Next in the ever growing line of LEGO themed books from No Starch Press is LEGO Space: Building the Future: a lavishly laid out and colored book of over 200 pages. The hardcover front of the book is adorned with a simplistic but functional title design, while the back cover does a great job of piquing a reader’s interest with LEGO versions of world famous space odysseys.
I wrestled with how I felt about this book for about a day or so before sitting down to write. Here’s why: by now, if you’ve read my past reviews you know that I am a fan of books that contain lots of abstract and new models…and building instructions. One of the biggest draws, and most fascinating things about LEGO is its lack of creative discrimination. Anyone could be capable of building a masterpiece at any age. When I first saw the title of the book (before there was info on No Starch’s website) I was prepared to get a fun building guide akin to the previously released LEGO Adventure Book, or the more recent LEGO Build-It Books. But when it arrived at my door the other day it was anything but. It appeared to be a narrative, illustrated in LEGO. At first, I was overcome by disappointment. I can’t build these things – there are no directions! I told myself. I took a few hours to read through it. My mind was changed.
Turns out LEGO Space: Building the Future does just that – builds the future. Authors Peter Reid and Tim Goddard have put together a fabulous work of fiction that not only showcases an insane amount of LEGO building power, but also an interesting narrative – one that will be enjoyed especially by children.
So the first few pages of the book cover mankind’s first forays into the final frontier. Peter and Tim have done a top notch job recreating some of the most significant endeavors into space (that are real). You can see a picture of Sputnik above, and it’s joined by Neil Armstrong on the moon (with his ever famous bootprint), the everlasting Voyager space probes, and even the Curiosity rover which is currently rolling around next door on Mars. I’ll be honest – the rendering of Curiosity and even the older, smaller Opportunity, are so life-like on first glance you might mistake them for the real thing. Sounds like a ridiculous thing to say, but, these guys did their homework. And they did it well.
Modern man’s experience in space is pretty limited so that part of the book is over quickly. But there are 200 pages of future history ahead.
It begins with the birth of the Federation (not of planets and Vulcans and Andorians) [NERD ALERT] of space agencies from around the world. Mankind begins small – by returning to the moon and setting up some moon bases, and slowly begins moving out into the solar system. The narrative is interspersed with informational pages. In fact, the whole thing reads like a history reference book – like something out of a 10th grade social studies book. I don’t mean that as an insult – that’s just how it comes across. It works though. Keeping things straight to the point, while still being interesting.
The whole idea is incredibly well organized and thought out: red suited pilots, yellow suited scientists, white suited ground crew. Not to mention the plethora of helping robots. Peter Reid and Tim Goddard literally thought of everything. As the story continues, mankind continues its exploration of the solar system, and upon completing the Gate (see first picture in the post) was now ready to jump to new places outside our known realm of exploration. From there, the story turns treacherous, as a fleet admiral begins plotting to take over the Federation. New lifeforms are found, battleships are built, space pirates hunt swag, and genetic experimentation begins. Times turn dark for the Federation. Skirmishes are fought, colonists are in peril, good prevails! There really is a whole story here in these pages. I’ll leave all the gritty details for you to read. But suffice to say the authors are gone almost to Tolkien lengths to create a very detailed universe with characters, settings and its own history. Kudos.
Now lets get down to business. As I mentioned throughout the book there are a handful of pages dedicated to building some of the smaller models included in the story. For instance, this VX-02 Drop Ship:
It’s not limited to space ships however. Building instructions for various robots, and creature comforts like a computer desk are also included. All in all there is a pretty good distribution of different models to build. It should keep the younger fans entertained. Older LEGO fans may be a little disappointed there are no building instructions for some of the more complex, really cool models. But let’s put all of that aside for a second because I really need to compliment these two guys on their incredible work of literally building the future. (remember when I said that before?) This was what really turned my feelings around on this book. The heart, soul, blood, sweat, and tears that went into this is staggering. I obviously don’t know for sure – I’m assuming. Not to mention the sheer amount of time. And the end result is well worth the praise.
Something I want you to keep in mind as you’re flipping through the pages of this book: every building, every space station, every ship hangar, every office, every laboratory, every everything! was built from scratch. There are no official LEGO sets here. They built this world. And that’s what really got me. Add to that all the staging, photography, and post processing. This is basically as complicated as storyboarding a movie. Look beyond the little minifigures and starships and look at the floors, the walls, the support columns – even the tiniest little robot being showcased is still inside a massively planned scene that had to be designed and built. For example:
The floor alone is gorgeous – but look at the details. Are you wowed yet? Ok ok, sure, people have done things like this before. We’ve all seen the football stadiums, and the battleships, and the Battle of Hoth but you have to admit this LEGO world is pretty detailed. I give credit where credit is due.
Oh, by the way, that robotic suit in the above picture – in the left background – that’s author Peter Reid’s creation, and it won a contest to become the next fan-made official set by LEGO: The Exo Suit. It’s just the sixth ever to win that accolade. Look for it in stores mid-2014! Here’s a better picture
Now you’re impressed, right? Good.
Ok now that that’s out of the way…
You all know I’m a science junky, so that obviously means I’m a space nerd as well. And the space nerd inside of me is screaming to know how they built Voyager 1 & 2, and the Curiosity rover. Because I want to make them. Collector’s series size. So I can suspend Voyager from a ceiling in my future house, and put Curiosity on a shelf and marvel at the awesome fusion of historic space stuff and LEGO. I know it’s not that complex, but it has many small indistinguishable pieces. And I hate guessing – especially guessing incorrectly. What do you say LEGO? Help a brother out. (Or Peter, or Tim?)