Monday, 25 July 2016

Micro Machines

I've previously reviewed and enjoyed a couple of books that Mattia Zamboni has been involved with, notably Amazing Vehicles and its sequel More Amazing Vehicles both of which he co-wrote with Nathanael Kuipers. When publisher No Starch Press got in touch to let me know that Mattia had a new book on the way, therefore, I was keen to take a look....

Mattia, a LEGO-loving graphic designer from Switzerland, has collaborated with contributors from around the globe to produce Tiny LEGO Wonders, a book which celebrates microscale models. The book's release is well-timed, with microscale seemingly firmly in fashion right now if the number of related magazine articles, books, official LEGO releases and MOCs is anything to go by. Each of the eleven contributors has submitted a number of microscale designs, making a total of forty designs in all which are showcased in the book.

The book is organised around ten themed chapters, each of which provides a suitable setting for a number of featured microscale builds. Each chapter kicks off with a two-page spread showing a brick-built microscale diorama, for example the scene above which illustrates the "Fire!" chapter, and the featured builds are suitably positioned within this diorama. These brick-built backdrops are generally superbly realised, and for me they're a real highlight of the book - a perfect reminder of the surprising level of detail that can be captured at this scale.

Each chapter showcases up to six themed microscale builds. First up we have "The Train Station" which includes three trains and a touring coach, followed by "The Airport", "Fire!" and so on. It's immediately evident that the featured builds, which include the Intercity Express above, are really quite impressive and of a consistently high quality. As you'll have noticed from the picture above, being showcased in the book doesn't just mean the inclusion of a couple of pretty photographs - each featured design is accompanied by an inventory of the elements needed to build it, and also a set of building instructions, thus allowing the reader to relatively easily reproduce the designs themselves.

The TGV Bullet Train above, which many LEGO fans will immediately recognise as a microscale version of an official LEGO set - 10233 Horizon Express - is one of my favourite builds featured in the book, although it's only one of many genuinely eye-catching designs on offer including a superb bulk carrier, a collection of excellent Formula 1 cars, a cracking little F-15 Eagle, a space shuttle plus crawler transporter, and many more. While the majority of builds are representations of real vehicles, the book does eventually deviate into fantasy territory with a number of sc-fi military vehicles featured in the final chapter, "The Moon Army". Overall, there's a nice varied selection of vehicles included in the book, although it's a crying shame that the scope doesn't extend to other types of models as well, for instance buildings, or perhaps even some of the environmental features which appear in the superb brick-built dioramas.

Before you can build anything you'll obviously have to accumulate the necessary elements and that's when things become tricky. Mattia's previous books featured designs which could all be built in their entirety using the elements contained in just one inexpensive Creator set, which I thought was an absolutely genius idea. In contrast, however, the elements needed to construct the 40 microscale builds in this book, or even just a couple of them, aren't to my knowledge readily available in a single set. Furthermore, my impression is that for many of the builds, some of the constituent elements probably aren't the kind that you're likely to have lying around in any quantity either, necessitating a visit to the likes of Bricklink. For the average AFOL that's probably not going to be a big deal, but for the more casual LEGO fan, sourcing the parts needed to build even the simplest of the models as designed could potentially be quite a challenge.

Looking beyond the actual content for a moment, I'm pleased to report that the book's presentation is up to the usual high standards that we've come to expect from No Starch Press. It sports a hard cover, and the quality of printing, photography and digital renders is excellent throughout the book's 200 pages. While I'm yet to attempt any of the builds myself, the instructions look to be clear and fairly easy to follow; although they lack the part callouts that LEGO routinely includes in building instructions these days, the builds are small and simple enough that this shouldn't be a problem for most builders.

In summary, Tiny LEGO Wonders is a beautifully presented book which is a pleasure to browse. It contains 40 microscale vehicle designs of consistently high quality, and the accompanying parts inventories and building instructions mean that readers can in theory attempt the builds for themselves. Furthermore, the book includes a number of delicious microscale backdrops within which the featured models are displayed, and to be honest if these fail to inspire then perhaps microscale building just isn't for you.  On the downside, in contrast to the author's previous books which showcased models which could be built with the elements contained in just one inexpensive set, elements needed to construct the featured microscale builds here aren't to my knowledge available in a single set and would therefore likely have to be sourced from the likes of Bricklink which might put off less experienced builders. Also, it's disappointing that only vehicle designs are included in the book; the dioramas provide a tantalising glimpse of the kind of impressive structures and scenery that can be built at this scale, and it would have been great if parts inventories and instructions for a few non-vehicle builds had been included as well. All things considered, however, it's easy to recommend Tiny LEGO Wonders, and I'm looking forward to attempting a few of the builds myself....

Tiny LEGO Wonders will be available from the end of this month. At the time of writing, Amazon's UK site is quoting an RRP of £13.50 for the book which to me seems pretty good value for a 200-page hardback, especially as Amazon are slightly discounting the book; please use the Gimme LEGO affiliate link here to purchase if you're thinking of buying from Amazon in the UK. Amazon are also selling the book at a discount in the U.S., and you can find the link here.

Many thanks to Siobhan at No Starch Press for sending me a copy of the book to review on Gimme LEGO.

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