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Saturday, July 16, 2011

STAR WARS VS. STAR TREK: COULD THE EMPIRE KICK THE FEDERATION'S ASS? -- book review by porfle


If you want to stir up a fanboy fracas, just start theorizing about which classic sci-fi franchise is more badass--Star Wars or Star Trek.  Each side has its legions of fanatical followers, and even those who enjoy both are likely to have their druthers.  Me, I love Star Wars as much as the next geek, but Star Trek is my life.  In fact, I actually remember when ST:TOS was the most sleek, modern-looking show on TV, and Star Wars was just a gleam in George Lucas' bong. 

Anyway, about that fracas--that's exactly what author Matt Forbeck is aiming for with his new book, STAR WARS VS. STAR TREK: COULD THE EMPIRE KICK THE FEDERATION'S ASS? And Other Galaxy-Shaking Enigmas (Adams Media, $14.95).  Forbeck (whose own bias seems apparent in the title) places the various characters, hardware, philosophies, and other concepts into conflict in a series of hypothetical encounters that might occur if the two galaxies were to somehow overlap.  Each segment includes a description of each participant, a brief play-by-play of their imaginary run-in, and the resulting victor, with a tally of wins and draws at the end of each chapter.

The hefty paperback (240+ pages) is loaded with background information about each franchise and its characters, plus forewords by Jeremy Bulloch ("Boba Fett" of Star Wars) and Tim Russ (ST:Voyager's "Tuvok.")  Each chapter ends with a trivia quiz.



The book starts out strong by pitting Ben Kenobi against Captain Jean-Luc Picard.  Kenobi enters Ten Forward looking for a fast ship, but meets resistance from Picard, who summons security.  Worf loses an arm.  Kenobi is trapped by a force field, but uses his lightsaber to slice a hole in the floor and disappears into the lower decks. 

Other intriguing matchups include Luke Skywalker vs. Commander Riker, Yoda vs. Spock, and, in a variation of the Millenium Falcon's escape from Mos Eisley spaceport in "A New Hope", Han Solo vs. Captain Kirk.  Heroes, villains, men, women, droids, aliens, minions, starships, weapons, governments, religions, and entire cultures are similarly pitted against one another in subsequent chapters.

The stories are mostly pretty interesting although the results often seem rather arbitrary--since there's no way of really knowing who'd win most of the battles, everything is pretty much up to the whim of the author.  Things are a little one-sided at times as well, as in the pairing of the Mos Eisley cantina against Quark's Bar from ST:Deep Space Nine (no contest).



Still, most of these snapshot "what if's" are fun to read. You can skip the ones that don't interest you, especially if you aren't fully versed in every comic book, videogame, spin-off, etc. and have never heard of some of the more obscure characters that show up now and then.  (Or don't really care, as in the "Oola vs. Marta" or "Wicket vs. Tribbles" segments.)  And then there are the perversely interesting pairings such as Jar Jar Binks vs. Wesley Crusher, which is kind of like watching one of those TV shows where Screech gets into the boxing ring with Horshack. 

Some of the best stuff is saved for last, with the Galactic Empire going up against both the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire.  Entering the arena at various points are the Borg, who tend to win most of the time, and the Q Continuum, who, as you might guess, are above it all. 

Even the basic real-life cultural elements are thrown into contention with Star Wars fans vs. Trekkies, "Main Title from 'Star Wars'" vs. "Theme From 'Star Trek'", and, getting right to the nitty-gritty, Star Wars vs. Star Trek.  The final chapter closes things with a nifty mini-epic of good vs. evil, with the heroes and villains of both galaxies entering into full-scale war when the Emperor manages to turn the Death Star II into the Borg Star and launches an attack on the Federation.  This crossover story, which would make a pretty awesome movie itself, allows Star Wars and Star Trek to call a truce and join forces against a common threat, ending the book with a bang.   

Author Matt Frobeck (whom the press release states has "designed games, and has written short fiction, comic books, novels, nonfiction, magazine articles, and computer game scripts and stories") gives Star Trek its due in many ways, mainly in regard to such things as technology and politics.  But the impression I get is that, deep down, his heart belongs to Star Wars.

I won't say who eventually comes out on top, but suffice it to say roughly half the readers of STAR WARS VS. STAR TREK aren't going to be too pleased with the final tally.  Still, it's a pretty fun-filled book, and--let's face it--way too lighthearted and nonsensical to cross lightsabers over.


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