NOTE: This article isn’t intended to reveal major Star Wars: The Force Awakens spoilers, but if you’re still avoiding them, you should hold off reading this until you’ve seen the movie!
Star Wars: The Force Awakens has kicked off a new era for Star Wars fans, where there are suddenly so many new worlds, characters, and technologies for us obsess over. In a quiet way, that’s always been one of the best things about the Star Wars universe. Non-fans and even some casual enthusiasts may think that it’s just about what happens onscreen, but really, that’s just the start of it!
In fact, I dare say that I’ve gotten as much enjoyment from various Star Wars books as I have from the movies. They took what I saw in the films, filled in the gaps, and made me appreciate every prop and character, no matter how “insignificant.” It’s one thing to watch the cantina scene in A New Hope and marvel at all of the wacky aliens, but it’s so much cooler to know the histories and motivations of every weirdo in that place.
I was thrilled to learn that The Force Awakens would be continuing this longstanding Star Wars trend. There are already tons of books tied to the film that provide new insights and angles to virtually everything shown onscreen, from blink-and-you’ll-miss-’em characters to every last gadget and gizmo.
If The Force Awakens left you rabid for more info, I can’t recommend them strongly enough. A quick glance may lead you to believe that they’re “surfacey” books that act only as beginner’s guides to the movie’s characters and settings, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Heck, I’d go so far to say that if you’re looking to build theories about Episodes VIII and IX, these books are an excellent place to start. You’re gonna learn a whole lot more about… well, pretty much everything!
Though there’s already a well-stocked library of The Force Awakens books, below are three that I can recommend based on firsthand experience. (With partial thanks to Santa Claus.)
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS VISUAL DICTIONARY
Writer: Pablo Hidalgo
If you remember the Visual Dictionaries from previously released Star Wars movies, you’ll be happy to learn that this new edition is just as jam-packed. I’m not sure if there are enough positively-charged adjectives for me to convey just how badly y’all need this book.
The title hardly sells it, to be honest, because this is no mere glossary of terms. Virtually every aspect of The Force Awakens is broken down into manageable bits. In the section for Rey, for example, we learn about everything from her meager possessions on Jakku to how she goes about scavenging useful items from fallen ships. The book beautifully “grounds the fantasy” and makes sense of even its most alien concepts. Lost in imagination, you’ll find yourself forgetting that it’s all a work of fiction!
The amount of trivia in here is just staggering. Hey, did you know that Captain Phasma’s armor was partially made from the remnants of a Naboo yacht once used by Palpatine? Read this book, and you’ll get all sorts of information like that.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary doesn’t only hit upon the major characters, either. Want to learn more about Jakku’s residents, or those weird aliens from Maz’s bar? How about those slimy balls of living doom that Han and Chewie were carting around? They’re all here, along with all of their weapons, vehicles, and accessories! By my math, the book stops short of examining only two characters in the whole film, and since doing so might’ve taken us well into Episode VIII spoiler territory, you can probably guess who they are. But man, everything else is here. Everything!
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS INCREDIBLE CROSS-SECTIONS
Writer: Jason Fry
Illustrator: Kemp Remillard
Oh, yes! This isn’t the first time that a Star Wars movie got its own Cross-Sections book, and I’m pleased to report that this latest entry is just as awesome as its predecessors.
If you’re a Star Wars vehicle junkie, this is the book for you. From the Millennium Falcon to Kylo Ren’s Command Shuttle, you’ll learn the ins and outs of every major vehicle (“vehicle” in the broadest sense, of course) seen during The Force Awakens. Not only does the book synopsize each vehicle’s role in the film, but it also offers thorough breakdowns of their technical specifications. (Example: Rey’s speeder uses parts salvaged from X-wings and an AT-ST walker!)
Movies can ill afford to break their flow to give us virtual tours of every environment, so this book is a blessed help in understanding “where we’ve been.” Take Han’s space freighter, for instance. The film only allows us to see that it’s a giant, labyrinthian ship, spacious if a bit bleak. By contrast, the book offers a complete breakdown of every part of the ship, to the point where you could imagine yourself walking through it as if on a guided tour.
The team behind The Force Awakens Cross-Sections worked hard to make sense of even the most fantastical technologies in the film, so before you count those oversized wings on Kylo Ren’s ship as “style over substance,” read this book!
THE ART OF STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
Writer: Phil Szostak
Longtime Star Wars fans have likely seen a number of concept sketches, which served as the inspiration for what we saw in the final films. In fact, the first Art of Star Wars book — published in the late ‘70s — included many of those sketches, along with other ephemeral artifacts that helped us understand the vast creative processes needed to make an entire universe out of… well, nothing!
That saga continues with this book, which reprints tons of exclusive work from the Lucasfilm art department. It’s gorgeous to look at and worth buying for that alone, but seeing so much preliminary concept art will just make you appreciate the finished product that much more. Here you’ll find concept art for places, characters and things that served as the start-points for everything witnessed in The Force Awakens. Man, if you don’t want to see earlier takes on Kylo Ren’s outfit, you’re reading the wrong website.
(And no, the book doesn’t start and end with concept art. We also get to see many elements in their final and “official” forms, gorgeously trapped on the page for our prying eyes. There are even stories about what happened during the filming!)
Also, while the other two books featured here hold a little back — presumably so critical plot points wouldn’t be guessable too early — this one doesn’t. So yeah, you’re gonna see cool stuff about Luke and Snoke in here. If that’s not enough to whet your appetites, I’ll mention that the book is around 250 pages, a gratuitous length that allows for pillar-to-post examinations of everything that is, and everything that could’ve been!
In closing, if you’ve seen The Force Awakens, or even if you’ve seen The Force Awakens 10 times, don’t stop there. The Star Wars universe always has more to give, so long as you know where to look. Start with these books!
You may want to reserve a “sick day” in advance. Trust me, once you start reading them, you’re not gonna stop until you’re done.