki lat.
Książkę tę polecam każdemu kto lubi Gwiezdne Wojny i chce lepiej zrozumieć dlaczego są właśnie takie, a nie inne.
Profile Image for Karen.
388 reviews21 followers
April 2, 2021
This was super interesting. A 20-hour audiobook, it's quite long and jam packed with Star Wars related facts. The author sprinkles these facts and side stories throughout this chronological journey from George Lucas' childhood days, to the making of the original movie, the adoption and integration of Star Wars lore into mainstream America and throughout the world, and eventually the development of the new movies and tv shows as the legend continues. The author is probably the biggest fan in the world. His enthusiasm for the Star Wars world is contagious. I'm a fan, but far from a superfan and I loved this book; I learned a lot of interesting stuff.
Profile Image for Megu.
107 reviews1,152 followers
January 6, 2016
Let's just assume this is a review of original version and not this horrid, full of errors and mistranslations Polish edition.
"Zakon 66"!!! For f**k's sake!
Profile Image for Ben.
968 reviews86 followers
October 17, 2021
I'd only recommend this for Star Wars super-fans. Star Wars is an interesting phenomenon, and Taylor dives deep, but I wanted a more critical perspective, at least for one chapter.

> As well as kicking the space fantasy genre into high gear, Carter has a good claim on being the first superhero: he’s the progenitor of both Superman and Luke Skywalker. Burroughs bought a ranch called Tarzana in present-day LA, quit the pencil job, and churned out three more serialized sequels—plus the story he named for his new home, Tarzan of the Apes

> Lucas only proceeded to pitch Star Wars after he couldn’t get the movie rights to Flash Gordon. One early draft of Star Wars used a Raymond panel, Flash and Ming engaged in a fencing duel, for its cover. Lucas has never been shy about referring to Flash Gordon as the most direct and prominent inspiration for Star Wars. … “Loving them that much when they were so awful,” he said, “I began to wonder what would happen if they were done really well? Surely, kids would love them even more.” Lucas paid direct homage with his roll-up—the words that scroll at the beginning of every Star Wars movie, just as they do in Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe. His elaborate screen-wipes are recognizably inspired by the serial, too.

> Francis Ford Coppola suggested to Lucas that the two of them actually start a religion using the Force as its scripture. Lucas feared for his friend’s sanity. But it wasn’t out of character for Coppola, a man who once joked that he was modeling his career on Hitler’s rise to power

> Originally called the Lucas Computer Division, Pixar had essentially started off as a skunkworks operation, and Apple cofounder Steve Jobs had bought it in 1986, in a postdivorce fire sale. Lucas had been desperate to unload assets in order to hang onto Skywalker Ranch and sacrificed the computer division on the altar of that utopian dream. Jobs gave him $5 million
Profile Image for Kristy Miller.
405 reviews85 followers
August 7, 2017
I was born in late 1982, and I do not remember a time when I hadn't seen Star Wars. I have vague memories of wandering around my preschool classroom, spouting lines from The Empire Strikes Back. I remember days throughout my childhood (and adulthood) when we would break out the popcorn popper, and marathon the Star Wars or Indiana Jones movies. I refer to my phone as R2-D2, because it is always the droid I'm looking for, with it's R2 case and light saber and R2 notification noises. In short, I'm a bit of a fan.
I came across this book earlier this year (2015) as an Audible book of the day. It's probably the best $3 I spent all year. Chris Taylor has put together a book that is part Lucas biography, part film history, part sociological study, and part fan magazine. It opens at the 2013 screening of Episode IV, as it became the first film to be translated into Navajo. The author walks through the crowd, searching for people who have never seen the film, and finding out that even the oldest Star Wars virgin has some knowledge of the story. The cultural force is strong with the franchise. Taylor then tells the tale of George Lucas as he grows up and creates one of the most beloved pieces of science fiction of all time. He inter cuts the biography/film history with asides on Lucas's influences, his friends and collaborators, the movies and shows that were made possible after the success of Star Wars became evident, and the fans that have made the Star Wars Universe their own. Full of trivia, fun facts, and stories of many associated with the movies, it's a fun read for those in the fandom. Published in 2014, Taylor is able to speculate some about Episode VII, which was at the beginning of filming at the time, and will open 2 weeks from the date of this review. I couldn't help but tear up a little as he envisioned those magical words that will appear on screen in two short weeks, "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..."
Profile Image for Matthew.
38 reviews
January 21, 2015
I had a free audiobook download voucher and decided to give this book a whirl. It was advertised as a history of the Star Wars saga and I thought it promised a rather interesting perspective on the creative process. I thought the book would detail a great deal about how a record breaking franchise such as this is born, and it does. However, Taylor does much more than that.

