Posted by Jeremy on November 28, 2017 at 02:28 AM CST
My history with DK goes back to 2008 when I was given the opportunity to consult on the original LEGO Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary, and when editor David Fentiman contacted me to join the team I couldn't resist. This time around I came in quite late in the game, and was initially asked to provide some additional images to complement the ones provided for LSW:TVD that DK couldn't source. With a deadline not far away I was also roped in as a consultant to fact check the book so that author's Chris Malloy and Andrew Becraft work would have the spit and polish that LEGO Star Wars fans would enjoy.
So how can I review the book? Not easily is the answer. Thankfully I wasn't as deeply involved with the content and the design or layout of the book as I was first time around, so when I received my review copy my breathe was literally taken away.
But to ask and answer a question first - why is this review so late in coming? The simple truth is that Disney Lucasfilm did not release any review copies to Rebelscum, for fear of leaks, until after the book had been published.
Sliding the book out of its slipcase I went straight to the front page to check out my name in lights, then immediately turned to the back page and pulled on the chord that lit the 25 watt bulb to see my name in print for the first time in over ten years. With all the mixed feelings this raised sufficiently supressed I got on with looking over the book.
The first (or in actuality the second) thing I did was double check that my work had been accepted, and I was pleased to see that the errors that only an anally rententive LSW AFOL with 18 years of LEGO Star Wars collecting behind them would spot had been corrected. With that vanity check completed I got on with absorbing the context and content of the book.
"The definitive guide to the LEGO Star Wars universe, showcasing the vast collection of LEGO Star Wars sets and minifigures released over the last 20 years.
This is a complete, unrivaled encyclopedia of the LEGO Star Wars theme. Fans will have an all-encompassing companion to the LEGO Star Wars cultural phenomenon. Produced in large format and featuring beautiful imagery, this is an indispensable guide for young fans and a stunning reference work for adults. With behind-the-scenes material, it tells the complete story of LEGO Star Wars, from the earliest concepts in the late 1990s to the creation of the most recent sets for The Force Awakens and Rogue One. Created with the LEGO Star Wars team."
Without a doubt Ultimate LEGO Star Wars is "the preeminent guide to all things LEGO from the galaxy, far, far, away and delivers a valuable resource for collectors of all ages."
To an extent. Because while it was timed to coincide with the release of - and includes (page 255) the UCS Millennium Falcon - there were no sets from The Last Jedi in it, even though these had been on shelves for a little over a month. An editorial oversight? No. Word has it that Disney Lucasfilm determined that the risk of the book's content leaking in advance of the release of the new LEGO sets on Force Friday II was too great. And given that the book's cover did get unintentionally revealed early it was probably justifiable. In terms of ultimate, this book is more of a Return of the Jedi Death Star than A New Hope one - it is capable of destroying a planet but still needs a few shelves put up. But that's not to say the book isn't useful in every other regard.
Aside from this exclusion the book does provide a very hefty reference tome from start to finish. When sliding the heavily bound book from the solid slip case take note that the width and height match up perfectly with the previous two editions of LSW:TVD. Given that these two had dead space dedicated to holding a minifig, this extra width means that ULSW is a good 25% richer in content.
Opening the book reveals a sleeve that contains the book's exclusive content - two prints showing an approved development design for two minfigs: First Order Flametrooper and Classic Aayla Secura. In themselves they aren't as exciting as the classic Luke Skywalker minifig that came with the first LSW:TVD book, but given that the trade off is an extra 85 pages I'd say that the exchange is fair. And if you aren't interested in these prints then you'll be pleased to learn that there is a version that doesn't include them - and is a whopping 50% cheaper than the full fat version. Personally I liked the prints, but I think that it would have created an interesting secondary market had DK printed a number of different varieties.
Following on is a pair of timelines - a Star Wars one that starts in 1977 and notes down milestones in the franchise's history, and a secondary one that depicts important moments in the LEGO license. Some of the events selected are quite peculiar, and more significant ones like the release of the first LEGO Star Wars Video Game, any mention of Episodes II and III sets or the publication of the two elder siblings of the book under review are completely missed. One has to wonder what the author's selection criteria was. Also missed out is the very, very useful pictoral set chronology.
At least this truncated introduction lets the reader skip to the meat of the book. And vegetarians beware - this title is turducken wrapped in bacon!
The book is broken down in to three sections: Characters & Creatures, Locations and Vehicles & Equipment, each being further broken down into factions such as Jedi, Separatists, Imperial, Droids, different planets and the catch-all Legends for everything that doesn't quite fit. Each page depicts all of the different versions of the minifig, creature, location or ship that is being highlighted. Additional detail such as key features, accessories, movie appearances and other points of interest are noted down.
At the end of each section is a Behind The Scenes spread which helps the reader to understand what goes into the selection, design, implementation and approval of the minifigs, playsets and vehicles that LEGO puts forward to Disney Lucasfilm. While two of the three are enlightening the final Behind The Scenes spread looks at the inclusion of 75178 Jakku Quadjumper in the line, and reads like a justification on LEGO's inclusion of this three second wonder into the line.
At the risk of providing a too matter-of-fact explanation to the exact nature of the information in each of the book's sections - you can read our sister site's review for a synopsis - I'll skip ahead to the index.
Weighing in at a whopping eight pages the index is in two parts - chronological and alphabetical. While the alphabetical index is undoubtedly the most useful and immediately accessible, allowing you to search up a set by its name and then find allthe different set releases listed below, it is the chronological listing that is the most mind-blowing.
The book is printed on high quality gloss paper, the pictures are high resolution and the text is sharp. So if you like to display your books and not worry about them getting worn out then this is a winner. That it, once out of its case, sits neatly with the other two LEGO Star Wars reference books is gravy.
And so the ultimate question to the Ultimate LEGO Star Wars book - should you buy it?
If you are a parent of a LEGO Star Wars fan who digested the second (updated & expanded) visual dictionary then you might want to hold off, as this book isn't as accessible to a child - with denser page layouts and more bunched up photos it's not a book for beginners. But if your child grew up on the first LSW: TVD then this book is the next logical step to stimulate their interest.
Of course, you could buy it for your kids and realise (too late) that it's a much more grown-up book than they are ready for. That'd be my tactic.
And what does the future hold? Between now and 2019 there's sure to more than a couple of score of sets coming out and I'm sure that DK won't miss an opportunity to release an ultimate2 collector's book. And with the LEGO Star Wars license likely to be extended past its current 2022 end date, there is going to be at least five more movies and a TV series to help fill the pages of any subsequent publications. I wish I could tell you that there is a LEGO Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary III coming, but I can't.
A big thanks to the staff at DK UK and DK Australia for their assistance and good humour. For all of your monthly roundup of Star Wars publishing news, commentary, and discussion on the latest releases in the realm of novels, comics, and magazines, don't forget to listen to Jedi Journals.