Brickset news archive: Book review
Here at Brickset we love LEGO books which is why we give them so much coverage in the news. 2013 has been a bumper year but with so many of them, if you're on a limited budget or not sure which ones to put on your Christmas list, it can be hard knowing which to choose. So, just in time for Black Friday, I thought it would be worthwhile compiling a top 5 list to help you decide.
So, in reverse order:
5. Brick City: LEGO for Grown-Ups. Written by Warren Elsmore, this book is subtitled 'Global icons to make from LEGO'. It contains photos for Architecture-style models of landmarks as well as other 'icons' like buses and trams.
4. LEGO Play Book. An excellent book filled with photos of superb models that will provide inspiration for your own constructions.
3. LEGO Minifigure Year-by-Year. Minifigs through the ages, from 1978 to date. If you're a collector this book is a must. It doesn't contain them all due to licensing and space issues, but it's about as close as we're likely to see from a mainstream publisher.
2. The LEGO Adventure Book, Vol. 2. Megan Rothrock's books are great fun. Like the first volume, this contains instructions and inspirational photos of models contributed by featured builders, all of whom are accomplished AFOLs.
1. LEGO Space: Building the Future. It was not hard to decide what should be at the number one spot. This book has it all: excellent models, superb photographs and an imaginative storyline.
2014 looks like it too will be a good year for books. Amazon is listing a few already, such as a second volume from Warren Elsmore, Brick Wonders: ancient, natural & modern marvels in LEGO, and an update to DK's Star Wars visual dictionary. You'll find all I've discovered on the LEGO books for AFOLs page.
Build your own Galaxy, The big unofficial LEGO builder's book is the second book to be published this year by a team of German AFOLs: Joachim Klang, Oliver Albrecht, Lutz Uhlmann and newcomer Tim Bischoff. The first one was Build your own LEGO Vehicles which we reviewed in July.
Like the first, it's a hefty tome: a 400-page paperback. Apart from a few introductory pages it consists entirely of instructions, for about 25 different models.
As the book suggests, these are all space-themed models and all but one are based on existing IPs: Star Trek, Star Wars, Space:1999, Battlestar Galactica, and Space Patrol Orion which seems to be a cult 1960s German production.
LEGO Space: Building the Future by Peter Reid and Tim Goddard is the latest LEGO book to be published by No Starch Press and is, quite simply, one of the best LEGO books ever.
Before I start gushing on about it I should state that I've known Pete and Tim for years and consider them good friends. I was at the first 'LEGO fest' that Pete attended, some 11 years ago. In the early days his building techniques were, shall we say, questionable, often involving knives, paint, glue and modelling clay, but since then he's cleaned up his act and is now an extreme purist, but one who's not afraid to push the boundaries of building legality, often using and connecting pieces in ways they were not designed to be. His models are simply masterpieces. One you will all be familiar with is his Exo-Suit which has just passed review at Cuusoo and will be available next year.
This book has been a labour of love for Pete, Tim and others for the last year or so and their skill and passion has resulted in an exceptional piece of work.
The nice folks over at No Starch Press have sent me a copy of Megan Rothrock's latest book to review ahead of its publication next month.
The LEGO Adventure Book 2: Spaceships, Pirates, Dragons and More! to give it its full title, is the follow-up to the first in the series, published this time last year, which was well received and by all accounts, a great success. If you haven't already done so, read our review to see what we thought of it.
The easiest way to describe this volume is 'more of the same' and that's not a bad thing, because, as I've said before, they "are unlike other LEGO books and much better for it".
It features the work of Megan and ten other builders, most of whom were not featured in volume 1. We published the list of builders last month. But it's so much more than a collection of photos and building instructions and that's what makes it different, and fun.
You may recall that in August we reviewed The LEGO Build-it Book: Amazing Vehicles by Nathanael Kuipers and Mattia Zamboni. It provides instructions to build ten vehicles using just the parts in 5867 Super Speedster and we thought it was great.
Now, No Starch Press has published a second book entitled, unsurprisingly, The LEGO Build-it Book: More Amazing Vehicles. Incredibly, this book also contains instructions for ten vehicles using the same parts as the first book!
It's pretty much identical to the first book in that it consists of very high quality renders of the finished models and their instructions, which are on a par with those produced by LEGO.
There are so many great LEGO books coming out just now in time for Christmas that I have a bit of a review backlog. The latest one to hit my doormat is Beautiful LEGO by Mike Doyle, published by No Starch Press.
It's a 260 page paperback that the frontispiece describes as 'a compendium of LEGO artwork that showcases a stunning array of pieces ranging from incredibly lifelike replicas of everyday objects and famous monuments to imaginative renderings of spaceships, mansions and mythical creatures'.
Mike Doyle is a relative newcomer to the LEGO world and is best known for his models of dilapidated houses that have featured in BrickJournal, and also the 'City of Odan' that's pictured on the cover of the book. In the preface he says that the book contains a small selection of the most impressive models he's come across in his time as a AFOL.
The book is 95% pictorial, 5% text: it's full of beautiful photographs of impressive models.There are no instructions and not much information about the models that are featured. There are brief interviews with a handful of the builders, such as Jordan Schwartz, Nannan Zhang and Iain Heath, but that's all there is to read. Thus, like similar books on art or photography, it makes an excellent 'coffee-table book' that's a pleasure to flick-through from time to time.
I know I keep saying this about every book I review but, once again, 'this is not like other LEGO books' and I think it potentially serves a different audience to others.
First, it will appeal to experienced AFOL builders and will be useful inspiration for their own models. Second, I think it would make a great book for any AFOL to have on their coffee table to show to friends and family that don't quite get their fascination with LEGO because it illustrates beautifully what can be achieved with the medium and should help them see why you're so fascinated with it. Lastly, it may also appeal to artists who had never even considered LEGO as an artistic medium: it certainly does a good job of showing what's possible with it.
So, this is another book that deserves space on your bookshelf. I hope there's room for them all...
It can be ordered from Amazon, where you can 'look inside' and see sample spreads from it.
The much anticipated book: LEGO Minifigure Year by Year A Visual History from Dorling Kindersley has just been published in the USA and will be available in the UK from next week.
The book covers the history of minifigures from 1978 to 2013 in 256-pages. It features information and pictures of several thousand of them laid out in typical DK style. It doesn't set out to include every minifig ever made, but it does include every significant and important minifig ever made, with some exceptions, which I'll come onto later.
It comes with not one but three minifigs mounted in the thick front cover: a town person (plain red torso and legs, classic smiley and brown male hair), a Stormtrooper that looks to be pretty standard, and a robber, who is probably similar to those found in recent City sets. To be honest, they are a bit boring and actually I think I'd rather have a copy of the book without the thick front cover because it does make it more difficult to browse. I believe DK make 'library editions' so it might be worth looking out for that instead of the retail version.
After a few introductory pages about 'what is a minifigure?', 'how minifigures are made' and a time-line, the main body of the book starts on page 19 with 1978, pictured right. The 70s and 80s are covered in the next 25-pages. The 1990s take 40-pages, the 2000s take 100 pages and the last 60 pages cover years 2010 - 2013. I think these numbers illustrate very well the rapid expansion in minifigs we've seen since the turn of the century!
