Tag Archive: Abrams Books


Review by C.J. Bunce

It really is the ultimate holiday gift for your favorite Star Wars fan.  The nostalgia in the ideas for the Disney+ series The Mandalorian, as illustrated and explained in The Art of Star Wars: The Mandalorian, is exactly what fans were hoping for in their next Star Wars experience, probably dating all the way back to the anticipation of the release of Return of the Jedi back in 1983.  There’s a reason for the universal praise for the series, and why it’s one of the best television series of the past ten years, if not one of the best Westerns ever.  Jon Favreau, Doug Chiang, & Co. figured out how to please a diverse fandom.  By including the concept artwork in the end credits for each episode, they took us back to the Ralph McQuarrie paintings that inspired the first Star Wars film.  But those images are only the beginning.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In advance of a two-part set of movies starring Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista, Zendaya, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem targeted to come to theaters in 2021 from director Denis Villeneuve, a new three-book graphic novel series is heading your way next month from Abrams Books.  The first part, Frank Herbert’s Dune: The Graphic Novel, Book One is available for pre-order here at Amazon.    

So how faithful is the graphic novel to Herbert’s original novel?

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If you’ve been watching the new season of The Mandalorian, you might agree that this week’s new episode, The Passenger, may be the best episode yet.  Heck, if we’d have seen it back in the 1970s and 1980s with the original trilogy, we might have rated it even better than the films.  When we reviewed Abrams Books’ last behind the scenes look at the Star Wars franchise in The Art of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, we mentioned we were hoping that the publisher would get the rights for The Mandalorian series so we could get a close-up look at the costumes, props, and production art–and continue with a sixth volume of Abrams’ superb series of behind-the-scenes looks at the franchise.  Well Star Wars fans are in luck.  The Art of Star Wars: The Mandalorian is now available for pre-order here at Amazon, and we have a preview for borg readers below.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Get out your I Want to Believe posters and get ready to cue up “Materia Primoris,” that haunting theme to The X-Files.  This month, 24 years after we first met Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, you can stand in the shoes of these FBI agents as Director Walter Skinner hands you a dossier of the 50 most revealing, memorable, scary, creepy, and thoroughly awesome X-Files.  In March 2020, a man named Paul Terry (aka author Paul Terry) signed out full-color copies of notes, interviews, photographs, and other highly confidential documents from the Bureau, and you can find them all reprinted in The X-Files: The Official Archives, available for pre-order here at Amazon, arriving in bookstores tomorrow.  The in-universe perspective and thoroughly detailed design will reel in and satisfy everyone from the passing fan to the most diehard X-Phile.

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In advance of a two-part set of movies starring Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Zendaya, David Dastmalchian, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem targeted to come to theaters beginning this December from director Denis Villeneuve, a new three-book graphic novel series is heading your way this Fall from Abrams Books.  Frank Herbert’s Dune: The Graphic Novel, Book One is now available for pre-order here at Amazon.    

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Review by C.J. Bunce

As the ninth and final film in the Skywalker Saga arrives in a home video release, the fifth volume from Abrams Books chronicling the entirety of the Disney-era Star Wars concept artwork is here.  The Art of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker does not disappoint in showing readers the expansive designs for a film that stepped ahead of its predecessor with more ships, more action, more aliens, more weaponry, and more costume designs.  Our only hope is that Abrams obtains the rights to create a similar volume continuing this series of books, documenting the first season of The Mandalorian.  One thing every fan will notice who has watched all eleven movies in the franchise–more than ever readers can now clearly see elements from each prequel, each original trilogy episode, and each Star Wars Story film incorporated into the sets, ships, and characters in this final installment.

As with the first two books in the trilogy, this look at the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker shows paths taken and, more interestingly, paths not taken by production designer Rick Carter, franchise veteran Kevin Jenkins, and the rest of the art design team.  This includes alternate costumes for Rey, Finn, Poe, Lando, Zorii, and Jannah, new pilots, stormtroopers, droids, and new worlds of creature concepts.  Probably more than the past volumes in the series, this book has close-up detailed views at props, including lightsaber and other weaponry, all in search of that design element that says “Star Wars” to the movie audience.