By clocking in just over 21 hours long (unabridged), this book certainly tried my patience. In addition to the history of the films (which is interspersed throughout), Taylor spends an exhausting amount of time discussing the fans themselves. Never one to abandon a book mid-way, I trudged through story after story with regards to the fandom created around Star Wars. Anecdotes abounded about the creation of fan costumes (fans must build their own costumes...LucasFilm is, apparently litigious when it comes to replicas being sold), art, fiction, conventions, and much more.

The result is quite exhausting. In the late 1990's, the other great sci-fi franchise, Star Trek, had its own fan base examined closely in a hilarious, crowd-pleasing documentary called "Trekkies." In the hour and a half running time, Trekkies was a able to succinctly convey the reasons for such a fandom, the lengths fans will go to in order to show appreciation, and the cultural impact the fan base has made on the greater populace. In "How Star Wars Conquered the Universe," Taylor does the same thing over the course of hundreds of pages (8 plus hours of the audiobook), AND considerably less effectively.

While I can appreciate the reporting efforts of Taylor, this book would have been better served if it was divided into two wholly separate volumes: the history and creation of the franchise and the influence it has had on pop culture. Now I must move on as I have already spent more time on this subject then I ever intended.
Profile Image for Joe.
1,017 reviews29 followers
March 12, 2015
I'm somewhat of a Star Wars nerd. My list of bonafides?
- I own the 2006 DVD release with the ORIGINAL movies in their ORIGINAL form.
- I've seen the original trilogy hundreds of times.
- I own and have seen both made-for-tv Ewok movies hundreds of times.
- I listen to not one, but two Star Wars podcasts every week.
- I've read 42 of the Expanded Universe Star Wars books.
- I own several light sabers and blasters and regularly do battle with my 3 year old using the same. I play both good and bad guys, respectively.

Long story short, Joey loves his Star Wars!

"How Star Wars Conquered the Universe: The Past, Present, and Future of a Multibillion Dollar Franchise" is catnip to a guy like me. It starts at the beginning with George Lucas' influences from film, literature, television and comics. It shows all of the madness he had to go through to get his early films made like "THX-1138" and "American Graffiti." It goes into a lot of depth on the making of Star Wars but not so much on Empire or Jedi. But that's not what this book is necessarily for. There are other books out there about that. This book is all about context.

This book will help even the casual Star Wars fan to truly understand where Star Wars came from, how it rose to insane heights, and the flaws/personality quirks/genius in George Lucas that have helped shape the series every step of the way.

If you've ever tried use the Force on a remote control from across the room, if you've ever used a wrapping paper tube as a light saber, if you think "I know" is the most romantic line of all time...this book is for you.
Profile Image for Ruel.
130 reviews15 followers
December 23, 2014
To those who can't wait until the release of Episode VII: this is the book you've been looking for. How Star Wars Conquered the Universe is a well-researched look at how Star Wars came to cast its shadow over American, and eventually international, culture. Taylor is a reverential yet uncompromising fan while dealing with every aspect of George Lucas' (now Disney's) hallowed franchise.

I was hooked from the beginning as Taylor does a fine job of capturing the wonder and excitement of 1977. It's this balance between being a fan and a reporter that makes this such a terrific read for fans and non-fans alike. For the die-hards, most of the material covers familiar ground, but Taylor keeps things fresh by writing in an easy and engaging manner. He covers the phenomenon of the original trilogy to the misfirings of the prequels, from the films themselves to their merchandising and the impact they've had throughout the years. It seems like Star Wars has found its way into every part of the human experience, including books that document this phenomenon.
Profile Image for Don.
Author 6 books40 followers
May 6, 2015
If you grew up with Star Wars, you will enjoy this book which tells the story of George Lucas and the many fans that have made Star Wars a cultural phenomenon. Many entertaining anecdotes, including the origin of Wookies, engineers that build fully functional R2 units, the best order to watch the 6 movies, when President Obama rode in an elevator with Chewbacca and C3PO.