The photography is generally of a high quality and consists of several types of images: those that have appeared in other DK books, including some I took for the HP and SW character encyclopedias; those that have been taken especially for this book; and for minifigs made in recent years, those provided by LEGO from their image library.
You will recall that earlier in the year we put out a request here at Brickset to source minifigs to photograph and around twenty or so of us loaned them to DK, so consequently the acknowledgements page at the back reads like a Brickset roll-call. Thank you to all those that helped!
Personally I felt some of the pictures taken for the book lacked 'punch' due to flat lighting, and consequently don't 'leap off the page'. I thought some of those on a 1998 page, right, were not particularly good.
So, what's in the book, and what isn't? Our very own kempo81, Giles Kemp, was the lead consultant and tasked with deciding what should be included. We can be confident therefore that every significant figure has been included.
However, there are some gaps: there are no Toy Story, no Pirates of the Caribbean, no Prince of Persia and no Lone Ranger figures included. Are you seeing a pattern emerge? I couldn't possibly comment on why that is, but I suspect you can draw your own conclusions. It's a shame, but it's not a show-stopper.
Like all DK books, it's fantastic and worthy of a place on every LEGO fan's bookshelf. It's not quite the definitive book that it should have been but it comes close, and there's no other book like it.
It's available from Amazon:
This highly anticipated new book, published by Dorling Kindersley, is now available. Subtitled 'ideas to bring your bricks to life', it contains 'more than 500 build and play ideas from LEGO fans'. This then, is a book featuring models designed by AFOLs, all of whom are British, and all but one of whom I know personally.
It's divided into five themed chapters. The models in each have been designed by one or two builders:
- Once Upon A Time, Barney Main (castles and fantasy).
- A Small World, Tim Goddard (microscale).
- Go Wild, Pete Reid and Yvonne Doyle (animals).
- Things That Go Bump In The Night, Rod Gilles (monsters and haunted houses).
- Wish You Were Here, Tim Johnson, aka caperberry on Brickset (holidays and sports).
Two others, Stephen Berry and Andrew Walker, contributed to various challenges throughout the book.
Rather than just do my usual and tell you what a great book it is and to go out and buy it right away, I thought that given that I know the designers I'd conduct a quick interview with a couple of them to give you a insight into the book's production. So, thanks to Tim Johnson and Pete Reid for answering my questions.
The tenth Dorling Kindserley Brickmaster book, Star Wars Battle for the Stolen Crystals, has just been published. Like the others, it has a thick front cover which holds a bag containing (in this case) 189 LEGO parts with which to build the projects in the book, which consists of cartoon strips and step-by-step instructions.
The book follows the story of Commander Gree chasing a commando droid, who has stolen some lightsaber crystals, across the galaxy. There are four sets of two models to build: 'Battle in the Canyons' (V-19 Torrent and Separatist cannon); 'Ambush in the Forest' (WT-RT walker and Vespula fighter); 'Desert Attack' (Desert Speeder and Ph-STAP) and 'Ice Mountain Chase' (Ice Speeder and KD81 Cargo Skiff).
The LEGO Build-it Book Amazing Vehicles by Nathanael Kuipers and Mattia Zamboni has just been published by No Starch Press, who have sent me a copy to review.
Nathanael has worked for LEGO as a designer of Technic models, and prior to that he was well known in the community for making fantastic alternative models from Creator and Technic sets, which you can find on Brickshelf. This Formula 1 car made from Creator set 4404 was one of my favourites at the time.
Mattia produced the 3D rendering of the models in the book, and his website has some background information on how this was done.
The best way to describe this book is as '5867 Super Speedster: The Missing Manual' because what Nathanael has done is basically what he used to do: take a Creator set and make alternative models from just the parts in the set. The ten models in the book can all be made with just the parts in 5867 from year 2010.
Brick by Brick, How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry is not, as you can probably tell from the title, like any other LEGO book in the bookstore. I've been sent a copy by the publishers to review.
It's written by David C. Robertson who's a professor at a Swiss business school, who was named the 'LEGO Professor' in 2008 and as such had access to LEGO management, partners and customers, and Bill Breen who's written several other books on business management.
The book's target audience is senior executives and entrepreneurs who, David believes, can learn a lot from the the company's past mistakes and successes, particularly how it turned itself around from its first loss in 1998 to become the largest toy company in the world today by thinking and innovating 'inside the box' rather than out of it.
To be honest, the book itself is not really what I was expecting given that the definition of chronicle is 'an extended account in prose or verse of historical events, sometimes including legendary material, presented in chronological order and without authorial interpretation or comment.'
I was therefore expecting a story of some sort. Instead, the book is really just about the Star Wars universe from Yoda's point of view: his allies, his enemies, what he does and so on in very simplistic terms. The photography and layout are as good as you'd expect for a DK book, although the majority of it is just stock imagery that has already appeared in their other books.
More of interest then for AFOLs, is the minifig that comes with the book: the Special Forces Commander. I am very happy to say that it's a genuine minifig (all but the helmet is made in Europe or Mexico) which is unusual for figures that come with DK books. It's very well printed on the front and back. Quite what it's got to do with Yoda I don't know. It does get a passing mention in the book but it's not really a key character, is it? Maybe in the cartoon it has some prominence...
In summary, kids will love the book and the figure. AFOLs won't find much to capture their interest in the book itself, but will buy it anyway to get this exclusive minifigure.
It's available from Amazon: £12 in the UK and about $13 in the USA.
This book has just been published by Heel. It's written by Joachim Klang, who was also involved in the The Big LEGO Builders Book, also published by Heel, that we reviewed in October last year.
If you enjoyed that book, you'll like this one too because it's pretty much more of the same. It contains detailed building instructions for the four models shown on the cover, plus a classic car, and a few items of 'equipment' (telephone box, stool and a parts tray). Like the first book, the instructions are very well produced and easy to follow, and full parts lists are provided.
There are a few interesting techniques used in some of the models, like building the vehicle chassis upside down, so if you've only ever built models from official instructions, it could be a bit of an eye-opener.
Interspersed with the instructions are pictures of the models, often in alternative colour schemes, photographed in LEGO scenes which are generally very good and provide further inspiration for your own models.
This, and all the other new LEGO books that are due to be published this year, are listed on our Amazon books page. In the UK it costs about £12 and in the US, $15.
I have another recently published book, Brick by Brick: How LEGO rewrote the rules of innovation and conquered the global toy industry by David C Robertson, to hand and I'll be reading and reviewing it over the next couple of weeks.
I received a review copy of this new book published by No Starch Press today. The BrickGun Book "shows how to make the world's least dangerous guns". It's a 222-page paperback authored by Jeff Boen who, by all accounts, is a celebrity in brick gun circles, and who runs Brickgun.com.
After a short introduction that provides building tips and explains the development of Jeff's designs, the bulk of the book is filled with detailed instructions for five of his most popular ones: BG22, 92FS, Desert Eagle, 1911 and MAC-11 (the names of which mean little to me).
The instructions themselves, which are accompanied by tabular and graphical parts lists, have been created with the LDraw toolset. They are very high quality and look to be easy to follow, despite the fact that most of the parts are black. I'd go so far as saying that they are better printed than some of the LEGO official instruction books in that regard. There are example spreads of the instructions on the No Starch website.
