Wednesday, August 27th, 2003 at 12:32pm by Jon, BZPower Co-Owner
Never before Bionicle has any LEGO theme warranted such diverse media saturation. The series has enjoyed incarnations not only in ABS brick, but CD-ROMs, a music CD, an official website, a flash game, a comic book series, two Gameboy Advance titles, and a forthcoming animated home video (Bionicle: Mask of Light) with at least two more films announced for future release.
And by the looks of things, Bionicle's not stopping there. Over the last couple of weeks the first wave of Bionicle books published by Scholastic Press have started hitting the shelves at booksellers everywhere.
A few months back I received a complimentary laser printout of The Official Guide to Bionicle by Greg Farshtey. Though the book had not even gone to press yet, the great folks at Scholastic were kind enough to give BZPower an early look at this book well before it shipped to retailers.
Unfortunately, legal red tape held up release of the images and review at that time, but now with the books starting distribution, it's time to give this first book a thorough look.
The first thing you'll notice about the book is its unique size. Quite a bit larger than a standard paperback but still smaller in dimension than a comic, it measures in at 6"x9" and just under 80 pages.
Though while being a paperback on the outside, the weight of the interior pages is heavier than you might expect. Since the entire book is in vivid full color, the publisher went with a heavy stock which prevents bleed-through and give all the artwork bright colors and deep blacks; no newsprint-like material here.
Speaking of the artwork, all of the interior pages have a matte finish (not glossy like a graphic novel) making it particularly attractive and easy on the eyes. If you're into scanning artwork for your PC's desktop, this is the reference material your scanner's been waiting for.
What to Expect
Last year you may have seen my review of the 2003 Bionicle Calendar in which I expressed some disappointment in the lack of fresh arwork. My first impression of The Official Guide to Bionicle was that we may experience that same problem, but while at least 90% of the images in the book are things you've seen before, in this format it's just what the doctor ordered.
This Guide is the definitive reference book for all things Bionicle and showcases every primary character in their CGI-rendered form all the way from the original Toa to the Rahkshi and hints of things beyond.
If you've ever wished you had a portable printout of every page of BZPower's Bionicle Reference and every section of bionicle.com's profiles to carry with you, then this is your dream come true, and then some.
Want a handy guide for the Krana and their respective powers? It's in the book. Can't remember which Bohrok Kal tool provides a plasma shield? It's in the book. Which Noble Mask of Power allows the wearer to see in total darkness? It's in the book too.
Featured inside are full-page profiles of each character, including not only history, details and origins, but also a handy pronunciation guide for those who just have to know the "right" way to say Turaga Onewa (which, incidentally, is "too-RAH-gah oh-NOO-wah").
In addition to profiles, most sections contains are prefaced with a brief segue explaining how the next section fits into the story. For example, the Bohrok section is prefaced by an explanation of how, after the Rahi were defeated, the Bohrok were unleashed by Makuta. In this way, the book advances the story while showcasing the details of each character.
And finally, those of you who enjoy going back over your MAD magazines to check for cartoons in the margins will enjoy the secondary feature of this book. For the uninitiated, page six has a full Matoran Alphabet conversion chart which will come in handy for the little nuggets of information (dubbed "Matoran Message") coded with the Matoran Alphabet scattered throughout just waiting to be deciphered.
So in this world of supply and demand, it comes down to this: Is it worth your hard-earned dough?
The Official Guide to Bionicle is a slick, informative compendium of (nearly) all things Bionicle compiled by one of the foremost authorities on the universe, Greg Farshtey. It's the kind of book you wish you had two years ago to toss in the lap of a befuddled friend or parent who just couldn't keep up with all the strange-sounding names and lore of Mata Nui.
What The Guide may lack in original artwork is much more than made up for in the wealth of information contained therein.
I would readily recommend the book to any longtime fan of the Bionicle storyline seeking a reference tome, or a newcomer who would like to quick & easy way to catch up on the story so far.
No die-hard Bionicle fan should be without this one any more than a self-respecting author should be without a dictionary or thesaruaus. And at an MSRP of $6.99 USD ($10.99 CAN), you can add this one to yoru library for about the same cost as a Rahkshi, and have just as much entertainment.
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