BOOK REVIEW: STAR WARS GALACTIC ATLAS

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One of my favorite Star Wars books is the beautiful Star Wars: Galactic Atlas (or Galactic Map in the US). It was the type of book I loved as an 11 year old, it remains the type of book I cherish as an adult.

I’d first heard about the book when it was trailed at the publication panel I was lucky enough to attend at Star Wars Celebration London. The final product didn’t disappoint.

The first thing that hits home about the publication is the very fine illustration work by Tim McDonagh. His work is rendered beautifully on the front cover and throughout the work. The size of the book also lends itself to showcasing his illustration to great effect with 37cm x 27cm dimensions.

The importance of the illustration, and the arrangement of the illustration, is that it provides a consistent presentation across all of the diverse origins of the saga.

What we have here is strands of the saga (The Prequels, The Clone Wars, Rebels, The Original Trilogy, The Force Awakens, the novels, and Rogue One) portrayed in an attractive consistent, succinct and comprehensive style of art. In 80 pages this book neatly represents the wide spectrum of the saga very successfully.

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In terms of the mechanics the book is built around maps, star charts and timelines. The main core of the book is broken down into regions within the galaxy which are then studied through samples at a planetary/moon level including featured “Battle of…” sections. One of the key attractions of Star Wars for me has always been the diversity of backdrop and planets deployed within the saga. This is translated successfully into the book which in turn conveys the “feel” of each of these locations to the reader via the artwork.

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A  relatively large number of newer planets were a key attraction of the Rogue One film last year so it is good to see aspects of the film integrated alongside long established planets here. Elsewhere there are some tantalizing little details in relation to Jakku.

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The historical figures section at the start of the book is very good, again laying out characters sourced from across the saga in a consistent style. This lends itself to an “in-saga” cohesiveness which I’d like to see employed in more publications moving forward.

Elsewhere we get new characters such as Evaan Verlaine (below) and Rae Sloane (Battle of Endor entry) making an appearance in the book integrated alongside characters dating from 1977.

Like many of the newer publications there is no hierarchy in terms of source material — this is a level playing field where character and contribution is the determinant as to content. The pages on Tatooine (see above) are a great example of overlaying historical periods against a planetary theme as opposed to source.

One delightful feature of the book is its in-saga premise. In the Introduction the content is purported as having been taken from the holdings of the Graf Archive and found in the underground Shadow Stacks.

These are no mere illustrations, rather they are “ancient hand drawn maps unearthed from the Shadow Stacks”. We are told that the Head Curator’s theory is that they “are the work of the great Ithorian artist Gammit Chond” (look carefully at the spelling).

Importantly, and leaving a little scope for flexibility (a quality not given enough importance in the saga in my view), we are told that some details presented are a matter of fact, but some may merely be tall tales spun by explorers…

I’m glad there is some in-built flexibility. In particular I find that timelines and continuity issues within a fictional universe always attract pedants. Remember a pedant is defined as “a person excessively concerned with minor details and rules or with displaying academic learning.” No-one wants to be that person.

This is a high quality addition to any Star Wars fan’s bookshelf and we, as fans, should celebrate in it. It’s a work that successfully presents the saga in just the right amount of detail for all levels of fans. It’s the type of book coffee tables were built for.

Details: Star Wars: Galactic Atlas by Lucasfilm, Illustrated by Tim McDonagh is available now in hardback by Egmont in the UK.

 

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