The completed models look very realistic and in fact the back of the book states to 'exercise caution when handling these replicas and be extremely careful when displaying these models in public'. It might be better to build them in red then, rather than black :-)
The subject matter will not be to everyone's taste but there seems to be a demand for it as this is No Starch's fourth book on LEGO guns, after Forbidden LEGO, LEGO Heavy Weapons and Badass LEGO guns. They obviously wouldn't have published it if there wasn't.
If LEGO guns interest you, you won't be disappointed with this book. It's very well produced.
Like previously published Brickmasters, it's a very fat book that has a thick front cover with a box containing LEGO parts inside. The actual book part of this one is longer than recent ones, at 96 pages, compared to the usual 40 or 50.
Inside the book is the usual mix of instructions to build models from the parts -- six pairs in this case -- and stories around the models which take the form of photo-strips. The minifigs it contains are two of Chima's main characters, Crawley and Lennox.
There's something interesting about it for polybag collectors...
One of the most anticipated LEGO books of the year has just been published. Dorling Kindersley's LEGO Minifigures Character Encyclopedia is the fourth character encyclopedia they've produced, after Star Wars, Harry Potter and Ninjago. It's much the same as the others in terms of layout and content, and as you've read below, also comes with an exclusive minifigure, a Toy Soldier which is arguably the best book-mounted one-to-date.
The book is 204-pages long and features 162 minifigs, which is series 1 to 10, Mr Gold and the Toy Solder. Team GB figures are not included.
The 40-odd pages that are not about a single minifig are double spreads introducing each series and also some (largely superfluous) spreads featuring all figures of a particular type, e.g. circus performers, bad guys, sportsmen and women, etc. There is however, a very interesting page at the front, 'How a minifigure is made' that describes the design process and introduces the design team.
In the US, the book is called Brick City: Global Icons to Make from LEGO and is available already from Amazon.com.
Warren is a well known and liked AFOL based in the UK who calls himself an 'artist in LEGO bricks'. He organises The LEGO Show and AFOLCon and displays at many other exhibitions. This is his first book which, as the title suggests, is perhaps unusual among LEGO books in that it's targeting 'grown-ups' rather than kids.
Furthermore, it's been written with 'grown-ups who haven't touched LEGO since they were kids' in mind. The introductory pages cover the story of LEGO, useful bricks, where to buy bricks, building tips, building to scale, CAD modelling and LEGO colours, all of which will be familiar to most of us, but provides useful information for newcomers to the subject.
Christoph Bartneck is on a mission to produce comprehensive and complete books for minifig collectors, and he is showing no signs of slowing down. This year he has published three new books including the one I'm going to take a look at now, The Star Wars LEGO Minifigure Catalog, 2nd edition.
I reviewed the first edition this time last year. The second edition is, of course, much the same, but includes the 2012 minifigures and numerous corrections and additions to others.
It's a 134-page paperback book, about A5 in size.
There are high quality photos of all 460 Star Wars minifigs and, where appropriate, photos of their backs and heads, as you can see from the sample page on the right. The data panel next to each minifig shows the number in Christoph's taxonomy, the BrickLink number, a list of sets the minifig appeared in and also a price guide for new and used examples, taken from BrickLink.
The book is organised by movie appearance (Clone Wars, Episode 1, 2, 3, 4/5/6, etc.) with a chapter for each. Within each chapter, the order appears to be random, mostly ordered by BrickLink minifig number (which is pretty random).
There are extensive indexes at the back of the book listing each figure in BrickLink number order and also, new for this edition, by name.
My main gripe with the first edition was that it was difficult to find particular figures, or all instances of a particular character. That has been addressed by the new name index, but personally I'd still rather see, for example, every C-3PO next to each other on the same page, rather than scattered across the book just because he appears in multiple movies.
It's an expensive book, no doubt about it, particularly compared to DK offerings, but it is unique and complete and a must buy for any avid Star Wars minifig collector.
The book is available from Amazon, where you can 'look inside' to see more example page spreads.
This 220-page paperback is a second edition of the book that was first published in 2005, when 3rd party books on LEGO (as opposed to Mindstorms) were few and far between.
The main difference between this second editon and the first is that it's now in full colour, but it's also 100 pages shorter. I'll tell you what's been missed out in a minute.
The book can be considered a 'LEGO building for Dummies' in that it starts right at the beginning and assumes you don't know your bricks from your plates. It explains the different types of LEGO parts, the basics of fitting them together and then considers various styles of building, such as minifig-scale, microscale, sculptures and mosaics. It's written in a light, breezy style and it's a good read.
The LEGO Adventure book, written by Megan Rothrock and published by No Starch Press has been highly anticipated since first announced a few months ago. I received a copy today to review ahead of publication, so read onto find out that it’s like and what I thought of it.
It’s a hardback book and printed on high quality paper. Its 200 pages are full colour throughout.
The premise behind the book is that a minifig representation of the author (Megs) builds a home base and transportation (in chapter 1), along with a companion (a small robot) then travels around the world visiting MOCs and their builder’s minifig representations, which are mostly shown in a photo-strip like presentation. It is therefore an unconventional approach and not exactly what I was expecting, but it does seem to work and prevents the book from becoming a dry read.
It's written by Joachim Klang and Oliver Albrecht who, according to the introduction, are active members of the German AFOL scene and 1000Steine.
It's divided into two sections. The first provides instructions and inspiration for building a micro-scale LEGO city like that shown on the cover. Most of the 30 instructions are for vehicles of some sort although some small buildings and trees are also included. The second, much smaller section, has instructions for five minifig scale 'professional models', four cars and a helicopter.
This page, showing the last page of one set of instructions, and the first of another show how it's laid out: A nice photo of the finished model, shown in the context of the micro-scale city followed by several pages of instructions that end with a parts list.
The models use a lot of advanced building techniques that you might not find in official models, so from that point of view, it's educational, and in fact there are a few pages showing such techniques at the front of the book, some of which I've never come across (like using lever handles jammed into the bottom of plates to join them bottom-to-bottom).
If you're looking for building inspiration, I highly recommend this book: there are many models in it that make you think "'wow, that's cool!" and which are likely to have you reaching for your parts drawers to build them yourself. My only criticism is that the writing on the spine is the wrong way up: the text should start at the top and end at the bottom: why do some publishers think otherwise?!
You can order it now from Amazon:
Apologies if I'm a bit late with this news: I've had a copy of this for a few weeks but have been waiting until it was officially released before reviewing it. It seems that Amazon.co.uk is shipping it already so I guess it's OK to tell you about it now...
So, DK's latest book, and what I believe is the last one due in 2012, is Ninjago Character Encyclopedia. It's the same size and format as the Harry Potter and Star Wars ones: 170-odd pages, 18cm x 24xm, with a thick front cover to house the exclusive minifig.
The minifig is, apparently, Lloyd ZX but given that he's sporting a torso print that will feature on all the Ninjas in the 2013 sets I suspect his real suffix will be something else when it's revealed next year. Unlike the minifigs in all previous DK books, this one comes unassembled. However, like those in recent DK books, it's not made in a European or Mexican LEGO factory so the plastic is not quite so good as those that are.