Phil Szostak lets the artwork take center stage in this fourth book in the series (he also wrote The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Art of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and The Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story, all reviewed here at borg)–prior books had more textual commentary.  Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (reviewed here and available in all digital formats today), the ninth and final episode in the Skywalker family story in the universe George Lucas created, saw the return of director J.J. Abrams and his strategy of evoking the trilogy to maximum benefit, with many images inspired by original Ralph McQuarrie concepts.  So it may come as no surprise that The Art of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker feels like a book of original trilogy designs.  The artwork from dozens of contributors mirrors the iconography, the color patterns, the lighting, the costuming, and set pieces from The Return of the Jedi especially.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Merging art with science and technology the Victoria and Albert Museum in London put together an exhibition celebrating more than 100 years of the car.  That exhibition has been documented and is now available as a history of the car, combining historical objects from the museum with thirteen essays that show the impact of this cultural achievement (both the good and the bad) on people around the world.  Prepared by the museum’s researchers, the book Cars: Accelerating the Modern World is a history of the automobile and a nostalgic look at the marketing of cars through hundreds of reprinted advertisements and vintage photographs.

The book examines the need for speed looking at early and modern races, including early women in racing.  From the 1890s to the 2010s style has been supreme when it comes to the love of cars–it might seem obvious, but in one graphic readers can see a comparison of cars, planes, trains, phones, and even chairs, clocks, fashion, and swimsuits, all trending toward more streamlined forms across the decades.  Along with favorite cars is the quest for greater safety.  Manufacturing, assembly lines, industry, regulations, and the development of roads and highways, all led toward a key component that makes road travel possible: standardization.

As with everything else, the history of the car is interspersed with politics, profits, corporations, and The growth of an industry of cars for work tracked cars for personal use and even luxury purposes.  And along the journey was a new class of sales, marketing lifestyle and image to the consumer.  It’s also the movement from the stately black early cars to choice for the consumer via new, vibrant colors for interiors and exteriors.  One Saturday Evening Post excerpt champions new color combinations from DuPont in the 1920s.  Fashion plates compare what women should wear in their new cars in the early days of the automobile.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In The Oliver Stone Experience, writer Matt Zoller Seitz provided fans of Oliver Stone with an incredibly immersive deep-dive into the thought process of the acclaimed and sometimes controversial director.  Spending five years with Stone debating and analyzing the auteur’s films and influences was the stuff for the ultimate fan of his films, bordering on containing too much information–mostly insightful, but sometimes trivial and the stuff of information overload.  But can you really have too much information when you’re talking about your favorite creator?  Probably not, and it’s with the same gusto that Seitz digs into Wes Anderson–the man, the mind, the films.  Seitz admittedly is a fan of Anderson and it shows as he chronicles the writer/director’s life and career in his massive work of essays and photographs, The Wes Anderson Collection, a coffee table hardcover and collectible for every Anderson fan.

In a series of interviews about his films Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Moonrise Kingdom, with two supplemental books available covering The Grand Budapest Hotel and Isle of Dogs (more on those below), Anderson becomes more accessible, and his films more understandable–even for those who aren’t fans of his work.  With original illustrations and production images, Seitz also makes a statement with the design of the book, incorporating the film frames, the quirky nostalgia, and the memory box-like set-ups seen in Anderson films, to highlight and explore the journey the filmmaker has taken with each new film.  The distinct tracking shots and color palettes that define Anderson’s films are featured in shots from the films and in behind the camera images of props, sets, and actors that come together to form these distinct stories.

