I was excited for this book, but it ultimately promises more than it delivers. You'd think the authors would realize anybody who buys this book is interested in a serious debate. However, far too often the book descends into silliness, leading me to quit the book midway through.
I thought Brin for the Prosecution was generally intriguing but he doesn't take some of his points far enough. I love his clear writing style and ability to treat the subject seriously, but there are a lot of crucial points he just leaves hanging. For example, he never connects the Star Wars message of refusing attachments and belief in self to Eastern religions such as Buddhism - admittedly an important influence on Lucas.
Unfortunately, Stover for the Defense was almost a joke. As much as I like Stover's novels, he frustrated me. He spends half of his "debate time" calling the prosecution evil and hinting that they sympathize with the Sith. Moreover, his arguments about the moral arc of the Star Wars saga are interesting, but seem to come out of nowhere. Admittedly, he has the harder job of clarifying the prequels, but Stover spent more time making snide comments than explaining his comments.
All that said, all of the authors write in an engaging and humorous style that makes the book fun to read, despite its sometimes frustrating content. I keep the book on my iphone and might revisit it during my commute one day just because it is so lighthearted. However, I had been hoping for a more intellectually serious discussion of the Star Wars saga.
Given that the Kindle version of this book is so cheap, it's probably worth buying for any Star Wars fan, but be prepared to be frustrated at points. I'd give it 3.5 stars overall.
After reading more of the book, and especially the takes of different authors, I'm revising my initial judgment. I think the way to read this book is to read it selectively, i.e. only read the good chapters. Here are my recommendations:
David Brin for the Prosecution:
Brin is generally thoughtful, but at times I felt like screaming at him because his interpretation of the movies was so superficial. I enjoyed his discussion of the role of myth, but at times he seemed to be arguing both for and against mythology. Worth reading, but ultimately not satisfying.
Matt Stover for the Defense:
He spends way too much joking around and mock-attacking the prosecution. He made some good points, but I found him to be a chore to read.
Keith DeCandido on politics:
While I wouldn't have chosen DeCandido to defend Star Wars' politics (I'd have chosen an expert on, well, politics), he does a decent job showing that Star Wars isn't just elitist. He's certainly much better at defending the saga than Stover.
John Wright on ethics:
Waste of time. Wright doesn't engage in analysis, he just tries to demean Star Wars using Big Capital Letters to make things sound Silly. Also, he doesn't seem to acknowledge Buddhism and other eastern religions as viable sources of ethics.
Scott Lynch on ethics:
Surprisingly good! I'd never heard of Lynch before reading his chapter, but he has a neat way of viewing the morality of the saga. He takes some commonly accepted points and took them to a new level. His ability to distill the entire saga into a moral whole really impressed me. This chapter did what I wish the others had - it got me thinking. Definitely worth reading.
Lou Anders on writing:
While Anders makes some good points, essentially all he says is that Star Wars isn't the type of writing he likes. He laments that Star Wars isn't science fiction, but of course Star Wars was designed to be science fantasy, and does NOT have anything to do with the effect of technology on mankind. After admitting that he's only read one Star Wars book, I just can't see him as credible to discuss the genre.
Her defense of writing for Star Wars was surprisingly strong. She discusses her personal experience writing in the Star Wars world and how she claims it made her a better writer. While it's impossible to tell how many authors share her commitment to self-improvement, her autobiographical account provided a very compelling case.
Unfortunately, most of the other essays in Charges 4-6 ping-pong back and forth between the Prosecution claiming Star Wars isn't genuine sci-fi, and the Defense agreeing that it's really science fantasy, and that anyways publishing is a business. Unfortunately, it's generally much ado about nothing.
While Star Wars, especially the prequels, have their flaws, I generally found myself nodded more with the Defense than the Prosecution. Unfortunately, I feel like that's more because the Defense actually knew and cared about Star Wars while the Prosecution just "phoned" their essays in (with the exception of David Brin, who both made excellent points and clearly loves the movies). It's too bad as I would have enjoyed a more vigorous debate.