ISBN 978-1-40933-476-7. “Star Wars – Complete Vehicles” was published by Dorling Kindersley in 2013. It features the combined cutaway artworks of Hans Jenssen and Richard Chasemore. It includes all the significant ‘vehicles’ from all six released Star Wars motion pictures to date. It is thus a compilation of 5 separate and previously published books appearing from 1998 through 2007. This work is part of the Star Wars “canon”, ie it is “canonical” – officially part of the Star Wars franchise. Everything in the book has been approved by Lucas Film to the point that they even requested changes to the drawings if they clashed with previously released canon material. The artists were granted access to the Lucas Film archives to photograph original models. If it isn’t clear already this is a book of “cutaways” as in you get to see the inside of (largely) imaginary movie space ships. So much you see here is derived from the minds of the artists with reference to any internal sets that may have been filmed – be they real or CGI. Beyond that the cutaways are completely annotated with some lengthy dialogues about how the vehicle fits into the story. This is, in itself, a work of sci fi as it is written in a manner consistent with the Star Wars universe being real. As such it takes itself pretty seriously.
You might have imagined that the publishers and artists could ‘jam’ with the ideas and have some fun. Afterall you are dealing with a franchise that featured a potato as a meteor and a kitchen sink flying across a battle scene! But no, with a couple of exceptions I could see nothing beyond the straight-lace of the canon. So yes the Sith Infiltrator does get away with having a “swing bin” but that is about it. You might also spot a tongue in cheek reference to the Ework theft of a Speeder Bike on the forest moon of Endor from “Return of the Jedi” on page 181. So we may have been a little disappointed about how seriously it took itself. But, on to business, is it any good?
Well, it is very good indeed. It remains a fun exploration of the Star Wars tech for any of us who have ever wondered “how does that work?” It is riddled with pseudo-technical jargon that is just utter gibberish really. For those of us only too aware of the practical limits on our own technology there is one specific gap that remains unanswered: where is the fuel stored? Most of the craft appear to burn fuel and feature fuel lines to transport it around to the engines. But it seems to come from nowhere. Too few of the craft have such boring things as fuel tanks. But, hey! It’s sci fi so it doesn’t have to make sense. All you can say is that the fuel in the Star Wars universe is extremely dense where-ever it is hidden!
So, is this book actually of any practical use to anybody other than Star Wars geeks? I am a model maker and really only started to put a few Star Wars books on the shelf when we built the Fine Molds Millennium Falcon. This piqued my interest and this book seemed to be a nice addition if I was to model any other Star Wars vessel in future (can’t rule it out). Other than that it really is just for fun – which is the point of modelling sci fi craft afterall isn’t it? There is no need to go and photograph the real thing in a museum or be worried than someone will call you out for some dreadful error in your build. You can be more interpretative in this genre. This book delivers over 200 pages jam packed with views of the craft.
We reckon that you get artworks on around 77 different vessels with just one – the “Slave 1” getting in the book twice. This may well be because it is the only vehicle that features in both the original and follow-up trilogies. On top of all this there are also several general sections that deal with elements of the technology, elements of the story (where pertinent) or discussions about specific battles. So this is a pretty meaty book and you should note that there are several double-page fold-out sections. These are great in theory but I dare anyone not to end up bending the pages after a while! We know we did. The only other quibble may be that black pages show up every freakin finger-print really well. Ho-hum.
So if anyone genuinely wants to build a sci fi 3D cutaway model from the Star Wars universe then this is great food-for-thought. We guess somebody out there may well have done this already. However only a small handful of so many of the subjects covered here have ever appeared in kit form and certainly few ever enjoy aftermarket accessories. So this is certainly one for the dedicated scratch-builder who love their Star Wars!
I enjoyed reading this and so will you. If you love sci fi craft then this will keep you amused for a few hours. It is pure escapism. A complete change in pace from the usual real-world reference that we have piled around the model-maker’s bench. As light-relief this is beyond compare. Admittedly it may well be of limited use to most model makers but, well, that isn’t really the point. This is for fun. And that is as good as it gets. Recommended gift for yourself!