It's divided into two sections: Ninja vs. Skeleton (the 2011 series) and Ninja vs. snakes (the 2012 sets). Most of the characters have a page profile like that shown, as do the dragons, vehicles and sets. There are also pages covering the weapons, so it's pretty comprehensive (but see my note below). I guess it can be given it only has to cover two years' worth of sets.
I was not a fan of the 2011 sets, the skeletons and their vehicles were too weird for my taste and half the minifigs were 'not made in a European or Mexican LEGO factory' consequently I don't have many of the sets.
Most of the minifigs get a full two-page spread like those shown, but others are glossed over, such as the Kendo and NRG Ninjas, which share two pages between them, which is a bit of a shame.
The last few pages contain a minifig gallery and also a set gallery, which for some reason doesn't contain any of the spinner sets or booster packs: in fact rather bizarrely neither are mentioned in the book at all, other than occasional references in 'ninja file' boxes on the character profile pages, if they didn't come in any other set (e.g. as on the Samurai X page above).
So, to summarise, this is, as we've come to expect from DK, an excellent book and one that every young Ninjago fan will love to find under the tree at Christmas. For us more discerning AFOLs, it's not quite a 'definitive guide' but it's pretty close.
You can order it from Amazon:
Chloe is an exclusive Friends character that is only available with the new Friends Brickmaster book, that has been published by Dorling Kindersley, and sub-titled "Treasure Hunt in Heartlake City".
It follows the format of all the other Brickmasters, which is a good thing. It comes with 103 parts and the two mini-dolls. There are instructions for five different models, including the chair and window illustrated. The models follow the plot of a story: finding a map, building a raft, setting sail, discovering treasure, getting home and having a nice cup of tea :-)
Luis over at Comunidade 0937 has posted a review in Portuguese and photos on the club's website (translated through Google). He's not too impressed with it, although I do agree with him that the parts are a bit of a mix of colours resulting in BOLOCs models.
Nevertheless I think it will hit the spot with the target audience and if you have someone in it to buy a gift for at Christmas time, it will be well received and provide hours of entertainment, more so than an equivalently priced normal Friends set would.
I don't know, you wait ages for a DK LEGO book to be published and then three come along at once. Not only did the Batman Visual Dictionary arrive earlier, but another courier has just delivered this Ninjago Brickmaster Fight the Power of the Snakes, and also the Batman Ultimate Sticker Book (which I won't be boring you with here).
I think I'm right in saying this is the first Brickmaster book to be published this year, the last two being City and Ninjago (skeletons) this time last year.
It's the same size and follows the same format as the others. The thick inside cover contains the bricks and the book contains building instructions for four models. I have to say that none of them look particularly outstanding, but I suspect young Ninjago fans will love them. The design of the cover has been improved from earlier books and is easier to open, close and keep the parts in.
The minifigs are Cole and Lasha.
Here are pictures of the parts; it looks to be a reasonable selection.
This isn't going to be a full review: just my first impressions (I've only had it 1/2 hour!), but enough hopefully for you to decide whether it's worth purchasing.
It's a 96-page book which is the same size as the Star Wars Visual Dictionary and Harry Potter Building the Magical World. Its thick front cover holds the exclusive minifig which we'll get to in a minute.
The book starts with an introduction and timeline of Batman sets, showing pictures of the boxes and models.
It appears to be complete and accurate and even includes the polybag sets that were released earlier this year.
The rest of the book is divided into four sections:
- The World of LEGO Batman covers the original sets and minifigs released between 2006 and 2008. You can see two spreads from this section in my flickr stream.
- LEGO DC Super Heroes covers the 2012 sets and includes Superman and Wonder Woman.
- Beyond the Brick takes a look at the design process and features interviews with the designers.
- Finally, Going Digital covers scenes and characters from the two video games. This accounts for 20 pages of the book and is of no interest to me whatsoever, and its inclusion is somewhat disappointing. I suspect it's only there because there isn't enough material to fill the book otherwise.
Right at the back of the book is a page showing all the minifigs, much like that at the back of the Harry Potter version. It does not include the SDCC exclusive Batman and Green Lantern, or the one that is included with the book.
The exclusive minifig is 'Electro-suit Batman' which is apparently the suit he wears to help him solve puzzles in the LEGO Batman 2 game. It's printed back and front, and even on his arms and cowl. It's very well printed, but as has been the case with other recent DK book minifigs, it's not made in Europe or Mexico.
In summary then, the book is OK. It's not as good as the other Visual Dictionaries, perhaps because the material is a bit sparse. In fact something I haven't mentioned yet is that there are a number of childish and superfluous cartoon strips littered throughout it, obviously more padding to fill the pages.
The photos don't look as good to me, either. They don't seem to 'pop' off the page, perhaps partly because many of them are of black things. In fact, looking through it now, it's a strange mix of real photos and the computer generated images that LEGO often use on the boxes and catalogues these days.
Definitely one for the Super Heroes completest, but unlike most DK LEGO books, not an essential purchase.
Building a History: The LEGO Group by Sarah Herman is the latest in a growing number of LEGO-related books vying for space on your bookshelf.
It’s a 300 page hardback that’s published by Pen and Sword who are best known as a publisher of military history books. The author is a British LEGO lover currently living in Vancouver who has written books on a variety of subjects.
As its title suggests, it charts the history of the Christensen family, the LEGO Company and LEGO products, starting with the birth of Ole Kirk Christensen in 1891, and ending in about 2010. Although it is generously illustrated, it is not a picture book, and it takes a good few hours to read it all.
If this applies to you, you may be interested in a new book called Brickdiction: A seven step recovery guide for people addicted to LEGO, by Bill Deen
Like all good self-help and motivational books it lays out seven principles and procedures that you can apply to your life, in this case to recover from your plastic brick addiction. It says that 'recovery will be hard, but it is possible. Have hope...'
The steps start at admitting you have a problem and end at sharing your journey to recovery with others once you're over it.
I admit that I am addict myself and, having read the book from cover to cover, I'm seriously considering following the programme to get my life back on track. There, I've completed step one already!
OK, so you've just read that and thought WTF? Am I really reading this at Brickset? Surely we are all addicts and have no wish to 'recover'? Who is this Bill Deen guy anyway? Billdeen... building... sounds like a pseudonym... there's something fishy going on here!
Actually, there is. The book is one big joke: it is impossible to recover from brickdiction and who would want to anyway (so it says on the back cover). Now on to the real book review...
It's a light-hearted tome that gently pokes fun at the world of AFOLs. After laying out the seven steps (which are all written tongue-in-cheek) 'Bill' confesses that he's an addict and explains why, and why he has no intention of ever seeking to recover. At 58 pages long, it's a quick, but fun, read. It would make a great little gift for the LEGO addict in your life. You can buy it as a download, or from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk as a paperback or Kindle edition. Good luck on the road to recovery!
It's the same size as their Star Wars character encyclopedia (19x24cm) and follows the same format. Its 140 pages cover 'every LEGO Harry Potter minfigure and creature' so the scope is more than just minifigs although they of course form the bulk of the book. It's divided into 7 chapters, one for each movie. This makes it interesting to flick through, but if you want to compare every version of Hermione, for example, you have to hunt back and forth through the book to find them all.
