I think the excitement for this publication was very high before the release date, and for good reason. The Essential Reader’s Companion promised a wealth of information on the Expanded Universe, a chronological listing of titles and a stunning collection of original art. No worries: It delivered.
All along we’ve been told how extensive this publication was, that this was one of the biggest projects in Star Wars publishing, and it really shows. At just under 500 pages, this book is no lightweight. The Essential Reader’s Companion contains 410 individual works and nearly 160 original works of art produced by several illustrators.
Author Pablo Hidalgo obviously spent a good chuck of his life with the development and research needed for a publication of this kind. In fact, he even divulged at Star Wars Celebration VI that he started taking the bus to work so he would have more time to read up for ERC. He also listened to the audiobooks on double speed. Such preparation was necessary to develop each novel synopsis, sure, but as an individual who has been around Star Wars and Lucasfilm for years, Pablo also provided insightful behind-the-scenes facts for nearly every listing. Continuity issues within the Expanded Universe are also addressed, but I guess it’s up to the individual to decide if they are addressed satisfactory.
The original works of art are worth the price of this publication alone, in my opinion. An exceptional author can enable a reader to visualize the words on the page in his mind, but it is truly satisfying to visualize certain scenes on a piece of paper too. There are a few inaccuracies, such as the conflict between Darth Plagueis and Maladin assassins shown on page 53. The actual texts describes a more bloodier battle, but as was explained at Celebration VI, such an accurate visual portrayal would likely be a bit much for new or young readers. The art on page 13 though, while stunning, is just inaccurate without reason, other than artistic license. Aryn and Zeerid were said to be holding on to each other as they jumped from the Fatman. The art clearly doesn’t show that.
Personally, there are still quite a few novels that I have not read, so I’ll keep away from their respective listings in the ERC, but from what I have read and experienced visually, this book proves to be quite an informative guide, and it gave me an occasional feeling of nostalgia as I revisited novels that I haven’t read in years.
At under $30, I believe it’s a great price for a publication so informative and interesting. Some might question its relevance due to the presence of free, online unofficial Star Wars encyclopedias, such as Wookieepedia, and I get that. But there’s many, many people out there that still love the feel of a book in their hands, and the fact that a book like the ERC is an official product. Either way, this book deserves to be on your bookshelf, or even on your coffee table.
DISCLOSURE: I received a copy of this book from the publisher at no charge in order to provide an early review. However, this did not affect the overall review content. All opinions are my own.
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