Readers will find some overload of data here, but it’s also fun to watch a fan who has done his research interviewing a filmmaker.  Equally fun are Anderson’s reactions to complex questions the writer-director never himself pondered about his own work.  Yes, expect plenty of “Hmmm” responses, but much more content of the thought-provoking variety.  Every fan should have a book like this to go to for his/her favorite creator–the closest I’ve seen like this is surprisingly James Cameron’s interviews of directors in his Story of Science Fiction (reviewed here), and the James Bond books Bond on Bond (reviewed here), and The Many Lives of Bond (reviewed here), and the above-mentioned book on Oliver Stone.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The “Moviemaking Magic/Cinemagic” series from Abrams Books is my current favorite book format for genre tie-in non-fiction works.  Check out my reviews of the volume on the Marvel Studios Heroes and Villains here, and the first volume on Star Wars, The Moviemaking Magic of Star Wars: Creatures and Aliens, here.  The format is interactive, featuring several series of foldout photographs that allow the reader to see the changes in design over time, like ships from concept to realized model.  And these books allow for hundreds of photographs and how-to film production process accounts and interviews, arranged in an easy to reference chronology.  With the latest film in theaters, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Abrams has published the next look behind the scenes at the production process, The Moviemaking Magic of Star Wars: Ships and Battles, the most comprehensive account of the 11-film franchise’s models, sculptures, concept artwork, and their creators since Sculpting a Galaxy was released in 2005 when we only had six films available (you can see my review of that book here).

The book is targeted at a younger audience, but Star Wars fans of any age will appreciate the detail and information they may not have read about before, including notes from George Lucas from the first idea for the film, his treatment for The Star Wars, to Colin Cantwell and Joe Johnston′s concept drawings, all the way through the two “Star Wars story” movies Rogue One and Solo, and all nine Skywalker saga films, including a preview page of concept art from The Rise of Skywalker.  The original trilogy gets the biggest share of the coverage, including the full run of major ships, how they were developed, and what method was used to get them on the big screen, but the 21st century films and the prequels also get significant sections.  Readers will follow the development of filmmaking methods old and new: full-sized sets and vehicles like the landspeeder and X-wing fighter, scale models (both small and large scale), kitbashing, matte painting, and CGI.

Fans of the Millennium Falcon specifically will not want to miss this book.  They can track the development of the many models and designs used across the original trilogy, which had to be resurrected for the final trilogy with a side trip to an early, modified version of the ship for Solo: A Star Wars Story.  Coverage includes concept art, unused designs, and photos of the pocket-sized models through the multiple full-sized, walk-on creations. The various Death Star space stations and Star Destroyers get similar handling in the book.

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Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Ok, I confess: I’ve never been a big fan of the movie Clue.  It took the smart, suspenseful, iconic game of my childhood and turned it into a silly farce, disregarding the beautiful conventions of the color-coded characters, and making the measured, thoughtful play a frantic slapstick comedy.  Clue (originally called Cluedo in Britain) is about mystery and deduction and the Golden Age of British country house mysteries.  Well, Diana Peterfreund has restored my faith in the franchise, and channeled a bit of classic Christopher Pike in the mix!  Her new release In the Hall with the Knife: A Clue Mystery, the first novel from the Clue franchise (Hasbro and IDW introduced comic book versions in 2017 and 2019), reimagines the characters and game play in a contemporary New England boarding school.  Six students are stranded in a spooky Victorian mansion-turned-dorm when their remote, coastal village is besieged by a freak winter ice storm.  The campus is flooded, power, phones, and internet are down—and somebody has it in for Headmaster Boddy, the school’s beloved principal.

Is it blue-haired Beth “Peacock” Picach, the school’s perpetually angry tennis star?  Or maybe brooding townie Vaughn Green?  What about the school’s “power couple,” ambitious geniuses Scarlett Mistry and Phineas Plum?  New kid Mustard, just transferred in from a military academy?  Even sweet, bookish Orchid McKee has her secrets… and Peterfreund slowly doles them out, keeping the pacing taut and the plot clipping along until the Big Reveal.

Like the classic gameplay, each character takes a turn, in alternating, third person point-of-view chapters.  Like the game, they all suspect each other, pointing their fingers as the story goes on.  Rooms are explored, secret passages revealed, familiar weapons appear in characters’ hands… and the ultimate culprit is finally exposed.  Peterfreund gives the reader enough clues to play along and solve the mystery with (or slightly before) the characters.  And just like the game itself, the worldbuilding, scene setting, and backstory leave you wishing for more of this world and its secrets.

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