Thursday, March 29, 2012

Review: Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Warfare


They don't call it Star Peace for a reason, authors Jason Fry and Paul Urquhart put the war in Star Wars with the latest edition in the Essential Guide series, Star Wars: Essential Guide to Warfare.

This book has long been in development originally planned to be the Essential Guide to the Star Wars Military was announced in 2008 and to be authored by Karen Traviss before her Ba'slan shev'la from the galaxy far, far away.

Image from Starwars.com
I have been a constant reader of the Star Wars Expanded Universe since it's modern rebirth under Timothy Zahn in the early 1990s, but early in the EU the Essential Guide line was something that while I read felt rather shallow.  This first generation of EG's as defined by Wookieepedia ended with the EG to Alien Species, later we saw a second generation of books along the same subject lines updated and re-branded as "new."  I didn't pay close attention to this second generation as it largely came during the Dark Times of my personal fandom.  My return to the Essential Guide line came with 2007's Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force by Ryder Windham.

The addition of new original content as well as a gigantic leap forward in the artistic illustrations in the books really began for me with the Essential Guide to the Force.  This book was by the breathtakingly geeky Essential Atlas by Daniel Wallace and Jason Fry, which took fictional stellar cartography to unparalleled heights.

As a Star Wars book nerd, my most anticipated EG book is Pablo Hidalgo's forthcoming The Essential Reader's Companion.  That being said, Del Rey's Star Wars Facebook page has been releasing sneak peaks of The Essential Guide to Warfare's artwork for awhile now and my excitement has been slowly building.

What authors Jason Fry and Paul Urquhart deliver in this book far exceeded my expectations and sent my inner fanboy into fits of giggles.

The Essential Guide to Warfare reads like an exceptionally well done college history seminar textbook.  You have a mixture of secondary source accounts, primary source excerpts along with a historical narrative and technical discussion.  It is the synthesis of all these elements that comes together so well.

Before I go any farther it would be a shame not to mention the many artists who contributed some really imaginative and fun pieces of art to this book.  Much of this books impressiveness is do to the work of;
Drew Baker, Tommy Lee Edwards, Ian Fullwood, Ansel Hsiao, Stephan Martiniere, Modi, Jason Palmer, Chris Scalf, Dave Seeley, Darren Tan, John Vanfleet, Bruno Werneck, and Paul Youll.
Image from Star Wars Books Facebook
The book covers the entire span of conflict in the Star Wars universe from its earliest beginnings to the events in Dark Horse Comics' Legacy series.  Mixed into the overall historical narrative there are detailed break downs of the ships and technology of war, profiles of important military leaders, detailed campaign maps and a bit of gallows humor thrown in for fun.

There is a tremendous amount of character depth and world building going on in this book, by creating in-universe primary source documents and secondary source accounts we get facts that had previously been created in various sources from role-playing guides to novels coalesce to give you what feels like the author's where sitting between the stacks of the Celebratus Archive at Obroa-skai juggling sheets of flimsi and data-tapes.

Without giving away all the goodies in the book, there were a few sections that made me totally geek out; the inclusion of D'harhan, Han Solo, the Ewoks, and Kal Skirata made this a tremendously enjoyable read.

Hardcore Clone Trooper, Mandalorian and Republic Commando fans will be most happy, we may not have gotten Omega Squad, the Null-ARCs or the Mando training sergeants in The Clone Wars animated series yet, but ....  Go buy The Essential Guide to Warfare and you may still be grinning like this impressed fanboy.

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