Galactic Phrase Book & Travel Guide
by Ben Burtt, Illustrated by Sergio Aragones
Published by Del Rey
Scott's Rating: 4 out of 4
This book is a humorous look at the languages of the Star Wars Universe and how they were created for the films. The first half of the book is set up as if it were a phrase book and travel guide from the real Star Wars world. It is written by Ebenn Q3 Baobab. He describes the languages and gives travel tips among various alien races such as the Jawas, Ewoks, Gungans, Hutts, Tusken Raiders, Neimoidians, Wookiees, droids, and more. Along the way he offers bits of trivia about each group and phrases that may be essential in your travel. These include "Please, no more bark lizard" in Ewokese.
The second half has Star Wars sound designer Ben Burtt describing how exactly he came up with the languages and sounds from the films. He goes into detail on the creation of Chewbacca's voice, the language of R2-D2, the Ewoks, and more. It's a fascinating and humorous peek behind the scenes of the films.
This book is really funny and gives us a glimpse at the wacky sense of humor of Ben Burtt. His commentary gives a great dose of humor to what would otherwise be a potentially boring subject. And it's presented in such a lighthearted way that fans aren't going to try to form a new language around this book (like the Klingon fans of Star Trek). Burtt describes how to avoid tasting really bad Gungan food, how to face off with a Tusken Raider (give him everything and run), and how to use sign language with a Wookiee. He also offers up bits of interesting trivia such as the fact that Tusken Raiders and Jawas come from common ancestors, a story on how some university students got a bit rowdy and extinguished an Ewok sacred lantern, and how droids develop personalities (because of a virus!).
The second half of the book is the most interesting to me, personally. I think they could make an entire book with just Burtt's stories about creating the Star Wars sounds. It really gives you an idea of how complicated it is creating these effects. Burtt really is a master of this art. He offers great bits of trivia along the way. For example, the woman who did the voice for E.T. also did the voice of the bounty hunter Boushh in Return of the Jedi. Some of the voices of the creatures in the cantina were Lucasfilm employees inhaling helium and laughing. The sound effect from the Rancor came from an aggressive Dachshund. He also gets into great detail about the creation of the voice of Chewbacca, R2-D2, Jabba, and Greedo. Burtt even gives technical details on his equipment and techniques he used to alter sounds. He even discusses failed experiments such as early attempts at the voices of the Neimoidians and the droids.
The book is completed with full translations of some scenes in Star Wars with all of the alien words printed out. These include Han's encounter with Jabba, C-3PO telling the Ewok the story of Star Wars, and even the celebration music at the end of Return of the Jedi.
This is a great book and it's well worth adding to your collection.
There's not much, if anything, to complain about in this book. The only thing that surprised me was the size of it. It's very tiny and is about 6" x 4". There's a hefty 175 pages, but it is rather small. I had a hard time spotting it in the book store. This was probably intended to make it more like a real world travel guide, but I would have liked it printed in a bigger book.
The description of Gungan food is not very appetizing. "Bitter and sulfurous."