The TIE fighter is one of the most iconic ships in Star Wars. It’s only second to the Millennium Falcon in fan recognition- but how much do you really know about it? The TIE Fighter Owners’ Manual takes a deep dive into the TIE fighter’s history, including some surprisingly detailed schematics for each model.
Editors note: A review copy was provided to me. The opinions are my own.
First off, I have to come clean. I wasn’t really surprised at how detailed the ship schematics are in the TIE Fighter Owners’ Manual (which is officially titled STAR WARS: TIE Fighter: Owners’ Workshop Manual but we’re taking shortcuts). I saw the Millennium Falcon workshop manual Haynes put out last year, so I had some idea what to expect. That said, I was still impressed. Creators Ryder Windham, Chris Reiff, and Chris Trevas put a lot of work into breaking the ship down part by part.
The TIE fighter is a really flexible ship, meant to be adaptable to fight in different purposes and environments with relatively minor alterations. The book reflects that by opening with an in-depth look at the base model. We see the body and wings like the other models, but also multiple views, a wing cutaway that exposes the interior workings, a review of the targeting computer, cutaways of both engines – oh, and flight controls. They went crazy on the flight controls. There are literally 17 points of detail on the controls. I’m knocking that down to 15 because they labeled two structural supports, but it still makes me feel like I could use this to fly a TIE Fighter.
The book is pretty satisfying to hold. It’s just a little thicker than real-world workshop manuals but looks comparable next to them on my shelf. The cover successfully fended off a dog-related soda incident. That may have been because I tilted the liquid off really fast, but it did stand up to a quick wipe and still looks great up in that header picture.
Don’t skip the flavor text on this book! Most Star Wars fans know at least a little about the TIE fighter, particularly that they don’t usually have hyperdrives or environmental support. The TIE Fighter Owners’ Manual gives so much more insight into just how little the Empire cared about the actual pilots that fly these ships. Pilots have to be in full environmental suits. There’s not much protection, and with no hyperdrive, they have to rejoin their cruiser or drift in space until their air runs out. I found a fun line in one chapter introduction:
The Emperor insists that the Imperial starfighters should be economical for mass production, and designed to make pilots simultaneously dedicated and compliant.
Compliant, because if they weren’t obedient they might not get let back on the ship after a battle. Chills, guys. You would not catch me signing up to be a fighter pilot in the Empire. I can see why Han Solo had such a problem working for these guys.
So, who is the TIE Fighter Owners’ Manual for? Here’s who I think would be into this:
- Trivia Fans – This is an officially licensed work. That means everything in here is fair game for Star Wars trivia contests, which is a big deal since so much of the previous body of Star Wars work is no longer canon.
- Gamers – Players of the various Star Wars tabletop role playing games are going to love this. Besides the system-independent ship details, there are background notes and plot hooks galore in the flavor text.
- Writers – This is probably on the desk of every writer working in the official fiction ‘verse, so you know it’s gonna be gold for fanfic.
- Gearheads – I love the Millennium Falcon manual, but I have to give the TIE Fighter Owners’ Manual the edge in being interesting to mechanically inclined nerds. There’s just more to work with since there are way more models of the TIE fighter.
On a technical level, the book seems much better edited than the previous manual. No typos in major character names! After they misspelled Rey’s name in the YT-1300 manual I was sure they’d slip somewhere, but none jumped out at me.
Now for what I didn’t like. I have two small criticisms. First, the custom art is amazing, but some of the the Star Wars screen grabs are blurry or poorly framed. I know that’s probably because the original movies were older and they wanted to include lots of original screen grabs, just… I can’t help wondering if they might have done better to use more custom art in those places.
Second, it’s weird the lengths the creators go to justify why Kylo Ren’s ship is so incredibly different (but still a TIE fighter!). Apparently he’s flying a prototype and they’re going to be rolling off the lines any day now. Really? You put your boss in the prototype ship? I’m going to headcanon that Kylo Ren just yoinked it off the lines and now the engineers are sweating bullets that he’ll die and they’ll all be executed.
The TIE Fighter Owners’ Manual is available on Amazon as well as Barnes & Noble. It’s at a pretty average price point for a hardcover, full glossy book at $24.99. Since it just came out at the end of May it might be hard to find; if it’s not at your local store, you can also order it from the publisher.
Khai is a writer, anthropologist, and game enthusiast. She can talk fandom in five languages, and her proudest nerd moment so far was presenting original research titled “Gender, Sex, and Werewolves” at an international anthropological conference. Her first game, None For Me, is due out from Calico Games early next year.
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