Pages containing minifigs include facts about the figure in 'pull-outs' from the main photo, and a 'data file' that lists the sets that the figure came in along with any accessories included with it. If there are variants of the figure these are shown in a 'variants' box, so, for example, although there have been two Dobby's there's only one page for him: the old tan version is listed as a variant. I haven't checked if every HP figure is featured, but I'd be surprised if not.
There are pages detailing creatures and other topics interspersed throughout the book: these cover Hogwarts uniforms; owls; snakes, frogs and dragons; skeletons; assorted other creatures; double sided heads and accessories.
There is a lot of detail in the book and it makes for fascinating reading. A lot of the facts quote which set a particular figure or accessory came in, but usually just its number is given. Of course we Brickset users have an excellent reference to look these up, but an appendix listing all the sets and when they were released would have been welcome. The text was checked by my AFOL friend Alastair Disley so we can be sure that it's accurate.
As I mentioned in a previous article, the book comes with an exclusive minifig, but unfortunately it's a bit boring: Harry in Slug Club Christmas party suit, and even more unfortunately, it's made in China. However if you have every HP fig (as I do) you'll need it for your collection which I think we can now consider to be complete given the chances of LEGO making more HP sets are slim.
The timing of the release of the book is interesting in that Harry Potter LEGO is effectively 'dead', or at best 'dormant', so it's not going to encourage sales of sets, but at the same time it's good that it has been released now and not, say, a year ago, because it is complete and won't be obsolete any time soon.
Following on from my involvement in the SW character encyclopedia, DK commissioned me to provide many of the images in the book. I haven't been through and counted but I estimate something like half of them were taken by me, including most of those on the 'creatures and other topics' pages. Consequently they look excellent :-)
The book really is a must for all Harry Potter LEGO fans and given that it's so cheap at the moment ($11 and £7.50 from Amazon) there is no good reason not to buy it.
Here are some sample spreads, posted on flickr:
Finally, here are the links to buy it at Amazon, and in doing so, you help Brickset stay on-air!
Christoph Bartneck, author of the excellent Unofficial LEGO Minifigure Catalog that we reviewed last year has published three new books:
The 2011 LEGO Minifigure Catalog
As its name suggests, this contains pictures and details of nearly every minifig released in 2011, all 415 of them. Christoph has sensibly decided not to re-issue the full catalog every year but to publish books like this annually so that you can keep up to date for a small incremental cost.
The format has been improved significantly and now all relevant details about the figures are included in the body of the book, together with images of the head and back. There is also a price guide for each figure, showing new and used prices in USD, as taken from BrickLink.
The Harry Potter LEGO Minifigure Catalog and The Star Wars LEGO Minifigure Catalog follow the same format. They cover every minifig in their respective theme, to the end of 2011. Both books are organised in chapters corresponding to the movies and within each chapter the figures are ordered by their number. That perhaps, is the only criticism I can make about the books: finding a particular variation of, say, Boba Fett, requires a bit of digging around. It might have been better to order the books by character name.
Notwithstanding this minor point, the books are excellent and well worth buying if you're a collector of either of the themes in question. The 2011 catalog is likely only to appeal to those with the full catalog, but these two stand alone as useful references in their own right. Highly recommended!
They can be ordered from Amazon.com. Only one of them is available at Amazon.co.uk at the moment, it seems.
I'm actually going to keep my review brief because Mariann Asanuma has done such a good job of reviewing it at her Model Building Secrets blog that I recommend you read that then continue reading here for my opinion on it.
So, what did I think...
Well, overall I liked it and I think any AFOL will enjoy reading it. I'm not sure that AFOLs are the target audience though since we already know most of what's written and will probably also know many of the people and models that are featured. However, I think it will serve to bring closet/borderline AFOLs into the hobby because one thing it does make clear is that, if you love the brick, it's OK to, and you are not alone!
It will also be useful for educating NLSOs and proving to them that you are not as weird as you may seem, playing with LEGO as an adult :-)
There are some observations that I'll make which I hope will be read constructively:
- I didn't like the page design. It's very inconsistent. Some spreads are clean and well laid out but most have distracting backgrounds with the text inset in white boxes.
- The quality of the photography is variable. This is a bugbear of mine with Brick Journal as well. I know why it is -- because the photos are contributed by many people who've used differering equipment under less than ideal lighting conditions -- but I'm not sure how it could be solved other than have one person take all the pictures in a controlled environment, which I admit is not practical given the subject matter.
- The online LEGO community doesn't get much of a mention, just a couple of pages, which given the importance it plays in holding the community together, is disappointing, and brushing off Brickset as 'Peeron's European counterpart' does it no justice at all!
- It's very US-centric. Most of the models, events and people are from/in the USA. If you're in the USA you probably won't be bothered by this, of course.
Anyway, despite these niggles it's still an excellent work and worth adding to your book collection.
This book, along with the LEGO Ideas Book I reviewed earlier this week, has just been published by Dorling Kindersley.
It’s a hardback book that’s smaller than DK’s other LEGO books, at 23x18cm, but is still over an inch thick thanks in part to the thick front cover housing the exclusive Han Solo in ceremonial robes minifigure.
The book’s 200 pages are laid out showing one minifigure per page. Along with a large image of the figure, there are boxes containing background information about the character, data about when the fig was released and in which set, and also, if needed, a ‘Star Variants’ box showing other versions of the minifig. This accounts for the discrepancy between the ‘Featuring more than 300 minifigures’ claim on the cover and the 200 pages: many older variants of figures only appear in these boxes. The book does not claim to contain every SW minifigure ever made, and there are some notable exceptions, such as the white Boba Fett. It does, however, feature all those that are in the latest 2011 sets.
The book is organised by movie, so the figures that feature in episode 1 are at the front of the book and those from 6, then Clone Wars and expanded universe are at the back. Within each section the order appears random and to be honest it can be a problem finding specific figures without resorting to the index which thankfully is comprehensive. Perhaps organising alphabetically would have made more sense, with Aayla Secura at the front and Zev Senesca at the back: at least then you could flick through the pages to find the character of interest and all of, say, the Luke variants would be in the book together.
The quality and accuracy of the information in the book should be spot-on because Ace Kim from FBTB and myself proof-read it. As I have mentioned here before I was also asked to provide around 100 photos for it. Strange as it seems, they asked me because LEGO could not provide DK with the minifigs to enable them to photograph them themselves. Luckily I had most of the ones needed and those I didn’t I sourced from BrickLink.
I haven’t yet identified all those that were used; the majority are the in the Star Variants boxes, or detail pictures of backs of heads or torsos. However the main images on pages 26 (Naboo Security officer), 78 (Greedo), 106, in the image above, and 138 (both Luke) are mine and I guess it’s satisfying that they are pretty much indistinguishable from the others taken by the pros, and in some cases better, which is one reason I haven’t yet found them all!
I haven’t said much about the exclusive Han Solo minifigure yet. I guess if you’re a SW minifig completest it will be reason enough to buy the book but actually it’s the most disappointing thing about it. Unfortunately, it’s an inferior Chinese plastic figure which is a shame because otherwise it’s very nice. The exclusive figures on the covers of previous DK books have been normal quality so it was a let-down to see that it wasn’t the case here. I know most of you don’t notice or care about this, but to me, just like the collectable minifigs, it looks and feels cheap and nasty compared to the real thing. However, if you keep it sealed in the cover you'll never notice the poor quality.
