Book Review: ‘LEGO Space: Building the Future’ is a triple treat

Posted 6 years ago by Books

Lego Space: Building the Future

Lego Space and I go way back. I vividly remember going to my neighbor Jason’s house when I was young to play the sci-fi-themed building blocks. It must’ve been 1980 or ’81 and Lego had introduced its space theme just a few years earlier.

Jason was lucky enough to have most every set. We would pool all the loose bricks together and take turns picking pieces. Then we’d head to a separate corner of his bedroom to build a massive space ship. The goal was to out-cool the other person with our creation.

For us it was all about the build rather than imaginative play. We didn’t need to role play to enjoy Lego. That was the beauty of the toys. Lego’s multiple dimensions of enjoyment are part of its success all these years.

Peter Reid and Tim Goddard employee these aspects in their new book. “Lego Space: Building the Future” from No Starch Press is like three books in one. It’s an unofficial how-to manual for creating unique vehicles and robots. It’s also a sci-fi narrative that imagines our space exploration future through Lego. Finally, it serves as a stunning photo book to showcase the authors’ elaborate creations in various dioramas used to illustrate the story.

The book begins as a history lesson. It briefly recounts the first 50 years of mankind’s journey into space. From Sputnik, the first man-made satellite in 1957, to 2012’s Curiosity rover on Mars. The lesson includes instructions to build your own Sputnik.

LEGO space spread

Science fact becomes science fiction as the authors invent a future where Earth’s nations cooperate to build an earth base in 2069. The early ships of this global Federation echo the history of Lego’s line of space sets. Everything starts as grey and blue just like the first decade of Lego Space releases now known as Classic Space. While Lego’s own early ships were flat and primitive, the ones by Reid and Goddard are complex and visually interesting.

Through various sidebars on the personnel and technology, the book’s narrative plods along. Classic space gives way to Inhospitable Climate Engineers. It’s an obvious nod to the Lego Group’s Ice Planet sub theme from the early ’90s. Again, the creations in the book far surpass anything the real Lego company was doing at the time.

We learn of notable leaders and technologists in this imagined future as it stretches into the 26th Century. The mini figure population, with their iconic Lego Space logo emblazoned on their chest, get names and personalities. As you’d expect from a decent sci-fi tale, a nefarious figure emerges.

Lego Space book spread

Quite honestly, the story takes a back seat to the creations and scenery in the book. The tone is very academic. It’s all explained to us in a dry tone with no dialogue aside from a few pull quotes. The book’s size and hardcover backing adds to this textbook feel.

I doubt the authors would disagree with this assessment. The story is ancillary to the creations showcased. The lack of compelling story also doesn’t detract from the brilliant photography. The detailed dioramas are beautifully lit and the shots masterfully composed.

I have to wonder the extraordinary cost that went into the making of this book. No so much the photography equipment but the volume of Lego bricks. Anyone who has bought a decent-sized Lego set for themselves or as a gift knows that the toys aren’t cheap. Furthermore, each elaborate creation in the book makes use of some specialized pieces. There aren’t a lot of common bricks or plates used.

Lego Space book spread

That’s the real downside to the accompanying instructions. Most kids will not have the vast inventory of fiddly pieces most sets call for. For instance, to make a Sputnik, one of the more basic creations shown, you need two small domes and 8 dot plates with a hole in the center. In the footlocker-sized brick collection I’ve amassed with my son, I don’t think we have even one of these special dots, nor a dome. That will surely frustrate a number of builders.

But again, the bright, pulsating stars of this book are the awe-inspiring creations. We may not have the time or Lego stash to replicate these works but we can appreciate the work and ogle the photographs. That makes this book a fun flip-through.

Peter Reid's Exo Suit

It’s worth noting that one of the more awesome builds featured in this unauthorized book is set for official Lego release. Thanks to CUUSOO, Lego will be producing Peter Reid’s Exo Suit. This is only the sixth fan-made set to be released by the Lego Group. You can expect it in stores mid-2014.

“Lego Space: Building the Future” is now available in stores and online. With its triple appeal and 216 full-color pages, it’s very reasonably priced at a $24.95 list. Better yet, Amazon has it for only $15.78.

Lego Space: Building the Future book cover