The Essential Guide to Alien Species
by Ann Margaret Lewis, illustrated by R.K. Post
Published by Del Ray
Scott's Rating: 4 out of 4
This is the latest installment in the "Essential Guide" series. It details the aliens and animals found on various planets throughout the Star Wars Universe. The premise is that it is a catalogue compiled by Mammon Hoole, the anthropologist introduced in the Galaxy of Fear series. Each entry describes the size, sentience, and planet of origin of each species. It then provides text descriptions of the aliens and personal accounts of experiences with each one. These accounts are written by everyone from Hoole to Luke Skywalker to Darth Vader. This guide includes aliens from the movies, comics, books, and TV shows. It is fairly up to date since it includes species from Episode I and the New Jedi Order books.
All of the Essential Guide books are generally useful and of high quality. This one is no exception. While it doesn't include EVERY alien and animal, it does a great job of providing information on a lot of them.
Literature fans will find this book valuable because it provides some of the first pictures of the Yuuzhan Vong and their biotechnology. It is sometimes hard to envision what a coralskipper looks like, but this provides a drawing of it as well as other things. All the drawings are beautifully done by Post.
I generally don't read all the text in some of these guides, but Lewis makes each entry a treat. Each one has a little story about each species featured. One highlight is Darth Vader describing his intolerance of Toydarians (aka Watto's species). Luke Skywalker describes his encounter with a Bantha. You essentially get dozens of short stories that elevate this from a dull reference book to a fun piece of literature that expands on the characters.
There are all sorts of fun facts in here. For example, this book reveals that Wicket actually married Princess Kneesha. We get official word that Duros and Neimoidians are the same species. Darth Vader also relates his experiences motivating Dugs (like Sebulba) to do the Empire's bidding. It's a lot of fun to read and a valuable addition to any Star Wars fan's library.
This book is as thorough as possible in a limited amount of space, but there were still a few entries missing that I would have liked to have seen. There's no mention of the Zabrak (Darth Maul's species), Yoda's race, Sando Aqua Monsters, or a few other notable creatures. Hopefully we'll see mention of them later. An expanded edition is inevitable considering Episodes II and III will offer even more aliens.
I also wish that each entry would have listed the first appearance of each of these creatures. There were a few I had never heard of before and I would have liked to have found the book or comic that they appeared in. (I assume a lot of those were Marvel Comics characters.) There's a bibliography at the end, but it isn't any help.
This book mentions the Whaladons, creatures from the incredibly bad "The Glove of Darth Vader" book. Some things are better left ignored.