Friday, August 31, 2007

Star Wars: The New Essential Guide to Weapons & Technology

This is credited as "text by W. Haden Blackman; all new full-color illustrations by Ian Fullwood." It was published in 2004, so it's not all that "new" anymore; it was sitting in my pile for a few years. It's a large-format (about 8 1/2" x 11") guidebook to the weapons, defenses, and other random technological doodads of the Star Wars universe, each generally presented as a two-page spread with a big picture and a lot of in-story technological and historical details.

I generally like fake non-fiction, but this is steeped a bit too much in technobabble for my taste. It also almost seems like an artifact from the Star Wars universe -- which would be good -- but doesn't quite go all the way down that route by adding dates and fake references, which would be better. Or, if it went the other way, having references to the movies, books, comics, etc. in which these items actually appeared would also be useful. Without either kind of reference -- fictional-world or real-world -- it all seems somewhat detached.

Actually, The New Essential Guide reads a bit like a gaming reference manual without the numbers. I should add that it's very detailed and well-researched; this is the gold standard of media tie-in fake non-fiction. I just wish there had been a bit more in the way of specifics and references, and not quite as much bafflegab about blaster gas and power requirements.

This time around, the illustrations are nearly photo-realistic and seem to have been done with Photoshop. I'm afraid I liked the more illustrative look of the earlier versions much better -- these are good illustrations, but they just don't quite do it for me. Can the Uncanny Valley apply to physical objects? Because a lot of this stuff looks like video-game props -- well-rendered, believably solid, but not "real." (My complaints might not be entirely fair; I love schematics and that was the art style of the original edition.)

So, all in all, I found this just a bit disappointing, but it certainly does what it intends to do, comprehensively and seriously.

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