Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View by Elizabeth Schaefer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This collection had all kinds of stories, from dramas to silly stories. I loved it! Here are my reviews per story:
Raymus (Gary Whitta) – a story from the point of view of the captain side so is boarded at the beginning of A New Hope. The anthology starts off well by giving some pathos to one of the first characters to did in the movie. It gets a little sadder when you find out where he’s from.
The Bucket (Christie Golden) – This continues the modern (although I’m sure there are older antecedents) trend of finding sympathy in enemy troops. A recognition that, to some degree, soldiers are following orders and also ?patriotic motives. It’s really just the point of view that makes a difference. So we follow one stormtrooper in the opening scene of A New Hope as he captures Princess Leia. We see his conflicted emotions. Overall, not too surprising now that we’ve had a bunch of seasons of Clone Wars and the other Star Wars cartoons.
The Sith of Datawork (Ken Liu) – A story about someone who works in the IT department for The Empire. We often just look at the exciting parts of war – the soldiers. The same goes, of course, for spy fiction or police procedurals. There’s been a trend over the last decade (including a british show I came across on PBS) depicting the IT department or at least the folks back in the office that are enablers to those on the front. It’s a refreshing understanding that there’s a giant logistics trail to the battlefront. (An understanding, or lack thereof, that has led to wars being prosecuted correctly or incorrectly going all the way back to Julius Caesar) The tale turns out to be a fun little bit of bureaucratic obfuscation.
Stories in the Sand (Griffin McElroy) – Griffin gives a sense of humanity and intelligence to the Jawas. In the movie they’re just child-like traders. But by seeing their thoughts and their wants and needs, they become even more. I’m really starting to like this anthology a lot.
Reirin (Sabaa Tahir) – Another story to humanize one of the faceless, seemingly monstrous inhabitants of Tatooine. This time it’s a sand raider who wants off-planet. An interesting parallel to our usual main character – Luke Skywalker. This is the first story that, as far as I can tell, doesn’t link directly to the plot of A New Hope.
The Red One (Rae Carson) – changes the story of the droid that breaks two seconds after Luke/Uncle Owen buy it from a sad, comedic beat to one of self-sacrifice. Very creative – I wouldn’t have thought someone could really change the emotions behind that moment.
Rites (John Jackson Miller) – The Tuskan Raiders that attack Luke get a backstory. I appreciated many aspects of this story more for having seen the second season of The Mandalorian and his fight with the creatures on Tatooine.
Master and Apprentice (Claudia Gray) – For the first time, the perspective of a Force Ghost. We get a beautiful short story between Qui-Gon and Obi-Won in which the old master gives some comfort to his old Padawan. It also suggests that Ben was not alone the entire time on Tatooine. I guess if the Kenobi TV show gets off the ground we may see some of this undone (if any of it was ever blessed as canon), but I truly like the idea.
Beru Whitesun Lars (Meg Cabot) – A bit of a cheat since we’re hearing from Beru from beyond the grave, but it’s not as though it’s an uncommon technique in movies and books. It allows us to get to know Beru a bit better. Of all the characters who have received more of a backstory, however, she’s needed it the least. The actor that played her in the movies conveyed a lot of warmth and a lot of her love for Luke was apparent. This isn’t to say that Cabot shouldn’t have written the story. It’s just that she was already well-humanized. (I guess Qui-Gon didn’t need his story either, although it does make Ben’s time on Tatooine less sad)
The Luckless Rhodian (Renee Ahdieh) – A Greedo story that actually makes him less sympathetic. He seems to be a bitter person who hates everyone else and is “racist” against everyone at the Cantina.
Not for Nothing (Mur Lafferty) – really fun story about the cantina band. Presented as an excerpt from a memoir written by one of the band members. I thought it was nice and witty.
We don’t serve their kind here (Chuck Wendigo) – we learn that the bartender at the Most Eisley Cantina hates droids because of the Clone Wars.
The Kloo Horn Cantina Caper (Kelly Sue Deconnick and Matt Fraction) – The longest story so far, it’s another cantina story that covers a bunch of lesser-knowns in the cantina. Tone totally matches what I know from Fraction and Deconnick’s comics.
Added Muscle (Paul Dini) – Dini gives us Boba Fett’s perspective on the newly added scene from the special edition where Jaba confronts Han Solo and Solo steps on Jaba’s tail. It’s funny reading this while watching The Book of Boba Fett. Dini’s Fett is more of a jerk as in the movies. Fett from the TV show is a more sympathetic character, and not just because he’s the main character. So definitely some cognitive dissonance here. But I liked Dini’s writing.
You Owe Me a Ride (Zoraida Cordova) – First story that, I think, really almost has nothing to do with the movies. I don’t remember these characters at all. But it’s a fun story of sisterhood. Definitely enjoyable.
The Secrets of Long Snoot (Delilah S. Dawson) – At first it seems that this is going to be like previous story and not tie into the main story of A New Hope. But then it turns out the Long Snoot was the one who alerted the storm troopers to where The Millenium Falcon was berthed.
