Thursday, November 14, 2013
Review: LEGO Space: Building the Future
LEGO Space: Building the Future by Peter Reid
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I'll admit that this book wasn't what I imagined when I ordered it: rather than a collection of instructions, model images and building tips by committed veteran Lego Space MOCers Peter Reid and Tim Goddard, it is, instead, a fictional 'future history' of Earth's space exploration, illustrated with some quite beautiful Lego models and sprinkled with a small number of instructions for building the smallest and most easily assembled designs used within the story. That's no bad thing-- expectations can easily be inverted, or indeed, exceeded, by the surprise of discovery.
The book is presented as a fictional narrative, highly reminiscent of the range of illustrated speculative fact books I remember growing up with in the 1970s, beginning with a short history of Terran space travel from Sputnik to the modern day, then continuing into an increasingly speculative and space operatic future, moving father and farther off-planet, via the Moon, Mars, the moons of Jupiter, and eventually, into deep space. It is sprinkled with occasional side-stories, revolving around significant technological developments, before the mockumentary style is supplanted by a character-based story of attempted alien invasion and pitched battle that finishes the book. Creating a narrative around builds, particularly those in a series such as the ones presented within this book, is an integral part of the MOC-building experience for many AFOLs. And this is, really, where the book falls short.
The pictures themselves, and the MOC models they depict, are gorgeous, and there's plenty of enjoyment to be had for an average Lego builder like me in scrutinising each design as it is presented and attempting to decipher the techniques Reid and Goddard have used to create them faced with little more than images of the final work. AFOLs will get some delight in spotting the numerous naming in-jokes and respectful nods of the head to past Lego Space themes such as Ice Planet, Mission to Mars and Blacktron, and there's plenty to be learned about diorama design and photography techniques, just by studying the images on each page. But the story that Reid and Goddard have constructed around the images is uninspired: simple; cliched; the sort of thing that might serve for hobbyists pinning together an armature on which to hang their models but not to sustain narrative interest throughout a book of decent length. It lacks a coherent structure: moving from mock history to personalised biographies of 'characters' to small scale space opera and back again without direction, and with a brevity and lack of vision that does not reward repeated readings.
Had this been a coffee-table book, highlighting the images and builds alone, with technical instructions and insights into the builders behind the models, it would have been a stunning work. As a showpiece for Reid and Goddard's brilliant creations, it's a gorgeous book I'll dip into time and again to research parts use and building techniques. But as a combination of story and image, it falls too short on the storytelling for me to want to *read* it again, and I'll most likely gift it to my eight year-old, who will love the images and not have the SF-reading experience that makes him start flicking through the story to spend more time with the pictures.
View all my reviews