I learned about Star Wars uncut, a fan created version of the first movie spliced together from 15 second segments. I learned how the stormtrooper's 501 Legion got started. There are thousands of people around the world who have built their own stormtrooper costumes. I learned about people who exercise with Jedi lightsabers. I learned how Lucas became a millionaire because 20th Century Fox didn't have faith enough in his first movie to tie up his sequels.
Profile Image for Scott.
1,750 reviews124 followers
March 9, 2015
Essential reading for any 'Star Wars' fan.
Profile Image for Jill Myles.
Author 42 books1,625 followers
June 19, 2016
This is a dense book full of nerdiness. So. Much. Nerdiness. And I loved every minute of it.

I'm a Star Wars nerd. I mean, maybe I'm not as big a fan as some people, but I know my Ahsoka Tano from my Aayla Secura, my Mandalorians from my midichlorians (ick) and I've seen both trilogies multiple times. I've read some of the books. I play or have played a lot of the games. I might have a crush on BB8. And I've recently been burned out on fiction, which happens from time to time when you write books. Usually when that happens, I turn to non-fiction. And after a recent re-watch of the Prequels, I thought, hey, I'd sure like to read a book about the behind the scenes Star Wars stuff.

So I bought this book.


This is a long-ass book. Seriously. It took me a month of devoted reading to get through this. It was never boring! It's just incredibly dense and full of detail. At one point my husband turned to me and said "You're still reading that book?" Yeah. I was at 43% on my kindle. LONG. BOOK.

But omg. So much information. There's not a ton of gossip about the actors (so if you're looking for that, look away). There are chapters and chapters of Lucas's influences. How he ran his companies. Marketing tactics. YOU GUYS THERE ARE CHAPTERS AND CHAPTERS OF HOW EPISODE IV WAS MARKETED AND I READ ALL OF IT AND IT WAS FAAAAASCINATING. There are chapters about merchandising. Chapters about obsessive memorabilia collectors. The comic books. The budget and distributing for each movie release. The expanded universe books. The movie releases. The extended versions. Those guys that dress up as stormtroopers for fun (the 501st). The insane number of drafts Lucas wrote for each screenplay. There are chapters detailing the sale to Disney. There is even a chapter about dudes that make Artoo replicas for fun. For. Fun.

It is all super damn interesting. I would read a few chapters every night and then discuss it (sometimes endlessly) with my husband the next day. I also started this book genuinely liking Lucas (aw, he seems like such a nice guy to the fans!) and ended up having contempt for him as the Star Wars machine went on, just because of how obsessive and controlling he was over the universe. A lot of rumors and aha moments were brought to light, petty behind-the-scenes bickering about who the 'real' Vader was, etc. All in here.

Looooong. But if you just read any of my review and thought, wow, I want to read about that, then this is your book.
Profile Image for Katie.
735 reviews12 followers
April 30, 2016
Really 3.5.

Listen, this is a very good book. It just wasn’t the droid I was looking for. Well, more accurately it was the droid I was looking for, but he brought along his annoying protocol droid buddy who bothered me with information about himself (wow, I think I just made a reference that equates a book about George Lucas to C-3PO… I am such a nerd).

But I am only rating this book three stars, compared to higher ratings you’ll see nearly everywhere else. Why? Because while Taylor obviously spent a great deal of time crafting *the* work on the subject, it was just too dense for me and moved too slowly (I probably would have been served waiting to listen to this on audio instead of lunging into it in hardback). You will most likely enjoy this book much more than me, but I suggest thinking through the following criteria: 1. Do you LOVE Star Wars? 2. How much George Lucas is too much George Lucas? And finally, 3. How in the mood are you for a very detailed 400-page book of non-fiction? If you answer those three questions with: 1. SO MUCH, 2. I can stand a lot of Mr. Lucas, and 3. That sounds like the best thing ever, you’ll enjoy this book. I suggest reading it soon, as the secretive nature of the lead up to Episode VII led to a lot of forecasting and “who knows?” from Taylor, and now we do know – so his book is going to start to become dated as the Anthology movies start rolling out this winter.

