I’ve loved Star Wars for as long as I can remember. I’ve seen the Original Trilogy countless times. When I was a kid, I played with the Kenner Star Wars toys. I had lightsaber duels with my little brother — usually with the manufactured, plastic versions, but a stick would do in a pinch. My dad painted a mural of the Ewok Village of the Forest Moon of Endor on the bedroom wall of my childhood home. I’ve played a bunch of video games and board games set in the Star Wars universe. As a “grown up,” I have a remote controlled BB8 and Star Wars Funko figures scattered throughout my bedroom and a Star Wars poster on my wall.
As much as I love Star Wars, I haven’t read many Star Wars books. The ones I tried to read in the past weren’t very good, and I’m not going to spend my time and money reading crap just because it has the Star Wars name on it.
A month ago, though, I was tired from reading emotionally exhausting novels. I had been reading Good Stuff, but those books drained me. I needed something easy and fun to read.
On a whim (because I am a creature of whimsy), I decided to give Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View a try. It is an anthology of forty short stories from forty different writers about various moments in Star Wars: A New Hope, told through the eyes of its supporting characters. The book completely re-energized me. It was so much fun, you guys.
Obviously, before reading this book, you really need to have seen Star Wars: A New Hope (and if you haven’t yet, what’s wrong with you??). This book relies on readers’ familiarity with the film, so anyone that tries to read this but hasn’t seen the movie is going to be lost.
The short stories in this book are arranged to follow the film’s chronology. The first story is set shortly after the events of Rogue One and the final story is set during the celebration on Yavin IV. The usual stable of writers of licensed Star Wars novels (Claudia Gray, Greg Rucka, Chuck Wendig) provided some of the stories, but the work of professional nerds (Wil Wheaton), comic book, movie, and television writers (Paul Dini, Ben Acker, Gary Whitta), and professional Fantasy/Sci-Fi writers (Pierce Brown, Ken Liu, Nnedi Okorafor) is also included in this collection.
The stories don’t have a consistent “vibe.” Some of them are informative, filling in plot-holes from the films. Others are light-hearted romps. And others are sad, tense, or meta. The length of the stories varies from one page to about twenty pages. I can’t review all of the stories in the collection — there are 40 of the things — but the following examples should give you kind of an idea of how the book reads:
- “Raymus” – From the perspective of Captain Antilles after the battle of Scarif (the end of Rogue One). It bridges the gap from when Leia says “Hope” in Rogue One to when Vader chokes the captain. (The movie is 40 years old. It’s not a spoiler).
- “The Sith of Datawork” – From the perspective of an Imperial bureaucrat that helps an officer try to divert the blame for not firing on the escape pods containing the droids.
- “Rites” – From the perspective of the Tusken raiders that attacked Luke.
- “Eclipse” – From the perspective of Leia’s parents on Alderaan as the Death Star attacked.
- “Of MSE-6 and Men” – From the perspective of the mouse droid.
- “The Baptist” – From the perspective of the trash compactor monster.
- “Desert Son” – From the perspective of Biggs during the first Death Star assault.
I was surprised by how much the book humanized Imperial personnel. Whether exhibiting sympathy to the rebels, navigating sexual relationships, or just trying to get through a difficult shift, Imperial officers and stormtroopers are presented as more than just blank, uniform faces of evil. They are people with their own hopes and dreams.
The diversity of perspectives, the nuanced portrayals of the people of the Empire, the plausible explanations for A New Hope’s plot holes, and the variety of emotional experiences provided to the reader make From a Certain Point of View a good book.
There a some flaws, however. Not all forty stories in the collection are winners. I did not finish three or four of them. Fortunately, you can skip right over any story that you don’t like because (1) none of the stories rely on each other and (2) they follow the plot of A New Hope. Also, I had a bit of a problem with the editing. The arrangement of the stories implies that they should work as a seamless experience, a consistent whole. But some of those stories directly contradict the ones that precede them. Those contradictions cannot be explained by “inconsistent eyewitness accounts” or “unreliable narration.” For example, in one story, there are not enough fighters for all of the pilots so a pilot is left out of a battle. In the next story, there are not enough pilots to fly all of the fighters. They both can’t be true. It’s jarring and takes away a bit from the experience. Ultimately, the book is still worth a read, and I recommend it to any fan of Star Wars.
Rating: 4 stars