John Booth, fantastic writer and good friend of mine, takes us back 30 years, sharing his myriad and detailed memories of being an early Star Wars fan in his book, Collect All 21! Memoirs of a Star Wars Geek – The First 30 Years. John has been a Star Wars geek from the very beginning, being the right age when the original movies came out. At one point more recently, he decided to write down all of his recollections surrounding any part of Star Wars history, and has collected them into a fantastic book.
Each chapter in the book is a bit of a vignette, with plenty of detail and some stream of consciousness, as memories usually have. In between are sections entitled Proof of Purchase, each one a much shorter vignette, often addressing a more tangible memory of an item, such as an action figure or a cake. As I measure life by where I lived and by the birth of my children, John includes Star Wars events and dates in his life measurements.
John’s book inspires others to share their Star Wars memories as well. I, myself, was only four years old in 1977, so my memories are fewer than John’s, who is a couple of years older. But I still have my original Star Wars trading cards (with the blue border) and a few of the Return of the Jedi ones (with the red border), and still hold out hope that my R2-D2 action figure will turn up in a box. I also remember the month when I was a kid that HBO played Star Wars on frequent repeat, and I saw it probably 20 times that month. That contributed to the fact that I can practically recite the entire movie, even to this day.
John is masterful in recreating how it felt for him (and countless other Star Wars fans that were kids at the time) when he coveted that new Star Wars guy, or when he arranged his sets, or when the next movie was coming out and the anticipation was killing him. John can paint a picture with his words that pulls you into the story instantly.
Obviously the book has a star destroyer full of Star Wars references, but I love how he also inserts them when you aren’t expecting it: “They were just swordfighters, no matter how clumsy and random they thought blasters were.”
Throughout the book, John talks about his friends and classmates by first names only. We have no idea exactly who his first-named friends were. But we aren’t meant to, and it isn’t important to the story. John is just letting us into his childhood, to help us relive our own, or to see what we missed by being born at the wrong time. Or for those who perhaps weren’t lucky enough to get into Star Wars the first time around.
Throughout the book, John inserts his own form of humor, which only adds to the pleasure of reliving Star Wars memories. John is very clever and this comes out in his writing.
One of my favorite parts of the book is when he includes his recollections of writing with a friend a continuation of the story following Return of the Jedi. That story is actually incredibly creative and certainly no more cheesy than the original storylines. I wish John and his friend had done more with it at the time.
It was great to learn more about the movies themselves, especially The Empire Strikes Back, through the eyes of a child, including the impressions and some misconceptions that come with being so young. Personally, I only actually remember seeing Return of the Jedi in the theater, but I know I saw them all. I had just been too young to remember the occasions of seeing the others. (Of course my family made up for that with countless Star Wars movie retrospectives at home when I was a kid. Thanks, Mom!)
Some of John’s writing stirred memories in me that I’d only just forgotten, buried just under the surface. One example was about Luke’s fight with Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi where Luke cut off Vader’s hand, and then the camera showed Luke looking at his own gloved hand. Like John, I, too, thought that somehow Vader’s hand had ended up on Luke!
John’s conversational style in this book helps along the feeling that you are reminiscing together, that he’s telling you a story while being in the same room. You can feel his enthusiasm coming through.
A little over halfway through the book, the story takes a more serious turn, still telling John’s Star Wars tale but through the eyes of a young adult going through regretful experiences and other events. Star Wars still had an influence on his life at that point, but it had evolved into a slightly different kind of influence. This part was hard for me to read, mostly because I know John personally, and have also had some of my own regretful experiences at that time in my life.
John eventually gets to the prequels and deals with them fairly. They can’t compare to the originals, but they were better than nothing. (Maybe, says me.) In all, the book is a very personal look at one boy/man’s journey through the Star Wars universe.
The book is also available as an ebook, which has plenty of bonus material. In the ebook, after the main narrative, John has included interviews, updates, and extras. John’s writing here is a bit different, though. You get to see his journalistic side, his more polished and less personal side.
Star Wars has always been there for John Booth. Through the good times and the bad, from his youth to adulthood and parenthood. Thanks to John, I was reminded of my own childhood, with our family Star Wars retrospectives, frequent Star Wars cable TV airplay, and continually recited lines.
With Collect All 21!, you get the complete Star Wars memory of one John Booth.
Collect All 21! Memoirs of a Star Wars Geek – The First 30 Years can be gotten as a printed book for $14.95, or now in a special, expanded electronic edition, like I read it, for $7.99 on the Kindle or the Nook. Also, visit the electronic publisher’s page for a link for a free excerpt! Regardless of what method you use to read the book, it is a unique look into the evolving Star Wars universe through the eyes of one who appreciates it immensely. I highly recommend it to anyone who lived through the Star Wars years from the beginning, and to those who wish they did.