Sunday, 19 July 2015

Review - The Imperial Handbook

By Daniel Wallace

Published by Titan Books

This beautifully presented 160-page hardback book is just the thing you need now that the war against the Empire is pretty much over. The Battle of Endor is finished and the Emperor has fallen, and now that peace is finally breaking out across the galaxy there are many things surfacing, and this book (distributed to the Imperial forces before the Battle of Yavin) makes for interesting reading.

The book is introduced by Luke Skywalker and details the ins and outs of the Imperial war machine, from the military, the navy, the army, the stormtrooper corps, the Imperial doctrine itself and some notes from Palpatine himself. Throughout the book there are hand-written notes about the content by high-ranking rebel officers, even Han and Leia, and the whole thing feels like a war report prepared and annoted by the victors.

And that’s my first problem with the book. The introduction by Skywalker looks like it was typed on a 1940s typewriter. That’s a design choice that immediately pulls me out of the atmosphere of the setting as I’m pretty sure that there were no Underwoods in the Star Wars galaxy. A stylised computer screen would have worked just fine and suited the style of the rest of the book, which is crisp and well laid out.

My other issue is that the annotations can be sometimes humorous but are ultimately pointless. As I’m reading the book and I’m learning about the Imperials, a distracting  note or remark grabs my attention. It doesn’t ruin the book but I don’t feel that it adds the charm and personalisation that it intends.

Other than that the book is really good – the design is excellent, especially the stark black and white cover and black-trimmed pages, and it’s an easy read. The artwork is excellent throughout (the recruitment posters are an exceptionally nice touch) and the details aren’t exceptionally deep but it gives you an excellent idea of exactly how the Empire operated.

As a life-long fan and an avid player of the Star Wars roleplaying game when it first came out in the 1980s, it reminded me very much of the Imperial Sourcebook. The details - such as the structure, the different Imperial departments and even the design of the Imperial garrison – threw me back and it was a nice read.

Apart from my obvious issues with some aspects of the design choice it is a good book. Star Wars fans with deep knowledge of the way the Imperials ran things might not learn anything new from this, but those wanting to know more will get a lot out of it. Not only that, it looks great on a collector’s bookshelf.


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