Review: Star Wars - The Essential Reader's Companion / Author: Pablo Hidalgo / Publisher: Lucas Books / Release Date: Out Now
This weighty and lavish tome is an exhaustive guide to all of the official prose fiction spawned by the Star Wars franchise – including not just the major novels but YA titles, eBooks and even a number of short stories scattered across various magazines and websites. With this much material to wrangle (we're talking hundreds and hundreds of titles), some kind of structure is essential. The obvious approach would be to list everything by date of publication, but the one opted for here is much more ambitious – to arrange the stories according to their place in the millennia-embracing continuity of the Star Wars Expanded Universe.
Thus we begin in the mists of time with tales of the ancient Sith and Jedi, then move on through the material that has entered into folklore through the two movie trilogies. What might come as a surprise to Star Wars novices is that at this point we're only halfway through the book. You mean there's more after the Death Star's nobbled and the Ewoks jig about? Are you kidding, there's masses: stories of the New Republic, big trouble with the Yuuzhan Vong and then the return of the Sith, taking us back neatly to where it all started.
As an arrangement, it works very well, creating as it does a sense of the majestic sweep of Lucas' mythology. The book is broken into chronological sections, each with a useful scene-setting introduction. There's additional info about many of the titles, and all of them get detailed synopses. With such a vast and populous cosmos evolving over so many decades, inconsistencies inevitably crop up, and Pablo Hidalgo takes us through these with supreme confidence, whether it be explaining how apparent contradictions in the culture of the Sith were ironed out over time, or noting that, while the cover art of the Lando Calrissian Adventures shows Lando with a moustache, as in the movies, he doesn't actually grow one until the second title in the series.
If you're contemplating the gargantuan task of reading all of these titles in order (a gauntlet that Hidalgo throws down in his introduction, and it's crazily tempting), you might want to be careful where you look, because, unavoidably, spoilers abound. (Young children with a soft spot for Chewbacca should definitely avoid page 373, where they'll find out how the big furry meets his end.) Not that you'll be able to resist a good flick through – it's such a lovely book, with its wealth of colour illustrations. A shame there's not more about the individual authors and the process of writing the novels – especially the ambitious multiseries of the Del Rey era – but nonetheless, for creators of fan fiction or for newbies trying to navigate their way round this stellar oeuvre, this volume looks set to be an invaluable resource.