The Essential Guide to Warfare
Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Warfare is one of those reference books every Star Wars fan should read. While Guide to Warfare isn’t quite on the same reference level as say the Star Wars: The Essential Atlas, it’s not a book you should skip. First off, this book gives a very nice overview of all the wars and conflicts that have plagued the galaxy far, far away. Wars have a way of shaping people’s lives and the worlds they live in. The history that this book covers helps readers better understand the events that have led up to the films, television shows, books, and comics. It’s also includes a lot of bonus material that helps keep things from feeling too much like a text book. Plus there is a ton of wonderful artwork strewn throughout.
Starting with the artwork, there is some truly gorgeous scenery. This is easily the best illustrated Star Wars guide book to date. Images vary from people to places to ships. From a meeting with Dooku showing off the plans for a Scorpenek droid to the Separatist leaders, to Palpatine and a convocation of the Grand Admirals. The artwork is as pleasing to the eye as it is surprising.
Inside The Essential Guide to Wafare, you’ll also find some really nice highlight features. There are special war portraits that focus on military leaders relevant to the conflicts being covered. Some our told through the eyes of that leader, while others are told by people who knew them, and a few are simply told without special narratives. Those told through the character’s eyes, however, are my favorite. I love how the narrators skew things from their own perspective and the reader gets to see their personality bleed through. For instance, Daala is very biased in her account of Gilad Pellaeon while Daala’s own war portrait is an unbiased account that doesn’t pull back any punches. One of the most heavily biased excerpts is Thrawn’s which is told by an Imperial patriot. In those passages not only is Thrawn shown in an overly positive light, but so is Palpatine. The narrator goes so far as to paint both of them as heroes who were only trying to prepare the galaxy for the onslaught of the Yuuzhan Vong. It’s interesting because their thoughts aren’t completely nonsensical, but then they’re also not completely right either.
Aside from the war portraits, there are also armory and sensor profiles. Each of these focuses on the weapons, ships, and technology involved in each conflict. Although every conflict doesn’t get it’s own profiles, there are profiles for most of the big ones. Furthermore the weapons and ships covered don’t just tear over old ground. From Xim’s Xolochi dreadnought to the Galactic Alliance CF9 Crossfire, there’s a large time span of vessels. It makes sense to spend some time looking at the weapons of war in a warfare book, and the guide does a decent job of not spending too much time with the equipment. The Guide to Wafare is not a new guide to weapons or vessels and vehicles. Yet if you’re not familiar with the starships in a particular conflict, the book certainly helps readers stay well informed. I’d have to admit that’s one of the strengths of this book; if you’ve fallen behind in the Expanded Universe, the Essential Guide to Warfare would be a great way to catch up.
There are a few other bonuses thrown into the book. Modi, the map maker for the Star Wars: The Essential Atlas, created a few new maps that look better than ever. One covers the Alsakan Conflicts, another the major shipyards of the galaxy. Personally I really liked the one highlighting the Imperial Remnant because that’s a chunk of space I’ve been wanting to get a better look at. There are also features that focus on military ranks, rosters, unit sizes, ships classifications and sizes, and even a list of fighter pilot slang. All of them are very useful reference material. My one gripe would be there’s not an easy way to go back through and find them because those special extras aren’t specifically listed in the table of contents and they are scattered throughout the book. Still, it’s very nice to have them.
Comparing The Essential Guide to Warfare to the guides that have come before it, it has both it’s pros and cons. On the plus side, Guide to Warfare has some great illustrations, maintains a good entertainment value, and still packs in a healthy dose of reference material. The cons are mostly trade offs. To increase the entertainment value, a bit of the reference value was lost. The fun narratives take up page space that could have gone to more informative yet dry text. It would have also been nice to see more, but it’s so easy to ask for more and never be content with what you have. As large as the Star Wars Expanded Universe is, it’s impossible to fit it all into one book. Nevertheless, the authors did an outstanding job of cramming the EU into this one guide in a way that collects existing info and presents new material. As a book that both experienced and inexperienced Star Wars geeks can enjoy, this is a great book for all fans.
For all those accomplishments, The Essential Guide to Warfare earns a five out of five bikinis.