Author: Jason Fry with Paul R. Urquhart
Publisher: Del Rey
Release date: April 3, 2012
Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Warfare is an impressive compendium of military and political information four years in the making. The book’s first details were revealed in August 2008 when well-known author Karen Traviss announced that she was working on The Essential Guide to Military. A former journalist and defense correspondent, Traviss was passionate about military forces in the Galaxy Far Far Away, particularly the clone Grand Army of the Republic and the nomadic Mandalorian culture. When Traviss left Star Wars in 2009, the project was turned over to Jason Fry, an excellent author known for co-writing The Essential Atlas with Dan Wallace. Fry, with the help of Paul Urquhart, started the project over from scratch, eventually renaming it The Essential Guide to Warfare. The end result is a lovingly-crafted history of the galaxy as seen through the lens of the numerous military and political factions in the GFFA.
The Essential Guide to Warfare‘s presentation is top notch. It feels great in your hands, and almost every single page is accompanied by beautiful illustrations by Drew Baker, Tommy Lee Edwards, Ian Fullwood, Ansel Hsiao, Stephan Martiniere, Modi (the map-making wonder who made his debut in The Essential Atlas), Jason Palmer, Chris Scalf, Dave Seely, Darren Tan, John Vanfleet, Bruno Werneck, and Paul Youll. That’s a long list of artists, but the team’s work is jaw-dropping. The illustrations alone are almost worth the $30 entry fee.
Thankfully, the writing is just as good. The latest entry in Del Rey’s series of Star Wars Essential Guides is organized into twenty-one sections, each focusing on a particular time frame or faction. A large portion of the book is devoted to The Clone Wars and Rebellion eras, and for good reason: while Warfare does have a heavy focus on the Expanded Universe (as it should), the writers were also careful to make it as friendly as possible for readers who may have only seen the films and television series. Don’t expect 256 pages of info dumps, charts, and graphs; Warfare‘s format is very similar to the Atlas, chronicling warfare in the galaxy from a historical and reader-friendly perspective.
Each chapter opens with a “famous” (in-universe) quote from a politician or military leader, going on to describe the events of the era in great detail. Fry and Urquhart (a pseudonym) worked very closely with Lucasfilm on the project to ensure accuracy, but they also outsourced some details–which they verified, of course–to experts in the fan community. Discover the origins of Boonta’s Eve–the namesake of the famous podcast, experience a recounting of the crazy Contispex Crusades, learn the official capital-ship classifications, find out just how many clones the Republic had at its disposal, and much more. Of course, don’t expect The Essential Guide to Warfare to answer every single question. Some things, like the order of events during The Clone Wars, are still unknown, even to the authors. The book does, however, manage to deftly avoid the confusing subject with a bit of hand-waving.
Warfare also includes short stories from the perspective of various soldiers and biographies of important leaders. The prologue, in particular, is fascinating, describing a Grand Admiral who saw the future of the galaxy on his deathbed and lived to tell the tale. Fans interested in the saga’s weapons, vehicles, and technologies will be pleased to know that this Essential Guide chronicles the development of these in great detail. The placement, however, often seemed a bit out of place. In order to accurately describe how a certain technology came to be, the authors were forced to combine elements from various eras into a single chapter. The armor and sensor profile of capitol ships is a perfect example. This section is located in the chapter about the “Zenith of the Republic,” but it describes everything from Xim the Despot’s Eibon Scimitar to the Clone Wars-era Trade Federation Capitol Ship (like the Invisible Hand). This is a minor quibble, and it makes sense when you look at the flow of the book, but it makes it a bit difficult to find content if you don’t know where to look. Our only other complaint is the rather sparse coverage of The Old Republic era, particularly the events and technologies used in BioWare’s MMO of the same name.
Overall, Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Warfare is a must-have compendium of knowledge, covering warfare from the origins of the galaxy up through the Legacy era. Fans of all sorts are sure to enjoy everything from the Imperial Navy rank guide to a list of fighter pilot slang, Red Squadron’s duty roster, and much more. The book is also packed with Easter Eggs and fascinating tidbits of all sorts, like how the head of the Legions of Lettow actually traveled to Mortis long before its debut in The Clone Wars television series! Star Wars is, as its name implies, all about war, and this is the Essential Guide to Warfare that fans have been waiting for.
Reviewed by William Devereux
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