LEGO recently sent us four Star Wars books, published by Dorling-Kindersley. They are LEGO Star Wars Character Encyclopedia,LEGO Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary: Updated and Expanded,LEGO Star Wars: The Dark Side,and LEGO Star Wars: The Yoda Chronicles.If you own any of these books, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments, whether you agree with us or not!
LEGO recently sent us some books to review, so you will see more book reviews than normal pop up on here over the next month. If you own any of the books, feel free to leave your own thoughts in the comments!
The first two we will be reviewing are LEGO Minifigure Year by Year: A Visual History and The LEGO Movie: The Essential Guide.
It’s been barely a year since No Starch Press released Beautiful LEGO, a coffee table book packed with carefully curated images of LEGO creations, conceived and organized by New Jersey graphic designer and LEGO builder Mike Doyle.
Unlike many of their other LEGO themed titles, which are targeted squarely at the AFOL community, the book had the potential to appeal to almost anyone with a passing interest in LEGO (ie. almost anyone on the planet). It soon started showing up on the shelves of regular book stores, and has since become one of their best sellers. So the rumors of a sequel came as no surprise…
Beautiful LEGO 2: Dark replays that winning formula, with some interesting twists. The first thing you’ll notice is that it’s weightier: this version is about 50 pages longer and sports a proper hard cover. Some folks will be pleased to hear about that change, although as a coffee table book, I kinda find this one harder to handle.
Mike has also cut back heavily on builder interviews (just 4 this time round, compared to 9 in the first book). I’m sure some AFOLs will see that as a loss, but I think it makes sense for a work like this to focus on the images first and foremost. For those curious to learn more about specific builders, every image is labeled, and the Contributor index contains all the necessary URLs.
Then there’s the subtitle, “Dark”. With this book, Mike applied what he calls a “thematic filter” to the curation process, targeting specific classes of build. It’s a bold move, but gives this sequel a much stronger identity than merely “hello, here are some more great builds”. Admittedly “dark” is a rather broad theme with many possible interpretations, but I think it still pays off. The builds range from the serious, the creepy, the political, the darkly humorous, and even just darkly colored.
As for the individual builds and images, Mike delivers again with another 300 pages of gorgiously photographed creations, from over a hundred different builders, that will be appreciated by both AFOL and non-AFOL alike. Everything is organized into chapters such as “Creepy Crawlers”, “Skin and Bones” or “Future Shock”. And a wide variety of building styles and categories are covered.
To achieve a harmonious effect, some of the models were specially reworked or reshot by their creators, and Mike also re-tuned some of the images too (for example, applying neutral backgrounds). The overall effect is definitely moodier than the first book – and that means it’s literally darker. The builds in this tome also skew to the more complex/detailed end of the scale than in the first one. So you’re gonna want to read this one under a decent light!
For the sequel, Mike also chose to include a small selection of digital creations. This is definitely a controversial decision, which Mike acknowledges and explains in his Preface. But the digital creations are clearly annotated as such, wherever they appear.
Like its predecessor, Beautiful LEGO 2: Dark is a beautiful object, that shines a flattering (low wattage) spotlight on the LEGO building community, and in a way that makes that world accessible to the general public. I’d recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who enjoyed the first book. And I really hope this becomes a series of books. If it does, I cannot wait to see what theme Mike decides to cover next!
Beautiful LEGO 2: Dark goes on sale everywhere November 20th, and will retail for USD $39.95.
The Arvo Brothers published a book on their masterpiece recreation of Kaneda’s Bike from Akira. This is a unique Lego book dedicated entirely to describing one creation while including a full set of instructions. The book is available for €19.99 + shipping and is sold directly from the Arvo Brothers, whom you can reach by email at arvobrothers[at]hotmail.com. Below is my review of the book.
- Meticulous details documenting building techniques, parts selection, and references to the original model
- Includes commentary on steps in the instruction manual for an in-depth building experience
- Includes a parts list and sticker sheet
- Almost impossible to recreate the model due to lack of availability of the x-pod lids used on the wheels.
This is a well-written book centered on one of the Arvo Brothers’ most iconic and beloved Lego creations. It is obvious that a lot of work went into designing the model and producing the book. It is a good read for fans interested in the minutia of the design process of a top-tier fan model. For those wanting to recreate the model, there is a full set of clear-cut instructions with supporting commentary for an in-depth experience on the build process. However, you will be disappointed to find out that a key element of the model is out of production and nearly impossible to obtain on the aftermarket even if you have money. Because of this detail alone, I hesitate to recommend the book because the majority of its content is dedicated to the instruction set. However, if you are still curious about the design process, this is a publication that will not let down your expectations.
The Art of LEGO Design is a book written by Jordan Schwartz about ways to approach creative building. This book is the first of its kind focused on building tips. It is now available on Amazon. Below is my review of the book.
