It was a long time ago in a galaxy called childhood that our eyes first beheld the magic that was Star Wars (1977).
The saga of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo unfolded as we grew into adolescence, the cliffhangers of Luke’s paternity and Han’s frozen fate established by The Empire Strikes Back (1980)—then resolved as the Rebel Alliance defeated Darth Vader (pig Latin for Dark Father) and his evil Galactic Empire.
Then—quick as the Millennium Falcon completed the Kessell Run (under twelve parsecs)—the cinema sensation that defined our youth vanished. Like some smote Jedi master becoming one with the Force.
Director George Lucas approved the expansion of his Star Wars universe with the publication of several novels that either picked up the story where Jedi left off, or filled in the gaps between the familiar movie installments. Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire trilogy found our heroes facing an ugly new adversary—Grand Admiral Thrawn—in the wake of the Emperor Palpatine’s demise. Steve Perry’s Shadows of the Empire (and subsequent books) went back to follow Luke and Leia during their initial efforts to rescue hibernating Han from bounty hunter Boba Fett. New threats arrive in the form of ambitious crime lord Xizor and a diabolical new doomsday weapon, the Sun Crusher.
Lucas himself decided to go back, too, with 1999’s Episode I: The Phantom Menace. The first in a new series, the digitally-enhanced film focused on the boyhood adventures of Anakin Skywalker and the rise of crooked Senator / Chancellor Palpatine. In Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002) we saw teenage Anakin court (and wed) Padme Amidala while completing his Jedi training, and witnessed the creation of the clone army that would one day turn on the Republic to serve the Emperor (as stormtroopers).
Then, in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005), Anakin completed his turn to the Dark Side by betraying mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi, allying with Emperor Palpatine, and commandeering the clones to extinguish the Jedi order. Luke and Leia were born. Padme perished, breathing her last even as her wayward husband was fitted with the cybernetic limbs and huff-huff mask that would make him Vader.
But now, with yet another trilogy set to launch in December (Episode VII: The Force Awakens), it’s time to test your knowledge of the Force.
You think you know your Star Wars trivia?
Who were two aliens who harass Luke at Mos Eisley Cantina? What was the name of the musical group playing there? And while we’re on music, what was the name of Jabba the Hutt’s in-house band? Who was its singer?
Can you tell the difference between Han’s DL-44 blaster pistol and a standard DL-18? What kind of animal clung to the hull of the Millennium Falcon in Empire and started chewing on its power cables? What space cruiser does Anakin crash-land at the beginning of Sith? What was the name of Obi-Wan’s astromech droid in Episode II?
We could tell you, but you’re better off combing through DK Publishing’s Ultimate Star Wars, a new 320-page visual encyclopedia that catalogs all the people, places, and events in the Star Wars cinema universe. Written by geeks for geeks, it is—to date—the single best source for the final word on Wookies, Wampas, and X-Wings.
“I never wanted to be in Star Wars,” writes C-3PO actor Anthony Daniels in his foreword. “My agent made me take a meeting!”
Daniels doubted Lucas’ space opera would catch on. Now, almost forty years on, he’s prepping for an eighth round of peering through peepholes in the protocol droid’s golden helmet.
Ryder Wyndham—author of 70 Star Wars-related books—does a knock-down job prefacing the book’s many eye-popping galleries, from characters and travelogues to timelines of key events from the movies and animated television shows (The Clone Wars, Ewok Adventures, etc.). Fellow contributors include blogger / podcaster Tricia Barr (Star Wars Insider), author Adam Bray (Star Wars Rebels: Visual Guide), and comic book expert Daniel Wallace (Star Wars: The New Essential Guide to Characters).
You’ll be surprised how much you didn’t know about Star Wars, be shocked at how much lore you’ve forgotten over the years, and astound at how much minutiae doesn’t actually appear in the movies but is accepted as canonical anyway.
For example, we know who Lobot and IG-88 are…but the names of Lando Calrissian’s silent assistant and Darth Vader’s robot bounty hunter were never mentioned onscreen.
“It’s often the humblest individuals who are the greatest force for change,” writes Windham in his intro.
