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The LEGO Adventure Book, Vol. 1: Cars, Castles, Dinosaurs & More!

Publisher: No Starch Press

The LEGO Adventure Book, Vol. 1: Cars, Castles, Dinosaurs & More! is a fun picture book that takes interviews with various LEGO builders and puts them in the form of one builder's travels throughout different LEGO worlds.

Megs, our minifig heroine, represents the book's author, Megan Rothrock, and she travels to 13 different worlds where different LEGO builders talk about their various creations, as well as give some interesting tips about how to build some of their more unusual models.

The book starts with Megs showing the reader how to build some of her own pieces. These include her lab filled with various interesting looking electronic doodads, a robotic assistant, and even her 4x4 truck with a detachable trailer. Once Megs has her lab up and running and her transport ready, she goes to visit the first of the other builders in this book.

Craig Mandeville shows readers how to build several elements that fit well in a small town. One model is a cable car, while another is a coffee shop that can be easily modified for a variety of other buildings. He also shows off a zoo set he put together that includes everything from a car to drive around in to bridges over streams. Before Megs moves on to the next builder, Mandeville also goes over how easy it is to change one model into another with some simple additions or color swaps. This is done primarily with an array of automobiles that come from the same core structure.

Chapter 3 features Are J. Heiseldal, a Norwegian journalist with a penchant for building LEGO hot rods. This section shows how to build one particular hot rod, and then shows off nine others in the same vein. This short section is followed up by models built by Moritz Nolting. Nolting's models look like a variety of earth movers and construction equipment. His first example is called the Jacknife, a low-profile vehicle obviously designed for major off-road activity. What's great about this particular model is that it can easily break off into pieces and be put back together in a variety of ways for different purposes. Nolting also shows off a cave creature he calls Brutus.

From there, Megs interviews Jon Hall, a builder who likes to try his hand at some interesting aeronautical designs. He shows off quite a few designs, including some asymmetrical ones that really catch the eye. He also shows how to build a plane he dubs The Phoenix.

Next is Pete Reid who puts a lot of detail work into his robotic factory that assembles turtle drones that remind me a lot of some robots from Ghost in the Shell. From there, Megs interviews a builder who likes to take on space fighters. Peter Morris shows off a couple of his sets and also talks about the importance of building the ship around the right kind of cockpit. Before moving on, Morris gives some inspirational models for about 10 different ships he has built in the past.

Not too far from the starship models are mechas. These giant walking robots are presented to the reader by Mark Stafford. Stafford not only shows off several mecha designs of his own, but he also talks about the importance of balance and weight distribution. He gives instructions on how to build a particular model and then gives some inspirational examples that include everything from a money-driven robot to a four-legged dog looking model and even one with five legs arranged in a star pattern.

Megs next goes back in time to talk to Aaron Andrews who shows off his medieval models. He starts off by showing how to build a simple horse and cart, but then goes on to build a medieval house, complete with a mixture of wood and stone segments to really sell that old-world feel. There is a lot of detail in this model. The builder even shows a technique for making a stone wall appear to have some blocks protrude out a little more than the rest to give it that nice uneven feel.

Andrews shows off a couple more buildings done in this style including an impressive looking yellow castle that was inspired by one of LEGO's first playsets. After delving into the medieval models, Megs meets up with Mike Psiaki who builds LEGO dinosaurs. Not only does Psiaki show off a model of a Pterosaur, but he also goes through the steps to build a Stegosaurus and a Tyrannosaurus Rex, with a couple of variants to keep things interesting.

The next chapter in The LEGO Adventure Book was one of the more interesting sections. Katie Walker not only shows how to build a nice garden and girl-friendly swimming pool, but she also delves into the subject of mosaics. Walker shows off several patterns that show just how well LEGO pieces can fit together, even in ways that don't actually involve snapping them together with the studs. Some of Walker's more impressive arrangements used all tile pieces turned on their side and fit perfectly into a frame. Her section of the book shows picture after picture of intricate designs built into floors and walls of vast rooms.

After Walker's mosaics, Megs goes on to talk to Carl Geatrix, a LEGO Model Designer for TT Games, the people responsible for the highly successful series of LEGO videogames featuring many themed playsets. Apparently, when not designing LEGO-based levels, Greatrix likes to build trainsets, typically of the steam-powered variety. He goes over how to build a classic Jinty Tank Engine as well as showing many detailed shots for his recreation of the Corfe Castle Station in Southern England.

As The LEGO Adventure Book, Vol. 1 wraps up, it covers the steampunk stylings of Sylvain Amacher who uses gears, tubes and copper-toned bricks to truly sell the mechanisms that do everything from act as a giant one-wheeled vehicle to large grabber arms mounted to the back of a minifigure to a fully fledged "Urban Steam Monorail" that is held suspended above the street. Amacher also shows off a few steampunk-inspired robots and mechas.

The book's last chapter deals with Daniel August Krentz, a retired LEGO designer who is responsible for that aforementioned classic yellow castle. He shows off some rather unusual buildings that do what they can to break away from the grid-based system. He does this by having archways go diagonally across the grid or even using 1x1 pieces to allow a plate or brick to rise just far enough above the studs so that it can swing in unexpected directions. He even reveals the geometry behind the grids so that a builder can know exactly how far or at what angles various types of bricks can snap into place.

The LEGO Adventure Book, Vol. 1: Cars, Castles, Dinosaurs & More! is a fun book to help inspire potential LEGO builders (both professional and hobbyists) into thinking outside of the instruction books. It shows off a wide variety of models and does so in a way that it should keep most younger readers interested. After all, most of the book's text is the Megs minifigure talking to one of the minifigures that represents the various builders in the book.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

Related Links:

Sound Learning Node Novel The Unofficial LEGO Builder's Guide, 2nd Edition

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated