From a Certain Point of View

Author: Various Authors
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Del Rey Books

A Review by Jameson Hampton

The story of Luke, Leia and Han Solo striking a blow to the Empire in Star Wars Episode IV is one that we all know and love. But have you ever spared much thought for the less memorable characters? Have you ever wondered why the bartender at the cantina didn’t allow droids in his bar? Have you spent time thinking about what stormtroopers do on their days off? Ever wanted to know the backstory of the red astromech that blew up before it could go work for Uncle Owen? Or even how that tentacle monster got into that trash compactor?

If you’re anything like me and have spent inordinate amounts of time thinking about stuff like this, then you’re in luck. Now that it’s been 40 years since the theatrical release of Episode IV, the Star Wars creative team has given us From a Certain Point of View. This book is a series of 40 short stories wherein we can relive the original story that we love so much.

And relive it we do, because all of the stories in this new book take place during A New Hope – but from different perspectives than the original movie. Seeing the same events through the eyes of minor and background characters gives us a wealth of new insights on the myriad of other things that were going on during the fateful days leading up to the destruction of the Death Star, on the other side of the galaxy or just on the other side of the cantina.

It’s a fun concept, to be sure! In case the idea wasn’t enough to hook you, it features a pretty star-studded collection of authors as well. As a big fan of the other novels in the new Star Wars canon, there was a handful of names that jumped out to me immediately: Pablo Hidalgo, Chuck Wendig, Claudia Gray, and Delilah S. Dawson, in particular. Gary Whitta, who recently wrote Rogue One, was also a stand out for me! Ashley Eckstein was also an interesting name to see with a writing credit, since she’s known mainly for her work as the voice actor for Ahsoka Tano.

Beyond Star Wars writers specifically, there were some other big names: Wil Wheaton, who needs no introduction, Meg Cabot, the author of the Princess Diaries series, and Griffin McElroy, particularly popular recently for his work on The Adventure Zone. And this is just a smattering of the talent that’s brought to the table for From a Certain Point of View.

With 40 stories and all the background characters in A New Hope to play with, there’s a lot of storytelling threads to explore. Nearly all of the stories are good, but there are some standouts that are absolutely excellent. Griffin McElroy’s “Stories in the Sand” spins a tale about a Jawa who imagines a life beyond Tatooine that awakened my wanderlust and made me long to travel the stars. “Eclipse” by Madeleine Roux is a heartbreaking account of Breha Organa’s last days on Alderaan, her love for her people and for her daughter, Leia. “The Baptist” by Nnedi Okorafor uncovers the rich cultural history of the dignified creature who lives in the Death Star’s trash compactor and how she came to exist there.

Pablo Hidalgo’s “Verge of Greatness” and Beth Revis’ “Fully Operational” are both personal favorites of mine because of the way they integrate with the Rogue One story, exploring how the events of Scarif and the absence of Director Orson Krennic affected the other high ranking Imperials. “Contingency Plan” by Alexander Freed investigates what Mon Mothma was doing during the battle of Yavin and contemplates how close the rebellion was to failure and dissolution. Claudia Gray’s “Master and Apprentice” includes perhaps my favorite descriptions of Obi-Wan that I’ve ever come across. And these are not the only excellent stories, only a small sampling of the joy and heartbreak this book has to offer.

Even though the individual stories aren’t really connected to each other beyond being part of the Episode IV narrative, the book does have a sort of cohesive feel to it. A theme that came up over and over in the stories is that every character is a real person who has their own hopes and fears. Every pilot that died in the Battle of Yavin was a person. Every stormtrooper, whether they truly believed in the Empire or secretly doubted it, was a person.

And even though the story has a happy ending where the Death Star is destroyed and the day is saved, it’s still a story that’s steeped heavily with death. Even though it ends with a celebration, a lot of grief has been shared and is still being processed. A lot of people had to endure a lot of tragedy to get the rebellion to that point and they will carry that trauma with them forever. From a Certain Point of View examines and honors that trauma and that grief.

One of my favorite things about Star Wars is the size of the universe that it exists in, the fact that so many things are happening at once all over the galaxy and all those pieces fit together kind of like a puzzle. Everything about this book served to highlight that feeling. Even as our heroes were worrying about the Death Star problem, Lando Calrissian was in a different part of the galaxy in the midst of a high stakes gambling game. Doctor Aphra was salvaging droid parts from an abandoned rebel base on Dantooine. Smugglers on Tatooine were devising a caper to help them pay their rent. Rebel lookouts on Yavin were saying goodbye to their families, knowing they may not see each other again for a long while.

I’ll admit there were a couple sections that dragged a bit; both the cantina scene and the battle of Yavin had a lot of stories that started to feel a little repetitive. But in the end, I appreciated the feeling they created – that the world of Star Wars is big, complex, messy, and nuanced. Just like the real world, but better, because it’s in space.

From a Certain Point of View really delivers a refreshing take on a story we already know very well, even though it’s named after one of the worst lines in the Star Wars franchise. (No, Obi-Wan, it wasn’t “from a certain point of view,” you were just a liar!)

Verdict
Buy it! I like this trend of using new Star Wars media to change the way we think about old Star Wars media. Rogue One already made me look at Episode IV differently and this book has deepened my understanding and emotions about it considerably.

Also, here’s a tip from me: consider re-watching A New Hope right before you start From a Certain Point of View! A fresh viewing with particular attention given to some of the characters in the background will pay off big time as you go through this book, learning about each of their histories.

Jameson Hampton
jameybash@gmail.com
Jamey is a non-binary adventurer from Buffalo, NY who wishes they were immortal so they’d have time to visit every coffee shop in the world. They write code, like plants, record podcasts, categorize zines and read tarot cards. Ask them about Star Wars or Vampire: the Masquerade if you dare.

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