Profile Image for Shyames.
270 reviews27 followers
July 8, 2017
Pomimo że czytałam pierwsze wydanie, które według znawców ma podobno niebywałą ilość błędów i niedomówień, to jako 1. fanka "Gwiezdnych Wojen", 2. totalny laik jeśli chodzi o historię powstawania sagi, muszę przyznać, że bawiłam się znakomicie.
Dosyć obszerna pozycja stanowi wspaniały ukłon w stronę każdego fana, który sięgnie po tą lekturę. Od przemycania w każdym rozdziale smaczków z planu oryginalnych części, poprzez wspaniale opisany proces powstawania kolejnych szkiców scenariuszy w głowie George'a Lucasa, aż po proces sprzedaży firmy Disney'owi. Nie wszystko można zilustrować kolorami tęczy, ale też nie wszystko jest czarno-białe. Problemy z budżetem, problemy z aktorami, reżyserami, kredytami, a nawet rozw��d Lucasów, wszystko miało niesamowity wpływ na ostateczny kształt sagi.
Przede wszystkim podziękowania należą się za wspaniały rozdział o obrońcy prequeli. Bo muszę przyznać, że nie należę do tej grupy, która ślepo nienawidzi części I, II i III i wręcz zaprzecza ich istnienia. To wszystko ma sens i składa się w niesamowitą całość. Dorzucić do tego Expanded Universe (traktowany teraz w nowym kanonie jako Legendy), "Wojny Klonów" i "Star Wars: Rebelianci", czy najnowszy "Rogue One" i naprawdę, nie ma na co narzekać.
Wszystkim nieprzekonanym co do zasadności prequeli, czy nawet istnienia Jar Jar Bingsa, polecam lekturę. Parafrazując autora, "Gwiezdne Wojny" przeniknęły do naszej świadomości kulturowej i pozostaną tu już na zawsze, razem z prequelami, czy to się komuś podoba, czy nie.
Profile Image for Lauren .
1,717 reviews2,311 followers
February 10, 2017
A biography of the series / franchise / legend, as well as the creator, George Lucas - this books was a lot of fun for any Star Wars fan. Lots of behind-the-scenes stories, early concepts and drafts of the screenplays, and the "expanded" universe that pushes past the original trilogy and prequels into all of the 'space betweens': comics, novels, animated series, cosplay, etc.

A large amount of time and ink was spent on Episode 4 concepts, and the process that Lucas took in the mid-1970s, while the Empire Strikes Back and the Return of the Jedi were pretty quickly glossed over through the text. I would have liked more details about these latter films because honestly, those are the best of the series!

We re-watched the original trilogy, and after listening to some of the pro/con cases for the prequels, I have to say that I may want to watch those again too. Maybe muted when Jar Jar comes on screen :/

Can't wait for Episode 7 in December...

{Edited to add 12/22/2015}
I would love to see an addendum and additional details about the making of the new trilogy and the 'Star Wars stories' standalones like Rogue One and the planned Han Solo pic.
Profile Image for Nemo.
116 reviews25 followers
August 13, 2014
Such a fun read! I honestly though i knew everything about Star Wars. I'd read the comic, obsessed about the movies, and even saw all the audition tapes. What i didn't know was how intense the history was and all the problems they had to deal with. Great for any super star wars fan :)
Profile Image for Ryan.
86 reviews23 followers
December 23, 2015
This was a comprehensive and quite riveting read.

I raced through the second half of this today and has certainly got me in the mood to finally see Episode VII tomorrow!
Profile Image for C1-10P yana.
96 reviews
February 28, 2021
You ever wonder how Greek mythology endured? I'd say it went a little something like this.

But first, let me tell you about a little pet peeve of mine that's become a hobby: praise quotes.

You know? Those random quotes that publishers stick onto the cover of unsuspecting books? They have the vague air of having emerged from a cheap online generator and they barely make any freaking sense? Yep. I hate them so much that I enjoy browsing them.

'Smart. Eloquent. Definitive.' - Lev Grossman or Maybe Neil Gaiman

'Evocative! Irresistible! I'd eat your children if I could pick them up and this book is entertaining enough for you to forget to mind your kids at the playpark while I attempt it!' - Unfriendly Neighbourhood Seagull

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, you see... It's a self-roast, because when I finished this book, all that was left spinning around my head was:

Eloquent, humorous and, above all, so nostalgically evocative. - Yana

Seriously man?? Not you too!

