This isn't a 'set', but it is a new LEGO product I wanted to review. As many of you are probably aware, DK has released a pair of new books combined in a boxed set. I recently found it at Barnes and Noble for $40 US. These books cover all themes, but for the sake of this review, I'll just focus on the Castle relevant material. I apologize for the quality of these photos - I wanted to post this sooner rather than later, so I took these with my phone. If you want high quality pictures, go get the books. 800x600 pixel versions of each of the photos below, and a few additional ones, can be found in this Flickr folder
If you remember the Ultimate LEGO Book, also by DK from about 10 years ago, you can expect that this will be a high quality book with beautiful photography, and it is. A little of the same ground is covered as in that previous book (and I did notice a very small number of photos were re-used), but this books is larger and covers much more that was not in the previous book. Sections include a history of LEGO, several pages on the Legoland parks, exploration of each theme, things about master builders, special edition sets, LDD, licensed themes, etc. By far the coolest part is near the end, looking at the fan community - more on that below.
There are (I think - I don't have the books here) ten pages devoted to official sets in the Castle theme. They have photos and a small amount of text looking at some major sets and subthemes over the years.
I didn't go through and rigorously check this, but my impression is that throughout the book there is a greater emphasis on the sets and themes that are still in stores. In the balance between being a history of the theme and being a marketing tool to push ABS, I think the marketing side won. The text describing sets in some ways resembles the descriptions you see in LEGO catalogs. I would have liked to have seen some real information, like a timeline of when each individual subtheme was introduced, or, for instance, some note about the Legends sets, or the Dan Siskind MOC set. There are photos of some of these, but no real description of their significance.
By far the coolest section is the last section, devoted to the fans. Sadly, this is only six or eight pages (again, I don't have the books here). There are a couple of pages on LEGO art - including some of the things you might expect like Nathan Sawaya and Sean Kenney, also one of Andrew Lipson and Daniel Shieu's Escher MOCs and a MOC by Nick Foo. Then there is a two page spread called Fan Builders that includes several awesome MOCs - most of which you should already recognize.
The text uses and defines the word AFOL and mentions fan conventions (though not giving details about specific ones). Individual builders are named and the photos of their work are top quality. On this two page spread, castlers should specifically look a Jurgen Bramigk's Cologne Cathedral (previously featured here on CC):
But it gets even better when you turn the page. The next two-page spread is called Fan-tasy and Sci-Fi:
Of course you should immediately recognize these - all by CC members (okay, maybe not the space things, but who cares about space anyway
). Mostly CCC winners:
Noddy's great Tower of Brothers, Cajun's dragon and two(!!) by Hippotam, his CCCV winner Last Journey and his CCCVI winner Double Trouble. Congratulations, guys! My only complaint is that it refers to one of these as winning a contest "online" - c'mon, how much extra ink would it have taken to say Classic-Castle.com? I know, then they would have been obligated to mention all the different important fan sites, and where do you make the cutoff without offending some fan group?
In all, I think this book is definitely worth it. The sections in the middle focused on each theme are, IMO, the weak part, because they aren't really giving any history but instead just some good pics and some advertising copy. I really think they should have increased that last part with fan creations. If you want to promote the hobby, show people more great things that they can do. I also wish they'd have given specific websites and fan conventions, to help people tap into the hobbyist community.Standing Small: A Celebration of 30 Years of the LEGO Minifigure
Okay, I really liked the first book - this one, not so much. Let's start and end with the strong points. At the start there is a good section on the development of the minifig. I was really interested to see the different prototype models and the information about the minifig timeline.
The bulk of the book is, IMO, bad advertising copy. It's broken down by theme and shows high quality images of figures. Sadly, there is no attempt to be comprehensive or show how those different figs interacted in the development of various subthemes. There were two 2-page spreads on Castle and another 2-page spread on Vikings. No real discussion of different accessories, headgear etc.
As with the other book, by far the coolest section is about the fans and fig customization. Unfortunately this is only two pages long. From the CC standpoint, NickGreat's Red Samurai and his CCCIV-winning Black Samurai are included.
Anyway, this book is kind of fun, but if it wasn't bundled with the first book I wouldn't bother getting it. If there were some real information, like a timeline of different subthemes or a comprehensive listing of figs it would greatly improve this book