Star Wars: The Essential Reader’s Companion
Published by: Titan Books
Written by: Pablo Hidalgo
It’s impossible to know everything about Star Wars. It is. Unless you’re one of the few out there who have a photographic memory or an unnatural ability to remember facts. But since most of us have lives and jobs that fill our heads with nonsense (hey, if it’s not Star Wars, it’s probably nonsense) and therefore books like this are a lifeline.
The Star Wars universe is a wide, ever growing and expansive beast. Neither beginning nor ending with the movies or animated Clone Wars show, it is always twisting and changing thanks to the EU. That’s Expanded Universe to those not in the know. This universe began with the tie-in novel to the first Star Wars movie, then just known as Star Wars, now known as Episode IV: A New Hope, released in 1976 before the release of the movie.
So the EU was, one could argue, around longer even than the movie that started it all. And it has grown almost constantly ever since. Comic, novels and games have grown the history and mythology of that galaxy far, far away to a level that equals our own history and indeed dates back within the confines of that universe further than ours – Lost Tribe of the Sith, the first book covered herein dates back 5,000 years before A New Hope – and well into the future – the final X-Wing book herein going 44 years beyond. So that’s a history of 5, 044 years. And that’s just the novels, the comics go much, much further ahead.
What Pablo Hidalgo, Lucasfilm’s Brand Communications Manager, has done here is a godsend. He has focussed on all the novels so far and categorised them and organised them chronologically (from the ancient Jedi and Sith, right through to the new Jedi order and Legacy) and believe me, as someone who frequently dips in to the EU books, this is a very helpful thing. Hopefully erasing the whole ‘hang on, weren’t you dead in the last book I read?’ shenanigans that often happen.
The book is a lavishly illustrated and laid out piece, containing the covers of all the books in the EU and featuring wonderful new illustrations dropped in at various times. It’s almost impossible to put down, even to the casual reader.
That said, this is not a Wikipedia-type tome. It is by no means a replacement for reading the books represented within but rather a guide to where to begin and what characters feature, what inconsistencies exist and what the landmark events are. Hidalgo challenges us to read all these books ourselves and to use this tome as a concordance of sorts. I see it as a great companion (the clue is in the title, I suppose) especially for the books I’ve already read, so I can get the facts straight because sometimes it’s impossible to retain it all. It’s also great for working out where you’re going to go next – I’ve already got my next series pinpointed.
But is there anything disappointing here? Well yes, but it’s not really anyone’s fault. Although it makes a few small references throughout to corresponding stories, it would be nice to see the comic and even video game continuity laid out in a similar way because this universe ties together across the board ie Boba Fett ties the prequels to the original trilogy, features in the Bloodlines comic story, popped up recently in the legacy books and was pretty important in the Force Unleashed II game. So it would be nice to see more of this. Hidalgo’s acknowledging of this in an interview about the book in the most recent Star Wars Insider means this may well be on the cards.
The only BIG problem – and again, no-one’s fault – is that the universe grows so fast that these endeavours are almost redundant before they hit the shelves. Just as the Lucas Books/DeAgostini Official Factfile, released around the time of Episode two, or the recent beautiful three volume Star Wars Encyclopedia, the information is only current for a short period and this is frustrating. However, I see no way around it except for the dreaded revised editions
Also, with the recent news involving Disney, this reader is now concerned that, with George Lucas saying that only the movies are the true continuity (G-Canon as it’s known, that’s G for George), that with the dawn of a new trilogy and beyond, we could see the books, games and comics continuity destroyed altogether in parts, it has had casualties before especially when Karen Traviss’ Mandalorian books were eradicated from the continuity by the Lucas-approved Clone Wars take on the Mandos, but this could see entire strands of story lines, characters and histories destroyed. But I worry and digress unnecessarily… then again, that’s what we do as real fans.
Overall this is an essential book for fans, especially if you are already into the novels or want to work out where to start. It sits proudly beside my Encyclopaedia, Fact-Files and Essential Chronology.
Highly recommended. Now please Lucas books, can we have similar tomes for the comics and games?