So, to summarise, this is yet another essential book purchase for anyone remotely interested in Star Wars LEGO or minifigs, particularly with the deep discounts available at Amazon at the moment. Highly recommended, despite the minifig quality.
We really are being spoilt for LEGO books this year. We've already had several excellent Dorling Kindersley books and now two more have been published. This one, however, is slightly different to the others in that it's been created with the help of AFOLs rather than the LEGO group, although of course it is licensed from them. (I'll be reviewing the other new DK book, the Star Wars Character Encylopedia, in due course.)
As its title suggests, this is an ideas book that provides inspiration for your own models. It's A4-ish in size and about 200 pages long. Its presentation is as stunning as we've come to expect from DK: superb photos on clean white backgrounds surrounded with snippets of text. It makes a superb coffee-table book.
It's divided into six chapters which set the theme for the models within: Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Town and Country, Out of this world, In Days of Old, A World of Adventure and Make and Keep. Most pages features a main model and variations of it. The book doesn't contain instructions for any models, but usually shows enough pictures of them to be able to reverse-engineer them should you want to. However, that's not the idea really, the models are intended for inspiration for your own creations.
I had to chuckle at the statement in the introduction about this "We don't show building steps or lists because it's unlikely you will have all the bricks for each model...' Actually, I think it highly likely that I do, and I suspect many of you do too!
Perhaps the best thing about the book is that most of the models have been created by AFOLs, the majority of whom are Brickish Association members: Barney Main, Tim Goddard, Duncan Titmarsh, Andrew Walker from the BA, and Debrah Higdon and Sebastiaan Arts. They have done a fantastic job, and it's interesting to see that they've sometimes used building techniques that LEGO set designers probably wouldn't, although I'm told all models had to be approved by LEGO.
Should you buy this book? If you build with LEGO bricks then yes, this is for you. If you're someone who just buys sets and keeps them MISB, then it probably won't be of interest. But nobody here does that, do they? :-)
It's available from Amazon for about half the publisher's price so there really isn't a reason not to add it to your bookcase.
I've now finished my review of this important reference work for LEGO collectors. Read it to find out why you need this book, and whether I think it's worth the asking price.
Once you've done so, leave your feedback in the comments here.
Update: Christoph, the book's author, has been reading your comments, in particular in those about the price. There's not much he can do at the moment to reduce it, but he has now made the book available electronically for a fraction of the price of the printed edition. You can purchase and download it from Lulu. Now there's no excuse not to buy it...
The long-awaited second edition of this excellent book has just been published and I now have a copy. I'm not going to write a long review; instead I've ressurected my review of the first edition, as written in 2008, and will thus concentrate on the differences between the two editions.
- At 928 pages, it's about 130 pages longer.
- Edition 1 covered sets released in 1958 up to the first half of 2008. This new version starts at 1949 and goes right up to the end of 2011, including sets not yet released.
- Errors noted in my 1st edition review have been corrected.
- It comes with an exclusive keychain: a black 4x4 tile with 1 row of studs, printed with the classic space logo.
- It has a blue brick on the front rather than a red one :-)
Suffice to say that this is a must-have for every LEGO collector, whether you have the first edition or not. It's a fantastic thing to browse through. Kudos to the team behind it for continuing to work on the project and keep it up-to-date.
At the moment it's only available from the German publishers via their website (click on the image to go there), but in time it will appear on Amazon worldwide like the first edition did, and maybe even turn up in LEGO brand stores.
This long-awaited book was released in the UK this week (although it's been available in other places for some time) and I now have my hands on a copy.
It is similar to LEGO Star Wars, the Visual Dictionary, both in size and content. It's about 2cm thick, 96-pages long and follows DK's trademark page layout of full colour photography on a clean white background with minimal text. It comes with an exclusive minifig, Harry Potter in formal dress robes, that is mounted in the front cover of the book.
However, there is a difference between this and the SW book and that is that this one appears to be complete: every set and every minifig is featured which is something that wasn't possible in the SW one because of the number of sets and figures.
Like the SW book, there's a timeline at the front showing all the sets and when they were released, from 2001 right up to the three sets that have just hit the shelves.
The bulk of the book then covers a single topic per double page, either featuring a minifig (e.g. Harry Potter), a scene or location (e.g. Hagrid's Hut) or a specific set (e.g. Durmstrang Ship). 'Data file' boxes on the pages provide details about the sets illustrated such as number of parts, year released, minifigs included and so on. Nothing you can't find out here at Brickset but it's nice to have it in book form.
The last section 'Beyond the Brick' features an interview with the LEGO design team, and sections on the Harry Potter computer games, merchandise (key rings, etc.) and finally, right at the back, a gallery showing every minifigure. I'm not sure that it's entirely accurate since I've spotted an error already: Harry Potter from Privet Drive (4728) is shown with tan legs whereas he has light grey legs in the actual set. Nevertheless, it's great to see them all on the same page even if there may be some small errors.
Although the latest three 2011 sets are mentioned at the back of the book and in the timeline, that's as far as it goes. For example, the page about the Knight Bus doesn't mention the new one and the minifig gallery doesn't feature the new figures from these sets, so it's already out of date. But that's a problem all reference books have, isn't it?
Apart from that, there is nothing not to like about this book and at the low online price of $13 and £10 I can think of no reason not to buy it. It's definitely a 'must have' for all fans of Harry Potter LEGO.
You can buy it from Amazon, and when doing so you help keep Brickset running:
The first of Dorling Kindersley's LEGO books for 2011 are now available from Amazon. 'Ultimate Sticker Book Star Wars Heroes' and ''Ultimate Sticker Book Star Wars Villains' have been published a few weeks early and I received my copies yesterday. They are similar in format to last year's Minifigure Ultimate Sticker Collection in that they consist of pages to stick the stickers on, in this case 16 pages, and 8 pages of stickers.
I might as well copy verbatim what I said when I reviewed the minifigure book, as it's true for these, too:
These are definitely books aimed at children and not 'must-haves' like the other DK books, however if you're a LEGO book collector like me, it is worth adding them to your bookshelf. In fact it may be worth buying two copies of each: one to keep as new and another to use the stickers from.
Here are a few pictures so you can see what they are like:
They are available from Amazon.co.uk for £3.50 and at Amazon.com they are listed but it says 'Sign up to be notified when this item becomes available.' which I think means they won't be available for some time...
I think it's going to be a busy few days for news: there's a very excellent new iPhone app I need to tell you about, but before I do that, here's a brief review of the Dorling Kindersley Brickmaster Star Wars book which has now been published in the UK. I received my copy today and already I've built the two main models :-)
The book follows the same format as the other Brickmaster books: it's hardback, about an inch thick, and consists of a box attached to the front cover containing the bricks and a 50-odd page book attached to the back. It comes with 240 LEGO parts (the others only had 140) although there are lots of small ones: not that that's a bad thing, of course. The book contains instructions for eight models: 4 separatist and 4 republic.
