Book Review: Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia

Unwavering dedication to continuity and fine detail is on full display in the new Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia hitting shelves April 4, where 40 years of saga history blend together seamlessly.

The latest in Star Wars reference compendiums is rife with fascinating tidbits, delivering on its promise to curate the weird, quirky and iconic into a single comprehensive volume. In Jabba the Hutt’s corner of Tatooine alone, we learn the name of his rancor (Pateesa!), the details of Max Rebo’s lifetime performance contract (free meals instead of money), and a few handy Huttese phrases. For logophiles, there’s also a primer on the Aurebesh alphabet and a few key sayings in Bocce, droid binary and Jawaese. (Sadly the exact meaning of “Utinni” remains a mystery on these pages.)

(Images from Star Wars™: The Visual Encyclopedia published by DK, by Tricia Barr, Adam Bray, and Cole Horton.)

Longtime fans may feel pretty secure in their knowledge of galactic politics, character identification, and other franchise lore, but everyone, from those first discovering a love for the storytelling to Jedi Masters of Star Wars trivia, can benefit from a tour through these 200 pages.

Glossy illustrations accompany neatly-arranged factoids on everything from the vast galaxy itself to each tiny, individual piece that makes up a lightsaber hilt. In most cases, it requires a discerning eye and knowledge of origin to tell the difference between original pieces, prequel props, and those items and creatures that exist solely in animated form among the thousands of artifacts carefully curated by authors Tricia Barr, Adam Bray, and Cole Horton.

(Images from Star Wars™: The Visual Encyclopedia published by DK, by Tricia Barr, Adam Bray, and Cole Horton.)

Logically divided among five categories — geography, nature, history, culture, and science and technology — the journey begins quite fittingly with a map of the known galaxy. This vantage point gives an appreciation of the depth and breadth of the planetary systems that make up the Star Wars universe. If it seems familiar, the full map of the galaxy was also included in the recently release Star Wars: Complete Locations, but here expanded planetary profiles are offered with an overview of the massive regions and other celestial bodies.

(Images from Star Wars™: The Visual Encyclopedia published by DK, by Tricia Barr, Adam Bray, and Cole Horton.)

The section on galactic history is impressively succinct, with a timeline that hits the high-points from the crisis on Naboo to Rey’s first meeting with Luke Skywalker, and a textbook-like breakdown of galactic politics and the Jedi council. These will undoubtedly come in handy the next time you’re called upon to explain the Clone Wars to a friend who is still but a Padawan of the Star Wars universe. And even Imperial sympathizers can find some gems, like the backstory on Captain Phasma’s chromium-coated helmet, a diagram of Palpatine’s office chair, and the reason behind the seemingly incongruous left knees on Stormtrooper armor.

The encyclopedia at once enriches the vast universal plain, providing added depth, and with this knowledge alters the way we view the saga, serving as a reminder that the world of Star Wars, like our own, is never completely knowable.

You can purchase your copy of Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia here.

Thank you to DK for providing a copy of this book for review purposes.

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Kristin Baver is a journalist who often finds she can't stop herself from quoting Star Wars even in regular, polite conversation. (Seriously, it already happened once today.) She also writes about Most Impressive Fans and other topics for StarWars.com.

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