Book - Star Wars Imperial Handbook: A Commander's Guide

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away... or rather here, last week ... we brought you news of a new Star Wars related book from Titan Books. Susan “Darth” Omand reviews The Imperial Handbook...

As the Emperor Palpatine’s own introduction to The Imperial Handbook, A Commander’s Guide, says, “As a commander in my service, you are part of the largest fighting force in the history of the galaxy. Learn your place—and do your duty,” and this book allows you to do just that. It gives you everything you, as a trainee commander, ever needed to know, and a lot of facts you didn’t even know you needed to know, about all aspects of the Empire and its military force, written by those in high command. Broken into five parts, it covers the military as a whole, then looks more indepth at the navy, the army, the elite Stormtrooper Corps and a consideration of the overall doctrine of the Empire before a concluding rallying call from his Imperial Majesty. Laid out in the format of a proper handbook or manual, there are pages of facts, history and rules to learn, and mission reports from important battles, all of which are, of course, written from the Imperial point of view, managing to put a marvellous skew on the facts as we already know them, and all of which goes to prove that history is always written by the winners.

The art and sidebars in the book are very well done and add a lot of extra information, from what the insignia on various uniforms mean, to schematics of vehicles and weapons, including the infamous Death Star, strategy maps and utopian views of the Academy, such as you would find in a university prospectus. The best of the artwork though is saved for the propaganda-laden posters that are peppered throughout the manual, highly redolent of the Communist posters of the early 20th century. They really serve the purpose of inspiring jingoism, respect and fear in equal measure – all the main aims of the Imperial command as well as the Communists of the time.

The most ingenious thing about this handbook though is that it is, in fact, a copy of the handbook that has fallen into rebel hands, and there are individually “handwritten” margin notes from the likes of Princess Leia, Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and others, highlighting parts of the text, giving the Rebel Alliance angle on some of the information and generally (although mostly in the case of Han Solo’s notes) adding sarcasm and humour to the whole thing. Whoever thought of doing that deserves much extra credit.

If you are a fan of the original Star Wars trilogy at all, whether rebel or Empire, you will find something of interest and added depth in this collector’s item of a book. And, if you’re not, this is the ideal chance to learn. In the final words in the book, from Emperor Palpatine, “Go forth, and enact my will.”

Image - Titan Books

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