The main models, an AAT and republic attack shuttle, are definitely the highlight of them: they are equal in design quality to other Star Wars minis and very dense in parts, which is good. The book comes with two minifigs: a battle droid and clone trooper. They aren't needed for these models but all the others make use of them. As an added bonus, the AAT features plenty of rare parts in dark blue.
There isn't much more to say about this, other than that it's a no-brainer whether to buy it or not: get it ordered today!
There are more photos in my flickr stream where you can see the other models and the parts selection.
This book has been out for a few months and I've been meaning to review it since reading it on holiday in July. However I didn't get round to it so here's a mini-review written by Brickset member duq:
Like many of us Jonathan Bender played with Lego as a child and dreamt of working as a Master Builder in Legoland. Like many of us the Lego and the dream were forgotten when he went to college. Just before his 30th birthday his mother asks him to clear out his old room. Jonathan finds a big box of Lego which brings back a lot of memories and gets him to buy Lego again.
Unlike most of us Jonathan is a writer and he has turned the story of his rediscovery of Lego into a book. His journey is a condensed version of what a lot of AFOLs have been through. Starting with a rainbow camel built from childhood bricks, buying sets, ordering from Bricklink and building the first MOC worthy of public display. Being a writer helps open doors and so he meets lots of well-known people from the AFOL community like Joe Meno and Lino Martins as well as people inside the company like Jamie Berard and Steve Witt. He even gets the full inside tour in Billund. There's a second story in the book and that's about Jonathan and his wife Kate. The Lego room was supposed to be the baby room and now the toys have arrived before the baby. That raises questions in his head that he and Kate need to answer.
The book is an easy read. For most AFOLs the joy will be in recognising people and situations more than discovering new facts about Lego. For friends and family of AFOLs the book may help to explain why you ended up with the hobby you did.
We first mentioned this book back in May and at the time it emerged that annuals are not known of or published in the USA. So, for those who have no idea what one is, they are books published once a year which, to quote bluemoose, are 'a staple of Christmas morning here' in the UK. They are usually aimed at kids and this one, the first LEGO annual to my knowledge, is no exception.
It's an A4 hardback consiting of 60-odd pages of puzzles and games for small kids. It's very colourful and has some great artwork in it, including of the series 2 minifigs, but beyond that there is nothing in it to interest anyone over about 8.
In fact, I wouldn't bother even to tell you about except for its one redeeming feature: its cover. As you can see from the larger version of the photo above the '2011' numerals are actually made from yellow 1xn plates, set into a plastic frame which keeps them in position.
If you aspire to be 'LEGO book complete' then it's worth buying, particularly as it's only a fiver, but if not, I wouldn't worry. If you're in the USA, where it isn't even listed on Amazon, I wouldn't lose any sleep over it...
Stay tuned for another book review in a few days, written by a guest contributor!
Following on from the success of the first two Brickmaster books last year (Pirates and Castle), Dorling Kindersley are publishing more this year: Atlantis, which has just been released and is the subject of this brief review, and Star Wars, due for release around October time, I believe.
Brickmaster Atlantis is very similar to the others in that it's a 1" thick hardback book consiting of a box attached to the front cover to hold the bricks (in this case 140 bricks and 2 minifigs: a diver called Bobby Buoy and the Manta warrior) and a 46 page book attached to the back cover. The book contains instructions for building 5 different models, each of which consist of 2 or more sub-models. What's more there are instructions for more models available online from dk.com and LEGO.com. Or at least that's what the book claims. I haven't been able to find them on the DK site at the given URL, although there is one model on the Atlantis downloads page at LEGO.com.
So, what are models like? In general they are excellent. They are mainly different submarines and sea creatures and I would not be at all surprised to hear that they had been designed by the same team that did the Atlantis sets, they are that good. (Update: now the reason they are so good is clear: they were all designed by Mark Stafford, who did indeed design many of the Atlantis sets. Good job Mark!)
The only criticism I can make is that the book is very childisly written (e.g. "Top Tip: Look at the drawings very carefully to work out which pieces you need next!) but I suppose given the target audience (6+) that can be excused. Actually there's another thing I don't like: the pages don't lay flat because of the box which makes building difficult!
This is easily the best of the three Brickmaster books published to date, because the parts are so versatile and the models so well designed.
I've posted more pictures on flickr, including the parts inventory and the submarine from the main model.
I've received my copies of these books from Amazon so I thought I'd do a short review. It's short because, to be honest, there isn't much to say about them.
The are produced by Ameet, a Polish publisher of childrens' books, which explains why these have been published in English and Polish and why there were available in Poland a few months ago. In the UK they are published by Ladybird.
Anyway, they are roughly A4 size, 32 pages, and full colour throughout. They are filled with activities and facts about underwater creatures or submarines, and games and puzzles for small children. All the illustrations are renders or photos of official Atlantis models and figures. In fact they have the feel of a glorified sales brochure. If you're over about 6 there's no reason to buy these for the books. But you might buy them for the figures, particularly as they are so cheap.
One book comes with the Shark Warrior and the other with the Squid Warrior. They are packed in small plastic cases and attached to the front of the cover. You get the figures out by remvoing the coloured plastic insert from the clear plastic cover. Unfortunately once you've done so, the clear cover is still attached to the book's cover and as a result it won't lay flat or fit in your bookcase nicely.
However there is some good news. The figures do not appear to be cleap Chinese versions and seem to be identical to those found in the sets. Their arms and hands do not have a mould number, which are usually found on Chinese figures.
In summary then, don't bother buying these for the book but if you need underwater warriors for your 'army', these are a relatively cheap way to get them, particularly the squid who only comes in an expensive set. You can see the prices and order them from the links below:
Better late than never: I've had this book for a few days now and at last I've found the time to review it. However, there's not really much to say about it. It's quite a thick book which consists of two sections. The first third of the book (about 30 pages) consists of pages to stick stickers on and the rest of it is the stickers themselves. I believe DK publish other sticker collections and I suspect they are very popular with the target age group (I guess around 5-6 years old).
There's not much to read and nothing much to look at: the idea being that you hunt for the minifig sticker that matches the minifig outline and stick it on. So, if that's your idea of fun, this is the book for you!
However, to look at it just like that would miss what's really cool about this book: the fact that it's full of stickers of minifigs which are, as you'd expect from DK, very well reproduced and therefore ideal for embellishing just about anything with: school books, furniture, folders, whatever. In fact, even if you do stick them in the front of the book as you're supposed to, you can still use some for this purpose, because there's a whole set of extra stickers included!
Quite a few themes are represented: City, Trains, Castle, Pirates, Space, Adventurers, Agents, Exo-Force, Underground, Batman, Atlantis, Star Wars, Harry Potter and SpongeBob. The book claims there are 'more than 1000 reusable stickers'. About 400 of them are 'life-size' minifigs, the others are small 1cm x 1cm pictures of minfigs, heads and various other symbols.
This is definitely a book aimed at children and not a 'must-have' like the other DK books, however if you're a LEGO book collector like me, it is worth adding it to your bookshelf. In fact it may be worth buying two copies: one to keep as new and another to use the stickers from.
