Galactic Cartographers unite! Wait, there aren’t many of them around? Well, maybe the unique Galactic Maps can make a change to that!
The Galactic Maps represents a funny era in the Star Wars canon. While traditional lore is still very prevalent in the new media, canon stories are now being told through alternative methods. One of the first major derivations was Star Wars: Propaganda, a fun piece focusing on propaganda art in the galaxy far, far away. Next in this “series”, if you will, is the Galactic Maps, a collection of maps and histories from all over the galaxy.
The collection comes from The Graf Archive, a library of maps that covers almost the majority of Orchis 2. The data was collected by cartographers and explorers across time, but a lot of the info was unreadable. For students of history, canvassing the entirety of the Archive can take a lifetime; and as a final test before becoming professional, they must journey through the Shadow Stacks. These mysterious Stacks contain a world of hidden treasure, waiting to be deciphered or interpreted by someone with fresh eyes. The maps in this volume were drawn by Gammit Chond, an Ithorian lost to time. Rather than drawing 100% detailed maps useful for travel, Chond focused on the fantastic stories and legends that stemmed from these planets.
While this is a cool backstory for the collection, the canon connections are even cooler. Recently, Americans were introduced to the Graf family in The Adventures in Wild Space. (Some more intrepid readers like myself paid too much to import them earlier in 2016.) The Graf family, in the early years of the Galactic Empire, traveled to Wild Space to make a profit in selling off their maps of undiscovered territory. On the exploration, the elder Grafs were taken by the Empire for refusing to give the Empire their data for free. The younger Grafs set off on an adventure to win them back. It is cool to see that their work survived, and adds a bit of dramatic relief to the series as it continues (five books have been released so far.)
First, as a lover of books in general, and as someone who worked in Stacks before, I love this book. It’s oversized (I have to lay it on my shelf side-ways), it’s obtuse, and it smells wonderful. It’s got a bit of old book smell built in. Seriously, you could spend a few minutes smelling the book and find it enjoyable. But smell isn’t the only sense tickled by the book. Chond’s drawings are usually a mix between fanciful and realistic renditions of characters: details may be lost to point to a grander picture, usually making for a fun time. Seeing drawn renditions of Hera Syndulla, Padme Amidala, Kylo Ren, and Darth Vader on the same page brings the canon to life as a single narrative. My only nitpicky complaint is that sometimes characters appear in costumes that don’t fit the source material. For example: Anakin is shown without his clone armor during the Second Battle of Geonosis. This seems minor, and it is. But honestly, there are a lot of minor points like this that distracted me more than they should have. Like I said, sometimes the whole of the image is worth it, but if you’re a perfectionist for details like this like I am, you’ll be a little distracted. The Head Butler of the Manor pointed out that these might be second hand accounts, so it’s a possibility Chond had a general idea of what they should look like, and went from those vague ideas.
Beyond just smell and sight, the book is made to entertain and teach, adding to its all around value. The book starts with a timeline of canon events, ending at the destruction of Starkiller Base, and a sort of introduction to a lot of the main characters across the entirety of the canon. After this introduction, the book alternates between two formats. The first is a two-page spread which has a listing of some major events or facts about different systems, usually providing only the briefest of statements about the system. Then, the book has two-page spreads for a handful of planets. Details on these planets include the system in which it is located, major events and players on the planet, and other fun side details about those planets and their wildlife. The book alternates between these two for good effect.
While you may not learn a lot of new information on these planets, it is very cool to see a lot of canon details drawn together. Though the canon does a good job of painting a wider, overarching narrative, this book draws together comics, novels, movies, TV shows, and anything else canon to great effect. Events from the PT and OT are featured on the map of Tatooine. Events from the Clone Wars intersect events from the movies. But these aren’t the only, or even the coolest, connections. When we learn about the Battle of Yavin, Evaan Verlaine is drawn alongside Gold Leader as one of the participants in the battle. The Battle of Endor heavily features RAE SLOANE herself. For visual thinkers, this is a treat all its own. But you don’t have to be a visual fan to appreciate seeing all of the canon – including novel and comic events – pulled together in one place.
Another piece that might be interesting to some readers is the small section on xeno-zoology. Most planets, including Jedha(!), contain fun tidbits about the alien animal life on the planet. The end of the tome contains a splash page featuring all of these creatures on a single page. Think about it like Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but with Zillo Beasts and lava fleas.
The Galactic Maps are a visual treat for anybody who loves Star Wars. The maps are well-illustrated, despite minor frustrations. The book smells incredible. (Seriously – I probably deleted a whole paragraph about the smell of this book and I still left this much in.) The canon is shown together in an entirely new light. And heck, who doesn’t love a chance to call themselves a cartographer of the entire Star Wars galaxy?
(Curious readers of the UK version might ask if this is different than the Galactic Atlas. It is the same volume, but with a name more friendly to Americans.)
Canon Novel Reviews:
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures Reviews:
“A Hero Discovered” 1×01 | “The Mines of Gabralla” 1×02 | “Zander’s Joyride” 1×03 | “The Lost Treasure of Cloud City” 1×04 | “Peril on Kashyyyk” 1×05 | “Crossing Paths” 1×06