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The Jedi Path: a Manual for Students of the Force
Daniel Wallace
Becker & Mayer, 160 pages

The Jedi Path: a Manual for Students of the Force
Daniel Wallace
Daniel Wallace is the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: The New Essential Guide to Characters as well as a dozen more books that explore the underpinnings of the Star Wars universe, including Star Wars: The Essential Atlas and The Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia. He is a regular contributor to Star Wars Insider magazine and assembled the questions used in the Star Wars Trivial Pursuit game. In addition to making many contributions to the galaxy far, far away, he has written for universes including Indiana Jones, Smallville, Supernatural, DC Comics, and Marvel Comics.

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A review by Charlene Brusso

It comes in a black cardboard box, and weighs just shy of 5 lbs. Open the box, unpack the thing inside, and you have the "vault," a slightly smaller box of gray and silver plastic with beveled corners, about the size of an old-fashioned family bible. The front is decorated with images from that very first film: Tatooine's twin suns, solar discs intersecting like a Venn diagram, and hands -- undoubtedly Luke's -- raising a light saber in a salute. Press the black semicircle at the bottom and you hear the hiss of a pressure equalizing as the top splits into two panels that spread apart, like an ancient tomb, Indiana-Jones style. A palette within rises, lifting the Book.

Soft, silver-gray fake leather cover, with a bit of a rubbery feel. Deckle-edged pages (yes, the Star Wars universe has starships, but not ebooks) distill the teachings of the Jedi, and the arduous route from Initiate to Padawan to Knight. If the Force is your religion, this will be your guide. Add to that sections on assorted intelligent lifeforms, on starships and vehicles, lightsabers, and a solid grounding in interstellar politics.

But what sets it apart from any other fictional manual -- like, say, the Star Fleet Technical Manual -- are the trinkets and notes tucked between its pages: wry comments on dry ancient teachings, crib notes, and selected bits of nostalgia, from a surprisingly shiny red padawan braid, a coin, a patch, a stained napkin with sketches for light saber design. And the list of previous owners will bring chills to any serious fan: Yoda, Qui-Gon, Anakin, Luke Skywalker, and villains like Dooku and Darth Isidious.

From the surprisingly legible notes inscribed in the margins, it's clear that penmanship must've been a required element of early Jedi training. Also interesting that each student initialed his comments, as if determined to have their say with future generations. And no surprise, really, that Yoda with the same tangled diction in speech he uses writes.

Does $99.99 sound like a lot for 160 pages and a few greeblies? Yeah. But there's some real magic here, in the presentation, the attention to detail. Daniel Wallace, the author of more than a dozen previous Star Wars reference books, has been a Star Wars fan most of his life, and this beautifully designed package is clearly a labor of true love. Pretty much the only disappointment is that once opened, the box must be shut by hand; no button-pushing to reseal the vault.

For the imaginative pop culture fan, The Jedi Path will be an entertaining toy. For the Lucas faithful who've stayed with the series, whether despite or because of the most recent trilogy, this will be a prized treasure that illuminates the fictional history, philosophy, and characters from an alternate universe as familiar as, if not more so, than our own.

Copyright © 2011 Charlene Brusso

Charlene's sixth grade teacher told her she would burn her eyes out before she was 30 if she kept reading and writing so much. Fortunately he was wrong. Her work has also appeared in Aboriginal SF, Amazing Stories, Dark Regions, MZB's Fantasy Magazine, and other genre magazines.

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