You can buy it from Amazon:
- In the USA: Ultimate Sticker Collection: LEGO Minifigure ($10.39)
- In the UK: Lego Minifigure Ultimate Sticker Collection (£6.62)
- In Canada: Lego Mini Figure Ultimate Sticker Collection ($10.82)
- In Germany: Ultimate Sticker Collection: LEGO Minifigure (€9,10)
- In France: Lego Minifigure (€8.99)
At those prices it's definitely worth picking up!
Typical isn’t it? You wait ages for a decent LEGO book to come along and then three arrive all at the same time!
The third DK book released this month is LEGO Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary. It’s a little larger than The LEGO Book at 260mmx310mm, and also a lot thicker because the inside front cover has a box attached to it for housing the exclusive minifig. It’s 96 pages long and consists of an introduction and four chapers: Movie Saga, Clone Wars, Specialist Sets and Beyond the Brick.
I’ll discuss the exclusive minifig first because that alone will be worth the purchase price of the book for some. Apparently called Throne Room Luke, it has printed dark brown legs and a yellow torso. It’s not particularly exciting but given that you won’t find it anywhere else, if you collect Star Wars minifigs, you’ll need to buy the book!
The book itself is typical DK in its design and layout (what a surprise!) so as usual it is a joy to flick through. Also the design and content is very similar to DK’s other Star Wars Visual Dictionaries.
The introduction consists of a time-line from 1999 to 2009 and does appear to be complete. It’s bang up to date and includes the mini sets (30004/5/6) recently available in the UK with the Daily Mirror newspaper and the yet-to-be-released 20010 Mini Republic Gunship. When you see them all laid out on 3 double-page spreads like this you realise just how many sets there have been.
The first chapter Movie Saga makes up the bulk of the book and is arranged by topic. So for example, there’s a page about Anakin Skywalker, another about Jedi Knights, one about Wookies, Bounty Hunters and so on. Each illustrates relevant sets and minifigs. The second chapter is much the same but covers the Clone Wars figures and sets. The Specialist Sets chapter covers mini sets, Technic and Ultimate Collector sets.
In these chapters, in most cases where a particular model has been superseded by an updated one, the later model gets a large picture and the old one a much smaller one, as you can see on the Bounty Hunters page shown here with Boba’s Slave I.
The final chapter Beyond the Brick features an interview with the LEGO Star Wars design manager, and pages on merchandising and the LEGO Star Wars community. The latter features two models by fellow Brickish Association members photographed by our very own bluemoose!
Running throughout the book, the bottom corners feature ‘flick animations’ of Luke waving his light sabre and marching Storm Troopers.
Try as I might, there’s nothing negative I can write about this book. For the subject matter it covers it’s just about perfect and because the subject matter is much newer than that covered by The LEGO Book/Standing Small, it is virtually complete too. (Although don’t expect to find pictures of every minifig variation).
It should appeal to everyone who has an interest in LEGO Star Wars and I suspect it will prompt some people who are not already collecting this theme to start doing so.
LEGO Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary is available for the ridiculously low price of £11 in the UK and $13 in the USA. It’s shipping already in the UK and should ship within the next week or so in the USA and elsewhere.
This is part two of my review of Dorling Kindersley’s slip-cased pair of LEGO books. The thickest book of the pair, at 200 pages, is simply entitled The LEGO Book. Like Standing Small, this is a highly pictorial book in the trademark DK style of white (or black) pages with high quality photographs and snippets of text.
It’s divided into 3 main sections: a history of the LEGO company and its products and how they are made, a pictorial survey of LEGO themes which takes up the bulk of the book, and a section on the wider LEGO world. There’s a scan of the contents page on the DK website which shows what’s covered.
The first section details the origins of the company and the ‘system of play’ and includes timelines showing product development from the 1950s to date and photos taken inside the factory in Billund. There’s not much new here that hasn’t been covered in other books but it’s necessarily included here to give the reader the full picture of the brand and its products.
The LEGO themes section may be the part of the book that most interests Brickset users because it covers the development of themes from their first appearance until now. The large, long running themes, such as City/Town, Castle and space get 10 pages each while newer themes such as Batman and Agents get just two. Like Standing Small, some themes have not been covered at all, such as Divers, Time Cruisers and other short-lived ones. I guess that is understandable; the book would be huge otherwise, but it does prevent this from being a definitive guide.
The long running themes feature a sets to remember page which shows box art for a selection of sets in the theme. However I think they have been chosen on the basis of how attractive or what size the pictures are because they certainly don’t cover the most fondly remembered sets of the theme (where, for example is 6876 Blacktron Alienator on the Space page!)
One criticism I have is that this section is very biased towards sets released in the last 10 years which, depending on how old you are and how long you’ve been collecting, is either a good or a bad thing. The sets to remember pages show a good selection of sets from all years but you are hard pressed to find pictures of many sets released before 2000 in the main theme pages. For example, the space section has two pages covering everything from 1979 to 2006, then two pages for Mars Mission and two for the new Space Police.
The last part of the book covers ‘everything else’ such as theme parks, LEGO Universe, LEGO Clubs, LEGO.com, brick art, and two pages showing AFOL MOCs. It merely skims the surface of these topics, but it rounds the book off nicely and once you’re done reading you are left feeling that you have a good overview of everything LEGO. Sadly, there isn’t a section on LEGO related websites, though…
So, to summarise, this is an excellent book which, despite its shortcomings, deserves a place on every LEGO fan’s bookshelf and DK/LEGO are to be commended for publishing it.
Dorling Kindersley has a long association with LEGO and has published numerous children’s books as well as the highly acclaimed The Ultimate LEGO Book in 1999. That book is no longer worthy of the title because the just-published The LEGO Book surpasses it!
It consists of two hardback books (230mm x 270mm) in a thick card slip case. One is entitled simply The LEGO book and the other, the subject of this review, Standing Small: A celebration of 30 years of the LEGO minifigure.
Standing Small contains 96-pages each covered in photographs on a white background surrounded by snippets of text. It’s not a book you’d read from cover to cover, but one to pick up and dip into and marvel at the stunning images and design.
After a few pages of introduction, which includes pictures of prototype minifigs and interesting facts (like that there are 4 billion minifigs in existence, which is 12 times the population of the USA!), the bulk of the book consists of multi-page spreads dedicated to minifigs of different themes. Everything is covered from Castle, Space and Pirates to Agents, Star Wars and SpongeBob. There are some themes that have been missed out completely however, such as Arctic and Divers. There is also a page at the back of the book featuring custom minifigs.
The two images shown here, the Exo-Force page and one of the two Harry Potter pages, show the layout. Star Wars gets four double-page spreads so inevitably there is overlap with the Star Wars Visual Dictionary but I don’t think buyers of both books will complain.
One thing to note is that this is not an exhaustive and complete guide to minifigs because, as stated in the introduction, there have been over 2500 different ones made over the years. Instead it shows a representative sample for each theme. The photos are, as I keep reiterating, excellent except in a few cases where the figure is covered in dust (e.g. Aqua Raider page 52) which really is inexcusable!
So in summary, this really is a must-have book for every LEGO fan, minifig collector or not. What’s more, at £16/US$26 for this AND The LEGO book, it is a bit of a bargain.
Part two of this review will follow once I’ve put this book down and looked at the other one (so don’t hold your breath!)