Born in the Storm (Daniel Jose Older) – Told in the form of an after-action report, we get to hear from one of the troopers that Kenobi uses Jedi mind tricks on when their speeder is stopped. It’s a pretty fun story with a great framing device.
Laina (Wil Weaton) – A rebel on Yavin sends his young daughter away in case the moon base is attacked.
Fully Operational (Beth Revis) – What I like most about this story is the realism. It involves one of the men who’s in the room where we first see Vader force choke someone. He believes that perhaps there is a weakness in the Death Star. However all the older men consider him to be paranoid. This makes sense. There can be (at times) an irrational faith in the power of one’s military and leadership chain, but it’s never 100%. There’s always someone doubting. What changes history is whether folks listen to that person or not.
An Incident Report (Mallory Ortberg) – Another story (like Born in the Storm) that involves a bureaucratic report. This time it’s the guy who Vader force-chokes writing a report to try and get Vader reigned in. I like the tone, it’s not explicitly funny, but there is a slight dark humor to it since we know what happens in the greater story of A New Hope.
Change of Heart (Elizabeth Wein) – a look at the horrors one has to endure when working for the evil empire. Very well written.
Eclipse (Madeline Roux) – a story to humanize Leia’s adopted parents. It helps bring some human sympathy to a tragedy as large as the destruction of an entire planet.
Verge of Greatness (Pablo Hidalgo) – A Tarkin character study that shows his ambition. I’m curious if all this knowledge about Scarif is from Rogue One (which I have not seen) or from the Extended Universe.
Far Too Remote (Jeffrey Brown) – a one-panel comic about Leia’s deception about Dantooine.
The Trigger (Kieron Gillen) – an intergalactic Indiana Jones type gets caught up in the imperial sweep of Dantooine after Leia says that’s the rebel HQ.
Of MSE-6 and Men (Glen Waldon) – A story about the little mouse droid that Chewbacca yells at. At first I thought it was going to just be silly because of the subject matter, but then it turned into a story about a relationship between some folks in the imperial forces. And then it tied in again with A New Hope with the stormtrooper. Very clever, Mr. Waldon.
Bump (Ben Acker/Ben Blacker) – Once again we’re with one of the stormtroopers who Kenobi used the Jedi Mind Trick on. The authors use it to explore what it might be like to have had your will messed with like that.
End of Watch (Adam Christopher) – coincides with Han Solo taking over a section of the Death Star. I don’t remember there ever being women in the imperial military originally (before the prequels or tv shows).
The Baptist (Nnedi Okorafor) – Okorafor gives the monster in the trash compactor sentience and a purpose. And why not? It’s a sort of prejudice against non-bipedal creatures to think it’s just a monster. It also, and maybe I’m reading too much into it, read somewhat as a metaphor for slavery through kidnapping. Very neat story.
Time of Death (Cavan Scott) – Scott has Kenobi relive his live after death so we can learn why he never trained Luke.
There is Another (Gary D Schmidt) – about Yoda’s love in the first movie. Best part is that he would prefer to train Leia, not Luke.
Palpatine (Ian Doescher) – a fascinating and strange short in which Palpatine appears to exist in a Shakespeare play.
Sparks (Paul S Kemp) – a tale from one of the pilots who does the rebel run in the Death Star.
Duty Roster (Jason Get Fry) – This must be based on some kind of internet meme or old fandom thing – the whole Fake Wedge thing. Otherwise none of the setup for this story makes sense. But someone with the nickname “Fake Wedge” watches from the command center as the attack on the Death Star happens.
Desert Son (Pierce Brown) – Told from Biggs’ point of view as they storm the Death Star, it’s a mini-study in friendship, trust, and seeing your friends grow up. Well-written.
Grounded (Greg Rucka) – If Rucka’s never seen combat, he certainly writes like someone who has. He does a great job of depicting the grief that goes to the ground crew left behind while the soldiers go on to do their work. It does a great job of fleshing out the world of Star Wars without being as fan-service-y as the (for example) Cantina based stories above (even if those were really good).
Contingency Plan (Alexander Freed) – Perhaps partially because of the age at which I saw Star Wars (middle school – so somewhere between 12-14), while watching the Death Star battle I only thought of the consequences for the rebels who were right there in battle and on the moon of Yavin. This story shows what the consequences would have been for the entire Rebel Alliance had they failed in A New Hope. This is among the best of what these stories can do even while not necessarily being canon – bring more scope and emotion than an action movie can do.
The Angle (Charles Soule) – We check in on what Lando is doing when the rebels blow up the Death Star.
By Whatever Sun (EK Johnston) – A seemingly random pilot thinks about how she went from refugee to rebel pilot. Maybe she’s from one of the movies I haven’t seen?
Whills (Tom Angleberger) – A fun meta-commentary on the fact that the original script (before Anakin and Darth were the same person) was called The Journal of the Whills.
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Review: Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View
Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View by Elizabeth Schaefer