Review: Star Wars Annual 2015

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Review: Star Wars Annual 2015 (or, They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used Ter)

What is the purpose of an annual?

This admittedly odd question popped into my head when I flicked through my copy of the Star Wars Annual 2015 by Egmont Publishing. I confess I never really figured it out – at least by myself. I had to talk to several people on the internet, who very patiently explained it to me, using small words and varied hand gestures. Which was odd, because we communicated via text. No webcams were involved, and thus I couldn’t see their hand gestures. People are weird on the internet.

But this was explained to me afterwards. During the read-through, I struggled quite a bit. So perhaps it’s best that I split this review into two parts: my experience, and the experience of The Kids – because our experiences differed wildly. Before I continue, I want to point out that my reaction was largely negative, but not at the fault of the book itself. It was entirely down to me. This is because, as a kid in the late 90s, I had an annual that I adored. The Star Wars Annual 1998; I have it in my possession even now. These memories largely coloured my thoughts. But if you continue reading (please do, I’m needy that way), I think you’ll find all is explained. So. To business.

My Experience:

As you can see in the above picture, it comes with augmented reality. This amounts to a free app that you can download from the Apple or Google Play store to do … stuff with it. I don’t know. It’s not compatible with my tablet (because mine only has a forward-facing camera) so I couldn’t download it. If you can, however, you get something that looks like this:

Pieces of Alderaan sold separately

You take a picture of that stormtrooper head in the front of the book and you get to blow up the Death Star, no proton torpedoes needed. All well and good, though I did think it was a little showy to call it ‘augmented reality’.

The book proper starts off with a timeline: the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker. Which I absolutely loved because it reminded me of my old annual. A wealth of happy memories instantly flooded me. As well as a sneezing fit when I dug around for my old annual.

The meat of the book consists of puzzles and activities, as well as a recap of the story of all six live action films. I say live-action because The Clone Wars TV show and Star Wars: Rebels don’t get a look in. The latter I can understand, though I did find it a little curious to note the absence of the former. For a book marketed to kids – whose growing Star Wars fanhood was in large part, very probably, due to that very show – I’d have thought it would be a matter of course to include it. However, it may simply have been for the sake of brevity. You can’t easily recap the entire series, after all. As for the recap itself, I felt that it was a little subpar. While it did convey the story mostly accurately, the writing was uninteresting and lacked any real passion or excitement. But, upon reflection, is this really the draw? With my 1998 annual, I paid very little attention to the recaps, so perhaps this isn’t as important as I previously thought it was. It is after all, a recap, which essentially means you’re giving an overview of a story, not the story itself.

Before I talk about the activities, I want to talk about something else the book has.

The 1998 annual was filled with character profiles and schematics of various machines: X-Wings, TIE fighters, speeder bikes, the Death Stars, etc. As a technically minded person … okay that’s a lie. Ask me to fix a car engine and I would be of no help. Ask me to look at the schematics of said car engine and I’ll go ‘ooh, isn’t that pretty?’ But anyway, those are things I enjoyed. This 2015 annual doesn’t have any schematics (just two annotated pictures of the Death Star and the Millennium Falcon), but it does have character profiles on almost every page. I did find these interesting, and I noticed something worth noting: every now and then there would be little factoids from the old EU, so this must have been written before the announcement of the changing of the canon system. Or perhaps it’s considered to be part of Legends?

As I looked through the book, I noted these differences, and I thought: ‘Is this the point of an annual?’ Well, is it? I felt that an annual should essentially be a small step into a larger world. That its focus should be on these factoids and schematics, to expand the readers’ knowledge of the Star Wars universe. For me, this book failed that test. But please keep reading, I’m not finished.

I really should read that at some point.

The Kids’ Experience:

Upon seeing the annual, they cried: ‘Oh look! Game!’

Quite.

You see, when I asked around, my friends patiently explained to me that there is no single universal ‘point’ of an annual. Certainly it can be about factoids, but there are other types, like activity books. As it turns out, there is no ‘should’, as in, ‘it should be this and this and this’. There is ‘can’, as in, ‘it can be this and this, or it can be that and that and a little of this’. And that, I now think, is how it should be.

This annual consists of double page spreads. On one page it would detail a segment of the story from the films, and on the opposite page there would be various games and activities that tie in, admittedly sometimes superficially, to that part of the story. For example, when it reached the clone army portion of Attack of the Clones, it had a spot the difference game. When, in Revenge of the Sith, Obi Wan goes off to find General Grievous, the book provides a maze for that portion – and another maze for A New Hope’s Trench run. And so on.

Rather than forcing The Kids to sit down and listen to me read, on the one side of the double page spread, a story that they’re already familiar with, we actually had a fun afternoon with the other side of the spread, trying to draw Darth Vader, testing our Star Wars trivia knowledge and deciding what colour our lightsabers would be (I chose yellow, Nephew chose blue and Niece chose *gulp* red).

And you know what? Though I ultimately didn’t, if you like or want a book full of activities, I think you’d really like it.

Perhaps I do still wish that there had been a little more information so that The Kids can know all the weird and interesting things about Star Wars, but there’ll be plenty of time for that later. Don’t let my old man ways (I’m only twenty five, gah!) dissuade you. Besides, who’s to say that these activities won’t be the memories that our kids think back on fondly, while they’re reviewing the Star Wars Annual 2030 and bemoaning that there’s too much information and too little games?

Actually, I’d kind of like to see that.

In conclusion: If you want a book that is heavy on factoids, I think you’ll be disappointed. If you want a book that gives you a few hours of fun playing games, then I think you’d enjoy it.

Michael Dare

Star Wars Annual 2015 by Egmont Publishing is out now in UK bookstores. Thank you to Egmont for providing a copy for review purposes.

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