‘From a Certain Point of View’: A Fresh Perspective of the Many Truths We Cling To

Books Entertainment Reviews

If you’re a Star Wars fan, almost every new book release is cause for eager anticipation. And there’s a reason for that. Nearly every novel in the “new canon” has been, well, great. So the expectations keep getting raised for future releases.

But From a Certain Point of View is something special. Initially teased online with the hashtag #OperationBlueMilk, it began as a mysterious project no one knew much about. Then various authors started to hint at their involvement, and it quickly became apparent that the book was going to be something unique – something groundbreaking.

The book’s subtitle sums up what it is: 40 Stories Celebrating 40 Years of Star Wars. But it’s so much more than that. It’s a wholly original collection of short stories from 40 of today’s most prolific and talented writers. Many of them have written for Star Wars before, yet many have not. This is the first time they’ve contributed to the saga in an official capacity.

As a quick aside: If you’re interested in listening to some great conversations with some of the authors included in From a Certain Point of View, please do check out my chats with Gary Whitta, Christie Golden, John Jackson Miller, Claudia Gray, Wil Wheaton, Pablo Hidalgo, Jeffrey Brown, Ben Blacker, Ian Doescher, Ashley Eckstein, Tom Angleberger, and Marc Thompson (one of the audiobook performers).

Though the book bears some similarities to the Expanded Universe’s Tales books (Tales from the Mos Eisley CantinaTales from Jabba’s Palace, etc.), it is so much more. Through the course of 40 short stories, each author lends his or her specific vision to a particular character or event from the original film (A New Hope), reimagining the events we know so well and granting us a fresh perspective. A new point of view, as it were.

“I may be a country girl who’s never been offplanet, but even I’m aware that when a Jedi walks up to you and says, ‘Here, have a baby,’ it’s not going to end well.” –“Beru Whitesun Lars” by Meg Cabot

Some of these stories feature background characters (the Tonnika Sisters, the Bith Cantina band, Stormtrooper TK-421), and some focus on characters we know incredibly well but let us peek in on scenes not shown in the film (Grand Moff Tarkin, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda). The stories are also presented in “chronological” order, meaning they follow the events of the film.

Reading the book feels like you’re watching an alternative version of A New Hope with dozens of deleted scenes added back in.

Some are laugh-out-loud funny; some are full of heartache. Some are written in the first person; some are in the third person. Several take creative risks with the short-story format, and one strains the very definition of “short story.” But all of them provide a new understanding of time-worn characters and events.

It is, ironically, the most refreshing and consistently engaging Star Wars book I’ve read in a long time.

I should be clear that none of these stories is crucial to “canon.” None reveals major plot elements of upcoming films or reveals universe-altering information. Don’t look here for clues to The Last Jedi. That’s not the point. The point is to celebrate our combined love of the original film and dig deeper into that mutual love.

There are a few references to the events of Rogue One and a few passing nods to the prequel trilogy (Qui-Gon Jinn makes an appearance), but they are largely few and far between. From a Certain Point of View exists squarely in the timeline of A New Hope.

Wrangling this many authors and stories within such a limited, finite amount of storytelling space is no mean feat. I don’t envy the book’s editors for that alone. And for the most part, it’s remarkably successful. There are a few minor inconsistencies I noticed between stories, but nothing that made me want to throw the book across the room.

Also, with this many authors and stories, some will naturally work better than others. And I’ll be honest – the highlights (for me) are not at all where I expected them to be. When I first glanced through the author list, I immediately identified a few that I thought would be favorites. I was wrong. Those that rose to the top came out of the blue. I was not expecting them, which made them so much sweeter.

“110 asks how long they’ve had the droids and they say something. I wasn’t really paying attention, to be honest, because we weren’t that far from the cantina, and I figured if we could wrap this up quick and head over there I could be slurping Jawa juice within the house, blam! But ol’ 110 has other plans, of course, because the Rebel Alliance is really going to rely on an ancient freak and a teenager who needs a haircut to ferry their top-secret cargo around.” –“Born in the Storm” by Daniel Jose Older

I don’t want to spoil any of the stories or plotlines for you, but standouts include Gary Whitta’s “Raymus” (the true bridge between Rogue One – which Whitta wrote – and A New Hope), Daniel Jose Older’s “Born in the Storm” (a riotously funny story presented as an incident report written by one of the Stormtroopers patrolling Mos Eisley), Wil Wheaton’s “Laina” (an absolutely heartbreaking story of parenthood and sacrifice that will leave you shattered), and Madeleine Roux’s “Eclipse” (a gut-wrenching focus on Breha Organa that absolutely needs to become a novel).

Significantly, both Breha Organa (in Roux’s story) and Doctor Aphra (in Kieron Gillen’s “The Trigger,” which ties into A New Hope, I promise) receive their first major prose treatments. We can only hope there will be more to come.

My complaints about the book can be counted on one hand and do nothing to diminish my love of the book as a whole. I wish Jeffrey Brown had been given more pages. His “Far Too Remote” is a single panel comic, which is fitting from the guy who graced us with Darth Vader and Son, but in a book that closes in on 500 pages, a few more comics would’ve been most welcome.

“Your problem is that your entire species thinks itself a sun around which the petty planets and moons spin, but really you’re just another rock, doomed to ever orbit something grander but remain ignorant of your own insignificance.” –“The Secrets of Long Snoot” by Delilah S. Dawson

By contrast, Glen Weldon’s “Of MSE-6 and Men” outlasts its schtick and runs several pages too long. As much as I love Weldon (from Pop Culture Happy Hour and his Superman and Batman books), his story is told from the perspective of a Death Star mouse droid, complete with its own internal coding language. The story he tells around the mouse droid (about a Stormtrooper and an Imperial officer) is compelling, and I would’ve liked THAT story to last longer, but the mouse droid language quickly becomes a chore to wade through.

Finally, I’m on record with my love for Paul Dini, but his “Added Muscle,” which is a brief view into the mind of Boba Fett, was not my favorite. His depiction of the bounty hunter as full of pompous bravado is not in line with my own view of the character – but I’m also not a huge fan of the character, so I’m perfectly willing to concede that this story was not written for me. Still, with the audio version of the book, we’re treated to Jon Hamm’s take on the character – and his entry into the Star Wars universe. So that makes it all worth it.

Speaking of, if you haven’t yet checked out any of the audiobook versions of the recent crop of Star Wars books, might I suggest starting here? Just as the book was written by a superstar crop of authors, the audio version is performed by an all-star cast that includes Ashley Eckstein, Janina Gavankar, Jon Hamm, Neil Patrick Harris, and Marc Thompson.

From a Certain Point of View is a truly special book. It’s one I can see myself returning to, and it’s one that should absolutely be on every Star Wars fan’s shelf. This one raises the bar yet again. It’ll be tough to beat.

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