Friday, August 1, 2014

Book Review: LEGO SPACE: Building the Future

Later today I will be stopping by the LEGO store to put my vardo in the LUG window and pick up Peter Reid's  Exo-suit and Ellen Kooijman's Research Institute.

In honor of this auspicious event, I have dusted off my review of Peter Reid and Tim Goddard's book, LEGO SPACE: Building the Future, published by No Starch Press.

Spoiler Alert:  The book is awesome.  It is the definitive work on Neo-Classic Space LEGO.  It also teaches you one very important fact about Peter and Tim...they must have a massive collection of minifigs with no hands!

What is this about?

What this book is, is brilliance and untold hours of dedicated work.  Since LEGO Space started in the late 70's, It has gone through several themes.  Blacktron, Space Police, Ice Planet, etc...While LEGO now fully integrates narratives into its themes, this was not always the case, especially for this time period.  LEGO SPACE not only re-imagines these themes with extreme techniques but creates a unique narrative to explain how the Space sub-themes engage and flow into each other.

The Builds

The MOCs in this book are quite simply mind blowing.  There are 216 pages of SPACE:  Actual Space Builds (Sputnik, Voyager, etc..), spaceships!, robots, space stations, microbuilds, high-tech stations, alien vistas, EXO-suits, all inspired by LEGO SPACE themes but tricked out with advanced techniques and part counts not intended for economic feasibility if you know what I mean.

If you are like me, you can sit and stare at each page for minutes at a time absorbing the fascinating interconnects that Peter and Tim have evoked from these simple bricks.  Not only is this the definitive book on Neo-Classic space, it is also the go to primer for greeble

Beyond the MOCs, The book includes about 10 instruction sets.  These mostly comprise of robots and micro-builds as well as Sputnik and a command center.  There are not any instructions for the full size ships, understandable considering their complexity and part count, but the instructions that are included expound on wondrous and clever techniques that you would not find in your average set of LEGO instructions.  Almost every instruction set taught me something game-changing and that is not a common thing to encounter. 

For purists I must warn that there are a few "illegal" techniques.  First and foremost of these s the "severed hand" technique (using a minifig hand for greebling) which is used with utter abandon. 

I must also take a moment to point out the the builds are presented as lovingly as the builds are crafted.  Each image is professionally photographed and, when appropriate, photoshop is applied for technical details (view screens, laser blasts, etc...) or cinematic space vistas.

On a final note about the builds, something needs to be stated about the scale of effort presented in this book.  It bring to my mind the Bendis and Bagley's run on Ultimate Spider-Man.  There are, to be sure, many books out there regarding the MOCS of the FOL community.  But this is 216 pages by just two people, in just one theme.  It is always a treat to see a consistent visual narrative of design over such a grand scale.       

The Narrative

The purpose of the narrative thread in this book is to tie to the Space Sub-themes together into a cohesive history and the book succeed admirably at this goal.  The book reads somewhat like light historical propaganda for the "Federation." This is an excellent approach for a book such as this, but those looking for a complex space opera or high action space western may be disappointed.

Who is this book for?

Obviously this book is for any fan of LEGO Space.  About the only thing it lacks is those giant space ship builds you run into at the cons.  

This book would be a great addition for anyone looking to add nuanced geeble to any "high tech" build they might be working on.  So, this is a visual experience for the very young and an excellent technique guide for maturing builders.

I would also add that this would make a fantastic gift for anyone you know who reminisces about playing with LEGO Space sets when they were a kid, whether they consider themselves to be a FOL or not.

Parting Words

You know how you sometimes think back nostalgically about the cartoons you used to watch as a kid...they were so cool.  Then you track down a copy of those ancient episodes and watch it and to your horror discover that it is embarrassingly bad.   The Lens of Nostalgia has falsified your memories...well, this book is like seeing, as an adult, what your child saw in those sets as a child...that is a rare and precious thing and I thank Peter and Tim for creating it.

My Son's Review

Him:  (looks at cover) "WOW! DAD! Can we build that!?!"
Me: ."..uh.."
Him: (opens book)  "WOW! DAD! Can we build that!?!"
Me: ."..well.."
Him: (turns page)  "WOW! DAD! Can we build that!?!"
Me: ."..maaaybeee.."
Him: (turns page)  "WOW! DAD! Can we build that!?!"

this basically caries on for 214 more pages, you get the picture...


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