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The Essential Reader's Companion (Star Wars) (Star Wars: Essential Guides) Paperback – October 2, 2012
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About the Author
Pablo Hidalgo is the brand communications manager at Lucasfilm, a resident Star Wars authority who helps ensure consistency across a wide array of Star Wars projects. He lives with his wife in San Francisco, California.
Jeff Carlisle is a freelance illustrator and concept designer who has spent a good portion of the last decade in a Galaxy Far, Far Away. He has designed or illustrated for various Star Wars projects, such as books, magazines, web comics, role-playing and miniatures games, trading cards, posters, art prints, sketch cards, and even paper airplanes.
Joe Corroney has been professionally creating Star Wars artwork for books, games, trading cards, comic books, posters, and magazines since 1997. Currently, in addition to Star Wars, he’s illustrating for IDW’s True Blood and Star Trek ongoing comic book series. Joe runs a full-time illustration studio where he’s also developing his creator-owned comic book series.
Brian Rood is a freelance illustrator who spends most of his time creating new artwork for the Star Wars galaxy. His work can be found on numerous licensed Star Wars products, including toy packaging, Blu-ray packaging, trading cards, and a large assortment of Star Wars fine art reproductions with ACME Archives Direct. He lives in Southeast Michigan with his wife and two awesome children.
Chris Scalf grew up in Michigan, the middle child of a single mother. He didn’t have much so he thrived on his imagination. He began drawing his favorite moments from the science fiction and monster shows he loved watching on TV. Eventually a high school crush led to marriage and Chris’s desire to provide for his new family by making a living as an artist. In 2006 Chris was hired to paint his first Star Wars project, the R2-D2 mailboxes for the USPS. Today, Chris spreads his work between commercial art and advertising and the genre art he loved so much as a kid. He still lives in Michigan with his wife and daughter.
Darren Tan was born and raised in Malaysia where he grew up drawing spaceships, dinosaurs, and the stuff of his imagination, which was fueled by movies and computer games. Inspired by these, he went on to study animation and later graduated as a computer animator from Sheridan College, Canada. After a brief stint in 3-D animation, he decided to trade in polygons for a Wacom tablet. Now he works as a digital concept artist at Imaginary Friends Studios and is enjoying getting paid for his hobby. Apart from his passion for art and Star Wars, he is also a big fan of The Lord of the Rings and enjoys delving into medieval and church history. He now lives with his beautiful wife in sunny Singapore.
Chris Trevas is a freelance illustrator for Star Wars books, games, trading cards, packaging, and many other products. His book credits include four Star Wars: Essential Guides for Del Rey as well as several Star Wars technical guides and blueprints.
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"The Essential Readers Companion" ("ERC") is a timeline summary of the (old) Star Wars universe as seen through the many novels and short stories that have been published throughout its long history. The book acts as an authority on what actually took place in the Star Wars universe and creates a cohesive history out of what seems to be a sprawling fictional universe. As mentioned, primarily only novels (adult and juvenile) and short stories are included as references in the text. Other mediums such as comic books or games are generally not included, unless they were made into a novel.
"ERC" contains 8 chronological chapters, each dealing with a period of Star Wars history. Within each chapter is a chronological list of the novels or short stories that fall within that particular time period. For each novel or short story entry, the following information is given: a picture of the cover(s), author, cover artist, publishing info (date and publisher), time line placement, worlds visited within the story, main characters, and a summary of the plot. Some of the entries also contain background or behind the scenes information on the novel or short story. The end of "ERC" also contains a couple of appendices which list all of the novels/short stories in order both by publication and by author, with page numbers to their corresponding entries in the text.
The prose of "ERC" is well-written, particularly the summaries, which are basically the Cliff's Notes version of each novel. These summaries are helpful if readers have the forgotten the plots of certain books or would like to skip over them but still get the plot. The illustrations really shine, and are very well done. It is interesting to see some visual representation of expanded universe characters and situations that until now only existed in the imaginations of readers.