- Features interviews with builders who have iconic building styles
- Thorough depiction of Jordan’s own building style
- Content includes specific examples as well as general concepts
- Specific topics such as Fabuland and cloth accessories nudge out broader themes like train, military, Technic, Bionicle
Jordan has covered a lot of ground and touched on most major themes in Lego creations. This is a huge task for just one author and Jordan handled it pretty well. This book can be interesting to both novice and experienced builders because it offers the in-depth perspective of the author who is a jack of all trades builder along with that of about a dozen builders known for excelling in particular themes. Outside the builder interviews, the book is entirely focused on Jordan’s own views on Lego design and most models featured are his own. This is relevant if you want to look through the lens of one builder and learn the specifics of that person’s approach. It is not meant to be a reference for how to build in every major theme, but for new fans this book can be a nice springboard into making your own creations.
We had previously mentioned the release of Peter Reid & Tim Goddard’s book, LEGO Space: Building the Future, published by No Starch Press. Well it has been a few months since the book was released, and I finally got around to finish reading it with my son and felt it was time for a review.
Let me start by saying that this has to be the highest quality fan-created LEGO book I have yet to lay my geeky hands on. From cover to cover, the quality of photography and overall style is absolutely top notch. You really can tell that this was a labour of love for everyone involved.
I actually had pre-ordered the book on Amazonso received it as soon as it was available, however, I purchased it to give to my 6 year old son for Christmas. I didn’t want to read through it before he got a chance so reluctantly put it away for almost 2 months. I think I was just as excited as he was about opening it up Christmas morning. For the week or so following Christmas, I would find Tate flipping through the book quite often. He is reading now on his own, but the amount of text in the book was a bit overwhelming for him. However, that certainly didn’t stop him from staring in wonder at all the beautiful photographs. He even promptly built his own turtle from the instructions provided (and added some spacemen with laser snowboards for good measure).
The thing that sets this book apart for me is that it reads as a fantastic story throughout the history of space travel, and far into the future. It’s a science fiction novel illustrated with rockin’ LEGO models. Throughout the telling of the book, photographs of LEGO spaceships, alien landscapes, and space stations illustrate the story. And instructions are included for many of the models so the reader can build their own. I found it incredibly entertaining and inspiring to read through, and Tate even more so. As a family of LEGO spacers, I know this book will be read and re-read for years to come. The pictures on their own would inspire any right minded LEGO maniac to build SPACE!, but when coupled with the fantastic story it kicks that inspiration to a whole other level.
So needless to say I highly recommend this book whether you are a 30 something man-child like myself, or need a fantastic and inspiring gift for a child in your life.
Also check out this brilliant Trailer by Chris Salt.
Please follow the links below to buy your own copy and help The Brothers Brick at the same time:
Brendan Powell Smith takes a break from biblical action with a new tome released just in time for the holiday season that features great building and a heaping helping of the darker side of American presidential history. The book is entitled Assassination! The Brick Chronicle of Attempts on the Lives of Twelve US Presidents and it is now available through the link or from the usual suspects who still cater to those of us who enjoy a hard copy. Brendan is an old crony of mine who sent me a free personalized copy of the new book knowing full well that I wouldn’t be able to keep my big mouth shut about it. The first thing I noticed upon grabbing it from the mailbox was its satisfying heft and a larger format than the Brick Testament editions riding the bookshelf in my Legoratory. The book clocks in at 272 pages, features over 400 photos and retails for about $15 here in the States (depending on how you order it) and you can get a signed copy for about $20.
Brendan’s building has come a long way since the first edition of The Brick Testament some ten years ago and I think it’s fair to say he’s on top of his game in this book. Creating 400 scenes without getting burned out or taking short cuts seems like an amazing accomplishment to me so I found that the actual quality of the building exceeded my expectations. What I enjoyed most however, was the writing and the depth of information that Brendan provides on each assassination attempt while maintaining a smooth narrative flow. Being a history buff, I thought I was pretty well versed on the topic going in but in each of the 15 accounts (Lincoln, Kennedy and Ford get 2 chapters each) I definitely walked away with more knowledge on the events than I had going in. My favorite chapter of the book was actually the first one which detailed the 1835 attempt on Andrew Jackson’s life. Brendan has always had a knack for selecting just the right minfig for the right character, but never more so than with Old Hickory.
There are a couple of nit-picky issues with the book both of which are cosmetic in nature and more an issue of printing than authorship. Over the course of 400 photos, there is an occasional difference in brightness between photos that can be a little distracting and there were 2-3 instances where the white printing on the black background was faded to the point of being difficult to read. Neither issue effected my enjoyment of the book, which I rank as my current favorite among the current crop of volumes produced by Lego nerds recently. Coffee table books with pretty photos are nice but I actually feel better informed after reading Assassination! and I’m certainly better armed for any future engagements in American presidential trivia.
With a great price-point, solid building and great writing I can’t endorse this informative volume enough, constant reader and I encourage you to purchase the tome at your earliest convenience for yourself or as a gift. Perhaps the best testimonial I can give is that everyone I have shown it to has been unable to put it down without laughing and remarking about one of the factoids. If you have friends who are anything like mine, you’ll soon be refusing to loan it out. Let’s face it, people never return books.
