Monthly Archives: May 2010

LEGO: A Love Story by Jonathan Bender [Book Review]

LEGO A Love Story by Jonathan BenderI recently read Jonathan Bender’s book, LEGO: A Love Story, released at the beginning of May. The book chronicles the personal story of an AFOL’s plunge from his Dark Ages into the LEGO subculture. The narrative delivered in 262 pages highlights the diversity of the hobby and the author’s own transformative experiences. All the while, the story takes place on a real life stage as Bender reconciles his image as an AFOL amidst forging a stronger relationship with his wife through building LEGO sets while trying to conceive a child and start a family.

As a LEGO fan, I am delighted to read the first book that describes the LEGO subculture. Jonathan Bender came out of his Dark Ages in 2008 when he received a LEGO set on his 30th birthday. Whether you doubt someone with two years of experience in the LEGO community can write a book about the hobby, you may be impressed by the author’s research and experiences in this short time.

The book chronologically depicts Bender’s experiences in LEGO. He has traveled to conventions, seen the collections of AFOLs and Bricklink sellers, visited LEGOLAND, and toured LEGO’s headquarters in Denmark and North America. Each experience is told subjectively and accompanied by the author’s own feelings and thoughts. The tone of Bender’s writing is very lighthearted and honest, and humor is present in each chapter. Although I have never heard of Jonathan Bender, I feel like I know him well after reading his book.

Depending on your LEGO background, the book has different things to offer. For those unfamiliar with LEGO beyond their childhood experiences playing with the toy, you may be inspired by the diversity of the hobby for adults and consider buying a LEGO set or two. For experienced LEGO fans, you’ll recognize many names mentioned in the book. At the same time, there’s still quite a few gems for you to discover and new things to learn.

The book is not without deficiencies. First, only a few ordinary photos are presented in the book. A black-and-white picture heads each chapter while twelve color photos are included in the middle of the book. Since LEGO is a visual medium, the lack of pictures may frustrate those who are unfamiliar with certain sets, elements, people, or places described. Second, while Bender captures many diverse aspects of the hobby, it is impossible to comprehensively cover every realm of the hobby. For instance, two major areas including the online communities and non-US fan communities are not mentioned in great detail. Lastly, certain individuals are given extensive coverage in the book, which highlights their opinions and personalities regardless of whether they represent those of the majority.

Overall, I recommend LEGO: A Love Story to all fans of the hobby and those who are new to it. It is the first book to give an answer on what it means to be an AFOL. At the same time, the narrative does not seek to impose a set of views. Rather, it presents the hobby without glorifying or criticizing it and lets you form your own conclusions.

There are additional reviews of the book by LEGO fans Mariann Asanuma and Bruce Heitbrink. You can download Chapter 16, “A Guest in LEGO’s House” as a sample. The book is available on

The Legend Of Mary Jane

Luke Watkins (Derfel Cadarn) is known to build some highly detailed castle dioramas, and they all have intriguing backstories. This one is no different. I really like the diagonally oriented houses and the rich flora of the village. All this beauty is contrasted with a sinister story depicting the burning of a girl. Find out what’s going on by reading the story.

Different is good

This new ship by Leigh Holcombe (Worker201) is good evidence of that. The shape is very unusual for a space craft (or pretty much anything else). While I love to see color on a space ship, the complete absence here gives an interesting effect. We’re forced to focus on the unconventional shape of this craft, as there is no color to distract the eye.

This creation makes me think of Bruce Lowell, who told me that he often prototypes his creations in gray, to work out the shape. He then builds them again in color, to get things just right. I’d be curious to see what Leigh could produce with a colored version of this ship.

Motorolla J2-12

I think I’m obsessed with sky-fi

Is there a contest going on that I’m not aware of? The recent crop of sky-fi fighters makes it seem as though dieselpulp may be replacing steampunk as the fan-created theme du jour.

Anyway, I couldn’t blog the more recent fighters by other builders and pass up my favorite, the P-79 Stratofighter “Steel Wind” by Jon Hall:

LEGO sky-fi fighter

The judicious sticker usage and gorgeous presentation truly enhance what would be an awesome fighter regardless.

Sweet rides of the 1940s

This month’s LUGNuts challenge — Kickin’ it Oldschool! — is coming to a close, with many great cars and trucks from the pre-1950 era. Here are just a couple of my favorites.

Nathan Proudlove rolls out a 1940 Ford pickup truck, tricked out to please any skateboarder:

LEGO 1940 Ford pickup truck

Tim Inman (rabidnovaracer) heads to the beach in his 1948 Chevrolet Fleetmaster station wagon:

LEGO 1948 Chevrolet Fleetmaster station wagon

Bubbly clouds of goodness

I like the fun little details in this diorama of a hike in Switzerland by Erik Smit (.eti), but by far my favorite thing is the cartoony clouds in the sky. The use of microfigs to portray distant hikers is also fun.

LEGO .eti swiss hiking diorama

Some may object to the busyness of the diorama and use of big ugly rock pieces, but the charms far outweigh those concerns for me.

Mass Effect Citadel in LEGO microscale

While we wait for Brandon Bannerman (Catsy) to finish his Halo ringworld, he fills our quotient of micro video game locales with the Citadel from Mass Effect.

LEGO microscale Mass Effect Citadel

Of the presentation, Brandon says, “Shot in low light with two blacklights to make the trans-neon-orange elements fluoresce.” Nice.

(And don’t miss Ben Fellowes’ SSV Normandy.)