Just to be right up front, I’ve never been the real reference guide reader/user/reviewer.
While I did have this awesome Guide to the Star Wars Universe back in the day, that’s pretty much it. Whatchu know ’bout Zorba the Hutt?
While I appreciate the handiness of these Encyclopedias/Visual Dictionaries/Cross-Sections and stuff, I love reading the stories where all these facts come from. The cool thing about these books is the small blurbs of info can actually pique someone’s interest enough to look into these lesser-known stories. I don’t think I can spoil the plot of this book so let’s just dive right in!
Right off the bat I’m gonna be honest and say I’ve got a big issue with the title of the book: Star Wars Character Encyclopedia Updated and Expanded. Judging by the contents of this book I believe the title should have been changed to reflect the fact that all of the entries in this book are strictly film saga only.
Episode I through VII.
I would have preferred the title be something more like Star Wars Saga Character Encyclopedia Updated and Expanded. Or maybe Star Wars Film Character Encyclopedia… Star Wars Skywalker Saga Character Thingie? I don’t know how we are going to refer to the actual saga episodes now that the films are expanding beyond the core numbered episodes. A weirdly specific note, I know, but one that would prevent me from being disappointed when I’m flipping through wondering why I can’t find Ahsoka, Ciena, or Ezra. One of the major reasons I disliked most of the “complete” guides growing up is because I always felt I knew more than them because they focused solely on the films. The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary tells me right up front not to expect anything else but Episode VII stuff in there. Ultimate Star Wars succeeded at giving me content from almost every Star Wars media that was around.
So other than complaining about what’s NOT in the book lets talk about what is. The familiar layout of big pic surrounded by little callouts and text blurbs is used again. I’m sure it’s difficult to distill a very involved character’s life down to a few blurbs and that’s definitely not what this book is for, which is quick reference. On the other hand there are a few entries that I’m sure could have been filled out a bit. Maybe if there’s not enough info on a character to fill out a page then that character may not be important enough to warrant an entry, especially when that space could be filled with another character who can.
Some of the entries feel repetitive. There’s about five Clone Commanders and only one of them is Cody. There’s also separate entries for Clone Phase I and Phase II. That’s about four or five pages that could have been freed up for someone else who didn’t get included in this book (Biggs, Wedge, Taun We). There are also a few entries for creatures–Nexu, Reek, Naboo sea creatures, and the Rancor all have entries. I would have rather had more interesting characters (Dak, Derlin, everyone in Kanjiklub) or bought the Star Wars Creature Encyclopedia Updated and Expanded But Only With Creatures From the Saga Films So There Are No Rogue One Creatures in Here book for that.
Some of the Original Trilogy photos are pretty bad. Mostly the lesser characters like the AT-ST driver, but one that really stands out is Greedo. I’d like to think there’s gotta be a better photo of a character with a pretty strong scene somewhere. It looks like the Boussh photo is from the archives but the photo shows the space between the neck seal and the helmet which scares me a bit. I think going to the archives to take nice photos is the way to go (it worked for that beautiful costumes book) but just make sure the costumes are set up nicely. Maybe this is totally off the rails but we do have some pretty strong costuming clubs involved with Lucasfilm. For better pictures of “stock characters” like the aforementioned AT-ST driver you could check for a 501st Legion member with a screen-accurate costume and look and do a shoot. The A-wing pilot entry also looked a little iffy; maybe hit up the Rebel Legion and find a pilot and do the same thing.
I notice there’s no Quinlan Vos entry. I know a guy who fits the bill perfectly!!
The book is pretty solid for what it is. We were actually flipping through it the other night because we couldn’t remember Vober Dand’s name so it’s definitely useful. A lot of the pics are pretty cool and the little blurbs are usually pretty solid for a quick compressed bio. There were a few things that stood out to me especially:
- Vos is Aayla’s master.
- Hera Syndulla and Phoenix Squadron
- Bib Fortuna’s shoes are very sneaky
- Boba Fett’s first job for Vader
- 3PO’s arm
- Bacara was trained by Protectors of Concord Dawn
- Death Star Gunner’s neck seal
- Bilaba’s padawan Caleb Dume
- Imperial Red Guards? That’s what they’re called now?
- Jabba is involved with the Crymorah?
- Jango is NOT affiliated with Mandalorians
- Kylo’s entry is very vague… like, in case you haven’t seen TFA yet I guess
- Luke is called the Last Jedi
- Unduli at Stygeon Prime
- Plo discovered Ahsoka
- Sarco got beat
- Mr. Bones
- Vos and Tarrful were homies
All things considered this is another solid reference book, just know there’s no Rebels, Clone Wars, book, or comic entries at all (although it is nice that some of that info is alluded to or mentioned in certain entries). I must say the kids do enjoy flipping through it and there’s lots more cool pictures than the few bad ones. I’ll just say I hope they do one that’s a little more complete!