“A small boy grows up to destroy a republic and create an evil empire. Years later, his long-lost son—a farm boy—sets the galaxy free.”
Thus reads the premise for one of the greatest science-fiction sagas of all time. Sounds simple enough, but after encountering so many faces in so many flicks after so many years, even diehard aficionados might overlook some of the details of Anakin Skywalker’s path to the Dark Side.
Ultimate Star Wars is the quintessential memory-righter when it comes to distinguishing the first Death Star from the second, for telling the difference between the Colo Claw Fish and Opee Sea Killer, and sifting the sundry ephemera of Gungan and Geonosian cultures. Sebulba got you out-of-sorts? Rankled by the Rancor? Nixed by the Nexu? Ultimate nails the droids, humanoids, beasts, planets, and vehicles once and for all in a single solid volume.
Pages 10 through 149 alone encompass the Characters and Creatures, which gives a sense of just how many personalities we’re dealing with here. We knew our Dewbacks from our Banthas—but we weren’t so hip when it came to the cast of The Clone Wars animated T.V. show (Cad Bane, anyone?). The seventy-page section on Locations takes readers back to swampy Dagobah, icy Hoth, the magma-flooded Mustafar, and arid Tatooine—but we also globetrot through Ustafaar, Alderaan, Coruscant, Kamino, Kashyyyk, and other significant Star Wars celestial bodies, reliving the crucial battles and special moments occurring thereon.
The movies never brought us to Mandalore, but the planet responsible for producing Boba Fett’s signature armor features in several episodes of Clone Wars. Likewise, older Star Wars fans might not know anything about Mortis (or its mythical Father, Son, and Daughter figures)—but the ghostly globe is mapped out here. We also whether such places were computer-generated (Coruscant), simulated on a sound stage (Dagobah), or had an Earthbound set, specifically chosen for its exotic environs (Hoth, Tatooine).
Where the first film trilogy presented a galaxy where technology had a slap-dash feel, and where functionality was paramount, the prequel trilogy showcased sleek architecture and elegant weapons “for a more civilized age.” Windham and his cohorts cover all the gadgets, from Boba Fett’s wrist gauntlets and jet-pack to rolling Droidekas, thermal detonators, deflector shields, and hyper-drives. We’re given glossy images and schematics for just about every light saber wielded by Jedi or Sith (or Grievious)—from Count Dooku’s curved-hilt weapon to Darth Maul’s impressive double-blade. Can’t remember what a holo-cron is? Can you explain the difference between the Tusken Raiders’ gaffi sticks and the Magnaguard’s electro-staffs? Want to see the intricate details of Anakin’s mechanical arm? Or Luke’s cybernetic hand? Windham peels back the skin for us.
The fifty-page catalog of Vehicles offers blueprints for Trade Federation starships, Imperial Destroyers, TIE fighters (and interceptors), rebel transports, and speeder bikes. We get an eyeful of AT-ATs, AT-STs, and AT-TE’s. We’re also given diagnostics on unique (or more personal) modes of transportation: The Millennium Falcon, Slave I, Invisible Hand, The Inquisitor, Jawa sandcrawler, and Jabba’s sail barge are featured. Heck, Windham’s gang even details the model T-16 sky-hopper Luke toys during C-3PO’s oil bath.
Who are Zam Wessel, Ric Olie, Biggs Darklighter, Salacious Crumb, Captain Panaka, Tion Medon, Cliegg Lars? What is a kiber crystal? Who are Pong Krell, Hera Syndulla, Kanan Jarrus, Zeb, and Ezra Bridger? Where in the galaxy is Yavin? How does an ion cannon work? What does carbon-freezing feel like? If there’s ever been a time to reawaken your knowledge of Ugnaughts, Gamorreans, Rodians, and Mon Calamarians, it’s now, before J.J. Abrams assaults our senses with new ‘bots and beasties.
The only drawback is that the book doesn’t survey the expanded universe as depicted in novels like the Thrawn trilogy or the contentious Vector Prime.
Ultimate Star Wars awaits you (and your favorite padawan).
You may start your landing.
Available now at Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/q4znl6s