"ERC" is a must for any fan of Star Wars fan looking to get a handle on their (old canon) Star Wars history. The informative prose and great illustrations will be certain to entertain and inform even the most serious Star Wars enthusiast.
Note: Unfortunately, the companion was published before all of the old canon novels came out, and is thus dated. Such novels as "Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void" (2013), "Crucible" (2013) and "Maul: Lockdown" (2014) are too new to have entries in the companion. Hopefully, an updated version of the companion that includes all the old canon will be released, though I wouldn't bet on it.
-finally, a cohesive and authoritative text on the Star Wars canon
-some readers may wish more mediums were included (such as comics)
I am, without reservation, a HUGE Star Wars fan. I have been reading the books since I was in the 4th grade. It's been fun (and depressing in some cases) watching these characters age across the books. While I don't read anything set before Return of the Jedi--I already know what happens to everyone in those books ultimately, so there's no suspense for me--I have read nearly everything set after Return of the Jedi. The only books I haven't read are the Tales series, the Boba Fett books, and Shadow of Mindor. That's over eighty books now, and sadly my brain cannot remember everything that I've read. Even now, I'm reading X-Wing Mercy kill and I find myself digging through this companion book to refresh my memory on characters who haven't been mentioned in years. Much more handy and fast than skimming through the old books.
So let's get to it: As the books says, it covers ALL the Star Wars books that have been written so far. Sadly, with the release of Crucible next year, it will no longer be up to date, but what is there is plenty. What I really enjoy is that, at the end of some of the book summaries, there are notes. They are behind-the-scenes stories about how the book was written, what ideas went into the story, what ideas were taken out, how one book links to another. These have proven to be both entertaining and enlightening.
(SPOILERS TO FOLLOW, so read at your own risk. Again, SPOILERS!!!!!!)
Entertaining because of stories such as how, originally, Jacen Solo was supposed to flow walk during his finale fight with Jaina in an attempt to change the past and in doing so, he would actually change places with Anakin Solo, thus making it Jacen who died in the Vong War and Anakin being flung into the future in Jacen's body. Enlightening because, without this book, I would have had no idea who the Sith Lord was that helps Luke finally kill Abeloth, or that an episode from The Clone Wars is what inspired Abeloth's origins.
My favorite thing about this book though is the art. While several characters are featured on the cover of books, or in concept art, many are often only describe on paper. I enjoy imagining what these characters look like, but sometimes it's nice to see the official version. And this book delivers. Tenel Ka (my favorite and hopefully in Kotobukiya's statue plans) is shown standing with her classmates on Yavin 4. Allana Solo, dressed as Amelia, is finally pictures with her pet, Anji. Jaina and her fellow Jedi are shown defending the temple from Mandos. Mara Jade is shown as a dancer in Jabba's throne room, and then again later fighting a Yuuzhan Vong. Ship, who I thought for the longest time was simply a silver orb, is finally given an official picture when he comes to Vestera's rescue. Naturally, there's a picture of Luke and Mara getting married, but there's also one of them working together trying to cut their way out of a flooding chamber. And who knew that Daala no longer has red hair, but grey? I apparently missed that in the books. It was amazing seeing some of these key scenes from the books finally visualized, and it makes me wish that there was a book solely devoted to pictures.
The summaries of the books are just that: summaries. They are meant to be a recap of the major events of the books, not a complete retelling. An example is the X-Wing series. Many members of Rogue and Wraith squadrons die across those books, but thess summaries do not list them by name. It just says things like, "Many Rogues die," or "losing two Wraiths". Because these characters are not main MAIN characters, they are not named. While slightly disappointing--I want very detailed summaries--I can understand this approach. If that much detail was given to each book, this companion guide would probably have to come in volumes.
I highly recommend this book for any reader of Star Wars. If you're a hardcore reader like myself, this book is required by Star Wars law to be in your collection. If it's not, I'm afraid I must ask that you hand in you Star Wars fan card and lightsaber on the way out. No, seriously, I'll take a lightsaber. I've always wanted one of those.