Thursday, August 16, 2012

Review: DK's Star Wars: The Ultimate Visual Guide: Updated and Expanded by Ryder Windham

On April 30, 2012 Lucas Books and DK released an revised edition of their book Star Wars: The Ultimate Visual Guide.  The new addition received a new subtitled "Updated and Expanded" as well as about 40 pages of new material. The book weighs in at 200 pages and is 9.88 inches wide by 11.88 inches tall.  

I do not have the previous edition of the book so this review will focus on the new edition including comments on both the new and old material.

Revised and expanded! 
Star Wars: The Ultimate Visual Guide, newly revised and expanded, reveals the story of the amazing Star Wars saga in full detail. 40 new pages help to explain every detail about Star Wars from the millennia- spanning history of George Lucas's long ago, far away galaxy to the Star Wars movies and ever-expanding range of books, novels, comics, and media. Packed full of interesting facts about the world of Star Wars merchandise and fandom, astonishing pieces of art, and full-color photographs, DK's compendium is the key to knowing ALL there is to know about the iconic brand that is Star Wars! 
Featuring tons of all-new content including characters, storylines, vehicles, weapons, merchandise, news, and beyond: 
LEGO® Star Wars™ sets and minifigures
Latest seasons of the ever-popular animated series, The Clone Wars
The Force Unleashed video games
Blue-ray release of Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Updated galactic timeline and galaxy map
And much, much more! 
© 2012 Lucasfilm Ltd. ® & TM All Rights Reserved. Used Under Authorization.
The book can roughly be divided into two major sections, the first is an in universe chronologically based visual tour through the Expanded Universe, TV shows and films. The second section is "Behind the Scenes" and features information on the creation of the universe, merchandising and fandom.  

Written by Ryder Windham, the book also features a forward by actress Ashley Eckstein.  This is a large coffee table style book and features a dust jacket with cover art that is also reproduced on the cover of the book itself.  This aesthetic feature is nice in case you are less than gentle and your dust jackets end up looking like mine.  

Generally the book is laid out in two page sections each focused on one common theme.  For example the 2 page spread on The Old Republic video game is entitled, "The Great Galactic War." Later on in the time like we get a section set during the Dark Times entitled, "Life on Tatooine." This two-page at a time format is wonderful in that it makes the book one that is easy to pick up and put down at your leisure without having to re-read a large chunk of material.  

There is so much material in the Star Wars universe that fans become compartmentalized at times, for me this means that I cannot consume everything.  My fandom consumption focuses on the adult novels and the television and film products.  This leaves a rather large gap in my fandom, i.e. the comics.  While I have read some of the comics, mostly in graphic novel form, I have missed a lot of Star War stories.  One of my favorite features in this book is the inclusion of comic panels throughout.  I just love seeing the various comic images from different periods in the Star Wars comics, different art styles and different takes on the same characters.  

In addition to comic panels we also get other artwork, concept artwork, screen captures and photographs that combine to create a visual smorgasbord as diverse as the Mos Eisley Cantina's cast of creatures. 

Other highlights of the book for me are the timeline and trade route map at the beginning of the book, the Index at the back of the book, and the Clone Wars section which helps clear up some of the chronological issues in terms of which episode goes where in the timeline.  

The timeline is a nice broad overview that allows fans to conceptualize galactic history, this outline is fleshed out throughout the book as the top of the pages are labeled with an era name and an in universe date range.  

I love the trade routes map, its small enough to let you see the big picture but large enough to see detail.  It also is a nice tease for people. If you like this map go pick up the Essential Atlas

Maybe it is my days and nights researching in college that taught me to love an index, but I wish every book came with one.  When you are immersed in the Expanded Universe there are times when things start to blur together, the ability to quickly find the information you are looking for is a nice tough.  

While it may not be the final order of the Clone Wars chronology this books lays out the episodes in a rough order that can be helpful to fans that really enjoy having a clear historical timeline.

Possibly the most surprising part of the book is the meatiness of the text.  With so many images on the pages and the "Visual Guide" title one would expect some skimping on the written material.  I am pleased to report that author Ryder Windham packs lots of information and text onto the pages and that makes this book a surprisingly long read.  

Star Wars: The Ultimate Visual Guide: Updated and Expanded is a substantial book that draws on a diverse set of images and solid written material to take you on a time machine through the history of the Star Wars universe and beyond. 

MSRP is  $24.99 and the book is on sale now. 

Author's note: Review copy provided by DK Books.

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