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Tag Archive: Livio Ramondelli


Review by C.J. Bunce

Celebrating the 15th year of the end of the Firefly series, later this month Insight Editions will release the next travel guide in its Hidden Universe series.  This time writer Marc Sumerak and artist Livio Ramondelli are taking on the whole ‘Verse itself in Firefly: A Traveler’s Companion to the ‘Verse Who knew the backstory of the 14-episode television series was filled with more than 70 worlds and nearly 150 moons?  Yet all of that worldbuilding became the realism that made so many fans wish they could ride high in their own Firefly-class ship in a future beyond Earth, and it provides plenty of material to add another dimension to the Firefly experience for Browncoats everywhere.

Traveling from Hancock to Paradiso?  Whether you’re paying your respects in the Serenity Valley or Du-Khang, dropping some cargo on Whitefall, attending a shindig on Persephone, rescuing friends on Jiangyin, finding any excuse not to visit Canton, breaking into a hospital on Ariel, or getting Companion training on Sihnon, the Traveler’s Companion to the ‘Verse should be your starting point.  As with past volumes in the series, this guide is set up in sections by destination location, and includes the same kinds of breakdowns you’d find in any Earthbound guidebook: a little history and culture, sights and activities, etiquette, getting around, shopping and entertainment, dining and nightlife, lodging, and what to wear (Wash’s Hawaiian shirt is always an option, too).

The best sections feature “Tips for a Fun Trip,” including dos and don’ts and inside advice specific to each location.  Another bonus introduced in this volume is the addition of “handwritten” commentary by Mal Reynolds and the rest of the crew of Serenity.  As we previewed in our borg.com review of the new The Serenity Handbook here last month, the Traveler’s Companion to the ‘Verse is full of attitude from the crew, written in the familiar dialogue of Mal, Zoe, Wash, Inara, Kaylee, Jayne, Simon, River, and Book, and tucked into each section of the guide.

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The Klingons have always been the favorite aliens of legions of Star Trek fans.  For every new series of action figures it seems the toy companies always knew to include an extra Klingon variant to meet fan demand.  Whether you’re a fan of Kor, Koloth, and Kang in the original series, Worf, Gowron, Kurn, K’ehleyr, Klag, Lursa and B’Etor in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Martok in Deep Space Nine, B’Elanna Torres in Voyager, Kolos, Orak, and Duras in Enterprise, or Kruge, Kamarag, Korrd, Gorkon, Chang, and Azetbur of the movies, the Klingons have been an integral part of Star Trek.  And this year they return as the antagonists of Star Trek Discovery.  So what better time to get yourself ready for the new Klingons?  You can delve into the homeworld and beyond in the newest of the Hidden Universe Travel Guides–Star Trek: The Klingon Empire.

The second entry in Insight Editions’ new Hidden Universe Travel Guides series will prompt you to book your next vacation early, and brush up on your Klingonese.  Your travel guide to the Final Frontier, Star Trek novelist Dayton Ward scoured Qo’noS and beyond and the battle-filled history of those ridged-foreheaded aliens to target your second galactic trip–this time not to the planet Vulcan, as detailed in last year’s Hidden Universe Travel Guide–Star Trek: Vulcan (reviewed here at borg.com), but to the lands of the honorable Klingon Empire.  And yes, Klingon culture is just as much fun as you think it is so brush up on your Shakespearean Klingon and sharpen your bat’leth and dk’tagh.  Blood wine and gagh awaits you.

This in-universe book channels Ward’s Trek expertise from producing Star Trek novels and the artistry of Livio Ramondelli and Peter Markowski.  The travel guide follows the format of the Vulcan guide, which in turn followed the format of Earth destination books.  You’ll test your own knowledge of the planet, people, and culture, and learn even more along the way.  You’ll walk away knowing how to get around, what are the best sights and activities, where to shop and what’s happening, and what’s current in dining, nightlife, and lodging for select destinations.  Are monuments honoring the notable among the Klingon dead your thing?  How about some Klingon opera?  The pervasive and ever-expanding franchise of Quark’s Bar is here (you’ll want to check out the Klingon spin on a hot chicken wing eating contest).  But if anyone tries to sell you tickets to the local Tribble hunt, watch out (you’ll learn why).

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The first entry in Insight Editions’ new Hidden Universe Travel Guides series will prompt you to book your next vacation early, and a bit better informed.  Dayton Ward provides his take on the Lonely Planet and similar travel guides with the target of our first Final Frontier pleasure trip–not to Risa–but to Spock’s home planet Vulcan.  Don’t worry, it’s not just shrines, volcanoes, and caves.  You’ll find Vulcan the planet is more fun than most Vulcan people you know.

This in-universe book works because of Ward’s humor and his creative choice of content, tapping his extensive Trek expertise from his decades of producing Star Trek novels.  Ward’s travel guide is loyal to the format of Earth destination books (I compared it to my travel guides to Jamaica), which to some extent requires repetition.  But Ward makes that work, too, coming up with clever examples derived from Star Trek canon that will test your knowledge of the planet, the people, and the culture.  So you’ll see for each of eight selected regions how to get around, sights and activities, shopping and entertainment, dining and nightlife, and lodging, but you’ll find a broad variety of events to keep each chapter fresh (try Spring Break at Lake Yuron, orbital skydiving at Vulcana Regar, or re-enactments of prison life at the Veklar Prison Museum), plenty of different bars and (primarily) vegetarian cuisine to choose from (I crave some plomeek soup, but no Whataburger?), including the familiar now-franchised Quark’s Bar (but don’t try to steal the menus!).

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Like Earth guides, you’ll learn helpful information about local culture and customs (want to try out a lirpa at a Vulcan marriage ceremony?), etiquette, warnings (how to get rid of an unwanted katra), and safety information like tourist traps, and souvenirs to avoid (buying fake Vulcan ears is tacky).  I particularly like the idea of the B’jinglan Air and Space Museum, including the displayed starship Ni’Var, now suspended in the same drydock in which it was built.  Definitely some detailed thought went into this book.

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