Kristal (part of True Dimensions) has brought to the brick one of the most beloved childhood friends, that sagacious bear, Winnie the Pooh. Pooh also has his perfectly quaint little home in Hundred Acre Wood, though I am a little disappointed that there’s no bridge from which to play Pooh-sticks; oh bother. There, are, however, instructions to build Pooh if you’d like one of your own.
A new fan-written Lego book called Beautiful LEGO recently hit the shelves. It’s author, Mike Doyle, is no stranger to the Lego community, having built the masterpiece seen on its cover. This is a book that shows pictures from most genres of Lego building and includes only scant text, serving the role of a coffee table book highlighting the inspiring creations by fans.
Here is my summary of the highlights of the book, which are elaborated in the review video below.
- Professionally re-touched photos by the author himself
- Each creation is labeled with its title, builder, and year. Links to the builders’ galleries are included in the back of the book
- The first of its kind book illustrating the wide variety of what fans are capable of building
- No coverage of trains and military creations!
- Not many features on minifig-focused creations, greater emphasis placed on creatures, characters, and microscale instead.
This is a highly recommended Lego book for any builder or fan. For new builders, this will serve as a compilation of inspiring models at your fingertips, and for experienced builders, this is a perfect way to show friends what you do. A book like this doesn’t need words to explain itself, the creations will do all the talking and delight all who’s curious to open its covers. Despite a major flaw of overlooking trains and military builds, Mike still does a great job of covering most aspects of the diverse styles and themes. His professional re-editing of the backgrounds of many photos gives the book a consistent style. You can buy it now from Amazon.
If the LEGO Adventure Book was an unofficial sequel to the 80s Ideas Books, the LEGO Adventure Book 2 is an official sequel to an unofficial sequel. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a book filled with great models by many great builders. I won’t write much about the book (aside from pointing out it has almost 40 sets of instructions), but I will leave you with the list of builders who contributed to it: Megan Rothrock (author/editor), Mark Stafford, Are J. Heiseldal, Arjan Oude Kotte, Barney Main, Birgitte Jonsgard, Tommy Williamson, Tyler Clites, Marco den Besten, Yvonne Doyle and Daniel August Krentz.
You can pre-order from Amazon.com right now (and remember, clicking that link helps support TBB).
No Starch Press recently sent me a copy of one of their latest LEGO books, Amazing Vehicles, to review. It retails for $20 USD, though you can currently nab it over at Amazon for $15. Written by Nathanaël Kuipers and Mattia Zamboni, it’s a giant instruction manual in book form for building ten different vehicles. This is Volume 1, and the second volume is slated for release next month.
I’ve never been much interested in any of the unofficial build-it-yourself books, regardless of subject matter, because I always thought that if I’m going to build something that isn’t a set, I want to build my own model that I can claim. Additionally, I’m not much of a vehicle builder.
Nevertheless, since I wanted to give the book a proper review, I sat down to build one of the models. I chose to build number 9, the Street Rod. The book uses the same master set of parts for all of the vehicles, which are laid out on one of the first pages. If you’re just building a single model, though, like I was, you won’t need all of the pieces, and I found it annoying that each model didn’t have a page showing what parts are needed for it.
Instead, I gathered all of the parts for it the slow way, by manually going through each instruction step and finding the necessary pieces in my collection. While a lot of the parts are pretty common, unless you buy a lot of creator sets, chances are you won’t have all of the necessary pieces in the right colors. The book is quick to encourage builders to find substitutes, though. I found all but one red curved slope 2x4x2/3, which I substituted with a 1×4 tile and some cheese slopes (it goes on the rear bumper).
The book is high quality, printed on heavy paper, and the instructions are crisp and clear.
The black pieces (notoriously hard to make out) were even easy to see. I did find the difference between white and tan to be frustratingly hard to see, and honestly I’m not even sure why the models need any tan: the entire book only calls for 3 pieces in tan, and they are mostly used in hidden places.
So I began building the car, and it started off pretty much the way you would expect a Creator-type car to start: some long plates for the base that you build up from. Immediately, though, I was surprised to find that the plates are actually facing upside down, and the entire car chassis is built studs-down. The direction reverses part-way up, and the hood and trunk are studs up.
The engine area was filled with a nifty bit of Studs Not On Top (SNOT) work, and some clever half-stud offsetting. The final model is a snappy looking little roadster, similar in size to the 150-200 piece official Creator vehicles. It’s definitely a lot larger than minifig scale, being 8 studs wide, although I don’t think minifigs would look terribly out of place in it (although, sadly, there’s no legroom for them). I was very impressed with the overall build quality, and I hope the rest of the vehicles in the book hold up to this standard. Seasoned LEGO builders who are used to working with SNOT techniques won’t find anything new here, but for someone who is just getting into using more advanced building techniques, there’s a lot to learn here. This book would have been a goldmine if I’d had it when I was a teenage builder.