Friday, April 06, 2012

Book Review – Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Warfare

I have long believed myself to not really be the intended audience for these Star Wars Essential Guides. I’ve read a few of them, usually by borrowing them from my local library, but nothing had ever made me really pay attention to them in the past. I remember many fans getting excited over Star Wars: The Essential Atlas, but other than a few random articles it didn’t do much for me.

Well, all of that was before The Essential Guide to Warfare. Now this book was no where near my radar, it’s gone through an author change and it’s in a series I’ve already admitted I could take or leave – but when a review copy showed up I figured I’d give it a shot and see what this one was all about. What I was first struck by was the artwork, there are some fantastic pieces in this book featuring scenes from all throughout the Star Wars saga – from the movies and The Clone Wars, to the Old Republic game era and the expanse of literature (preview images here). There are battle scenes featuring the Yuuzahn Vong, portraits of important military figures, and comparisons between different spacecraft. It was the last of these that most impressed my young kids, they love seeing ships from The Clone Wars show up in any books I receive.

As much as I enjoyed those, that wouldn’t have been enough to really grab my attention. Fortunately there are two more key items working in The Essential Guide to Warfare’s favor. The first is that similar to the Hayes Owner’s Manual for the Millennium Falcon, this book is written as if it is an “in-universe” book. If you’re not sure what I mean by that, pretend you are a citizen in the Galaxy of Star Wars and you want to read a history book chronicling the last few thousand years of wars – this is a book written for (and to) you. I like the way that kind of a book treats the audience, and any concerns I might have had about reading a “history book” were erased by all the tid-bits of information I gleaned out of reading each section. There are gems throughout the book for long-time fans.

But the best part of the book by far is all the short stories within. Are you a fan of Star Wars short stories (such as the “Tales of…” books)? Have you wanted more short stories set in the Star Wars universe? This is a book that was made for you (and I!). Every few pages is another short story, sometimes featuring characters you know, sometimes brand new ones (at least to me). There’s the story about a female Storm Trooper, to give you insight into what it was like to be one of the few women who served in that uniform. You can read a perspective on Darth Sidious’ New Order from Kol Skywalker (grandson of Luke), or perhaps the story of Baron Fel as told by Wedge Antilles. The short stories are the true treasure of this book, and I’d recommend getting it for those alone.

Now, I’ve mentioned how I think long-time fans will definitely get a lot out of this book, but what about folks who may not be so deeply involved with the series? I’ll say that if you’re someone who’s looking for a way to build up your knowledge about a particular era of Star Wars (because at this point, you’ve got thousands of years worth of history being covered through movies, games, TV, books and comics), this is a great way to get started in expanding your own view of Star Wars. You just might discover something intriguing about another era and want to seek out more information. It’s the kind of guide that will help you look at the big picture of these conflicts, but at the same time puts a personal touch on it by focusing on some of the people (both major and minor) who participated in these wars. It’s a great book and I highly recommend it.


Maurice Mitchell said...

Sweet Jim. I haven't read many of the books besides the concept art ones, but I'll have to chek this one out. ***Heading for library***
- Maurice Mitchell
The Geek Twins | Film Sketchr
@thegeektwins | @mauricem1972

IMAGINE said...

Star wars is spawning a lot of thoughts and books. This one is awesome.