But damn if this book isn't evocative. It made me feel like I was there for the 1977 Star Wars hype, the conventions, the 501st; you name it, this book's got it and it'll make you real emotional about it. It's the beautifully (and humorously!) told story of the modern popular mythology phenomenon that Star Wars has become. It recognises the Creator's work side by side with the millions of fans whose imaginations have kept it alive by running with it and adding to it.

While all the other books on Lucas's life are a Tell-Never-Show and about as enjoyable as licking sand, Taylor's work is so alive and in the moment that you'll learn as much about being a creative as you will about Star Wars. You'll hear John Williams's soundtrack in your head any number of times, you'll feel like you're in California in the 60s and 70s, you'll sweat it with Lucas, and you'll marvel at the countless feats of genius from all sorts of folks it took for this franchise to take off. You'll learn about how revolutionary Star Wars actually was as a piece of art in the 70s, 80s, and 00s. If that wasn't enough, you'll also get to read about some really cool people and what Star Wars means to them.

In the end, it makes you think a lot about what it means to you too, leaving you with a vague sense of community.
Profile Image for Jarrah.
811 reviews44 followers
April 8, 2018
This book was recommended at Geek Girl Con a few years back, by a panelist on the "Geek Elders Speak" session on the history of Star Wars fandom. I was delighted that this book not only delved into fandom - from cosplayers to droid builders to collectors to fan movie maker - but also provided a detailed, entertaining look at how the first two trilogies came to be.

Taylor weaves fan stories with a biography of George Lucas and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Episodes I-VI (as well as the post VI sale of Lucasfilm to Disney). As someone who's long been a fan of Star Wars but can't claim thorough familiarity with the Extended Universe and hasn't actively participated in the fandom, I learned a lot. I learned about Lucas' personal, philosophical, political and cinematographic influences; the way Star Wars changed from first draft to release to special edition; as well as the vast depth and breadth of Star Wars fan activity.

The book is pretty long, with lengthy chapters, and it's a commitment to get through. I listened to the Audiobook version and it was the longest audiobook I've attempted to date, but it was chock-full of entertaining tidbits. The only quibbles I have are that I think it spent a bit too long on the details of George Lucas' divorce from Marsha Lucas and detailed the settlement in ways that felt unnecessary, and that the final chapter felt like Taylor was trying to cram a bunch of examples he didn't have time to explore in other chapters into the conclusion. Maybe could've been more than one book? A trilogy, even?

One thing I particularly appreciated was the book's discussion of the historical relationship between Star Trek and Star Wars and their respective fandoms. Taylor shows how there's always been significant overlap between the fandoms (with one fan even helming both official fan clubs at one point), but also valid reasons on both sides that some fans prefer one franchise over the other.
Profile Image for Martin.
176 reviews
February 6, 2022
This was a blast. If you are a fan of the original trilogy you will love this. Essentially a George Lucas’ biography that fishtails into various aspects of Star Wars behind-the-scenes insight and obsessive fandom. Beginning at Lucas’ childhood and the car crash that should have killed him, the book chronicles his interest of art and photography, looking how he eventually found himself working in film-making alongside a set of peers that included Coppola and Spielberg. Taylor explores how close Star Wars was to not being made, either due to financial and or self-imposed technical difficulties so Lucas could make the kind of movie he had in mind. Taylor does his best to extract quotes from early interviews in print or celluloid, comparing what was happening at the time, from the later oft rewritten / misremembered recollections of various players’ as they retell their stories now. Taylor does a sterling job of laying out the multiple narratives, allowing the reader to make up their own mind of which story sounds more plausible. The bulk of the book is made up of early years and the original trilogy, with maybe a fifth focusing on the prequels. The novel’s arc completes with the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney and a description of the first official trailer for The Force Awakens. (I had goose bumps all over again in intense anticipation for that movie.) George Lucas is an intensely shy man but Taylor does his best to paint a portrait of the filmmaker, husband, dad without any sense of author over-reach. Must-read for any Star Wars fan.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 423 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.