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Luigi Toiati will be a name familiar to most of our readers, both as an author and the creator of the Garibaldi rage of toy figures, as well as the guest illustrator/cartoonist for many of our articles Like his previous book on Toy Soldiers (reviewed in Vol 43, No 3),1 this is a very personal take on this particular topic. Like the author, I had never thought of Sci Fi Figures as an especially large subject area. Indeed, this material was originally intended as a chapter within Luigi’s previous book. However, rather like Dr Who’s Tardis, once you get into it, there appears to be much more to see than seemed to be the case from the outside.

As an avid consumer of Science Fiction in my youth, voraciously consuming the works of Izaac Azimov, Robert Heinlein, Frank Herbert, Philip K. Dick and Ursula Le Guin, I was looking forward to reading Luigi Toiati’s latest book, not just as a toy figure collector but as a Sc Fi fan. I was not disappointed.

It has turned out to be an enormous undertaking, requiring herculean efforts! I never really got into
collecting space figures, despite enjoying film and TV series such as Star Trek, Star Wars, Dr Who and
many more. Luigi’s book has opened my eyes to a whole new world! The problem now is where to begin!

This is a scholarly and personal work with many literary references. Anyone just expecting a picture book, will find their “little grey cells” stretched! The book is divided into two distinct parts. The focus in Part 1 – A Short History of Sci-Fi is on the definition and history of this literary genre.

This may not be to everyone’s taste. But, as the author points out, those buying the book have effectively purchased two books for the price of one! And at just under $35 (£25), if someone choses to read only one part, there is no great financial disincentive to prevent them from doing so.

Chapters 1-4 deal with the history and morphology of science fiction, in order to give the reader an overall view of this literary genre (if it can be so called, as the author discusses in detail). These chapters are more about Sci Fi than Sci Fi figures. The term science fiction was coined by publisher Hugo Gernsbach almost 100 years ago, to refer to the predominantly ‘space’ adventures covered in his magazines. Others have since debated exactly what falls under the Sci Fi heading and Luigi airs these debates in some detail. At the end of the day, he comes back to the focus on space-related themes. As the author himself puts it:

“So, we can say, ‘in the beginning was the space toy figurine’! Designed and built for children to play with, either by making them relive the adventures they had read, heard of or seen, or by allowing their imagination to run wild through the routes of space.”

Part 2 Sci-fi Figurines and Other Trifles does not start until page 204. However, the next 300 pages provide a joyous and colourful guide through the worlds that a huge number of manufacturers, from many different countries, have tried to conjure up to bring Sci Fi to life in the playroom. While the author does not claim to have provided a comprehensive coverage of the subject, it is hard to spot any serious gaps. As the author emphasizes, this book is not intended as an encyclopaedia, nor a compete catalogue of all existing figurines (almost certainly an impossible task). Rather it is a guided tour or promenade through the amazing worlds conjured up by authors and materialised by figurine makers. Luigi encourages us as readers, to pause and reflect; to enjoy the walk and take in the scent of the roses along the way.

Lavishly illustrated, with almost 500 photos, the book covers the full range of Sci Fi figures produced
across the planet since such figures were first produced!

book cover the history of science fiction and its toy figures

What the author refers to as the Golden Age, when such figures were first introduced in the 1930s,
through to the 21st century focus on the latest blockbuster movies (and all the merchandising associated with them), are all covered in this volume. Britains of course were one of the early pioneers in this area, with their highly sought after Buck Rogers series. But for them this was a sideline. Other British hollowcast makers took up the baton with rather more success in the 1950s. Britains more recent forays into Space were less successful, as the book make clear.

Star Wars didn’t just change Hollywood, it changed the way toys were made and marketed. This is an ongoing tale of merchandizing associated with Sci Fi themes such as Transformers, etc. This has been
dominated by U.S. manufacturers.

All this is covered in the book, but Luigi attempts to give a flavour of such toys worldwide, focusing on
many other countries that will be less familiar to an English-speaking audience. It will serve as an excellent reference work for those interested in starting a collection or building on an existing one, but also provides a thought provoking and entertaining read. It contains a useful index of makers, with links back to the main text as well as a comprehensive bibliographies covering both Sci Fi as well as Sci Fi figurines. The latter is rather idiosyncratically ordered to someone used to the academic author, data system, but fit for purpose once you get the hang of it. If you have any interest in Sci Fi and Sci figures this is a must buy.

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