Imperial Handbook: A Commander’s Guide by Daniel Wallace (book review).

The fourth in Daniel Wallace’s ‘in-universe’ guides to the ‘Star Wars’ universe, the ‘Imperial Handbook: A Commander’s Guide’ is unique for two reasons. Firstly, it was originally published in a now sold-out Collector’s Box version and secondly, it was one of the last books to sneak non-canon material out under the ‘Star Wars’ brand name. As is now well-known, the previous fictional books have now been deprecated, their previous ties with continuity wiped away. The ‘Imperial Handbook’ is the last gasp of the ‘Legends’ universe being official canon.


The book follows the same pattern as Wallace’s other looks at the Jedi, the Sith and Bounty Hunters. It is essentially a guide to the people, organisations, places, vehicles and customs of this area of the ‘Star Wars’ universe. This volume, with its focus on military divisions and regulations feels more like a war gaming or RPG source book than any of the others. A couple of times I felt like I was reading ‘The Imperial Sourcebook’ from the West End Games RPG. That was actually quite a pleasant feeling, imbuing my experience with the book with a little nostalgia. The entries are marked with notes by previous readers, in this case Rebel leaders, learning more about their enemy.

The art in the book is evocative and well presented. The Imperial propaganda posters are particularly good, spurring you to sign-up, fight and report all wrong-doing to your Imperial superiors. It’s a neat conceit that lends the book a ‘Starship Troopers’ vibe. There’s also some humour to the book, too. For example, it is suggested to Stormtrooper commanders that if their unit has downtime, that the troopers engage in ‘marksmanship drills’, because, let’s face it, those guys need it. The cosplay fans are also catered to as the 501st, Vader’s personal Stormtrooper guard gets a special mention.

Towards the end of the book, you get a glimpse at that most prized of possessions: a technical read-out of the Death Star. Naturally, the exhaust ports are mentioned. It is quite amusing to read the Rebels’ comments on this particular page.

If you’re a long term fan of the ‘Wars’, you’ll get a kick out of the in-jokes and references to games, comics and novels as well as the original films. Equally, a younger or more recent fan will get a kick out of learning more about the Galactic Empire before ‘The Force Awakens’ later this year. All four books in a box set would make a neat collector’s piece.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you anything about the Collector’s Edition box or pin because we were only sent a PDF to review. Presumably, no Bothan spies died bringing us this information. This is a fun piece of merchandise to own, if a little dryly written at times. As a companion text to its other three peers it continues to define the Star Wars universe.

John Rivers

January 2015

(pub: Becker&Mayer! Press. 160 page hardback. Price: £49.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-60380-340-3)

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