The 4th in the line of Star Wars in-universe guidebooks, the conceit behind this one is that sometime after Luke Skywalker blasted the Death Star at Yavin, the Empire stopped circulating this book, so in the wake of the battle of Endor, finding a copy in good condition is difficult. But you have it in your hands, complete with annotations by Skywalker and other top leaders of the Rebel Alliance such as Leia, Ackbar, Crix Madine, and Mon Mothma. Coinciding with the premiere of the newest animated series, Star Wars: Rebels, this book is essentially the rulebook for Imperial officers, breaking down the organization and infrastructure of the Empire as a whole. Command structure, various types of personnel including stormtroopers, weaponry and vehicles, and the all-important Tarkin Doctrine that sets the foundation of Emperor Palpatine’s iron-fisted regime are all laced together in a presentation that makes it feel like an authentic piece of propaganda. The artwork goes a long way toward selling that point, drawing on fascist and socialist art of the 30s and 40s for its inspiration.
The reason I give it 4 stars instead of 5 is because the Jedi and Sith manuals set a very high standard with all of the extra inserts and trinkets. The Bounty Hunter Code dropped that considerably, and this is further scaled back. Aside from the Imperial medal and the insert card from Luke Skywalker telling you what the book is, there are no inserts of any kind to be had here, rendering the presentation a bit weak, again by comparison of the previous volumes. The display case is much like the Jedi case in that there are few winky-blinkies and you have to close it manually, which seems a step back since the Sith and Bounty Hunter cases have more lights and close by themselves just as easily as they open. On its own, it’s still an incredibly beautiful piece of work that breaks the 4th wall nicely. It’s not a cobbled-together-from-ancient-sources book like the Sith tome, nor is it handed down generation-to-generation like the Jedi book, so it feels more like an official military manual. While we did get information on the wanted Rebel criminals and a touch of “Lord Vader as galactic hero,” I would have liked to have seen a bit more on these elements. Even so, like the previous books in the series, each page is a succession of nice touches wherein the whole is more than the sum of its parts.