Assassination! by Brendan Powell Smith, 2013, Skyhorse Publishing
Please note that I'm posting this same review across all my blogs, but I'm appending some blog-specific information at the end of each one.
For many years now I've beein reviewing Brendan Powell Smith's work, and up till now it has all been about his LEGO take on biblical material. When I heard his newest book was on a different topic altogether, I have to admit I was disappointed. For some time now I've been hoping he would do a version of the Psalms and the Prophets - I think those texts would provide a great opportunity for imaginitive LEGO interpretations. I have to say, though, that I was very pleasantly surprised. Assassination! is, in a word, terrific. This 272 page hardcover book is filled with over 400 LEGO illustrations, detailing the history of US president assassinations and assassination attempts.
The illustrations are top-notch. Back in the early days of Brendan's Brick Testament project his landscapes were often flat and the photos fairly sparse, but a decade of LEGO illustration has changed all of that. The images are all 100% LEGO from edge to edge, and they are richly detailed. He has taken full advantage of the wide range of LEGO elements that have come out in recent years, as well as custom accessories by third party AFOL dealers (SaberScorpion's custom decals of the presidents' faces are particularly good). Brendan's building has steadily progressed over the years, and he has a keen eye for composing scenes.
But, unlike some LEGO books, this isn't just about the pictures. The text is also really good. Brendan covers the four presidential assassinations and a great number of the attempts that have happened over the past two hundred years of US history. He takes great delight into going into some of the quirky facts around these cases, often delving into the odd backstories of the perpetrators. I felt that I knew a fair amount about some of these - Licoln, due to his importance to US history, Kennedy, because you can hardly turn on the History channel without some new documentary on him, and the attempt on Reagan's life, because I remember it quite well - but I still learned quite a lot on these, not to mention some of the less prominent attempts that I didn't know anything about. I was fascinated, and sat and read it cover to cover in about three hours, pausing to pore over the pictures.
I can't recommend this book highly enough. I still have several LEGO books to read through from this recent set of offerings, but I am fairly certain that the combination of great images and compelling text will make this my favorite LEGO book of 2013. Certainly all US AFOLs should get this, but I think that even non-Americans with an interest in history would find this quite enjoyable.
Blog-specific content - In several places Brendan uses microscale buildings in the backdrop for forced perspective.