Review: From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back

From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back by Elizabeth Schaefer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Some of these stories were great! Things felt a bit bogged down at Hoth, though. Too many stories around the Taun-Taun scenes. Overall recommended if you’re a Star Wars fan. Here’s my story-by-story review:

Eyes of the Empire (Kiersten White) – This story is about a small crew of imperial employees who have to review the footage from those drones that show up at the beginning of Empire Strikes Back. The story is short and cute, but all I could think about was the fact that a space-faring empire would not have humans reviewing all the images from these drones. They would have some machine learning algorithms trained to look for humans, vehicles, and non-visible spectrum for signs of life. Then a human would review those to eliminate false positives.

Hunger (Mark Oshiro) – Just as in the first anthology, bringing some “humanity” to the “creatures” in the movie. Oshiro does a good job, but all I could think of was the Robot Chicken sketch where Luke and the Hoth Yeti meet up at a gas station.

Ion control (Emily Skritskie) – something I hadn’t ever thought about before is what it might feel like for members of the rebellion when we find them in Empire. They’ve had a success, but also setbacks. The story here does a good job putting us in that mindset.

A Good Kiss (CB Lee) – interestingly, I feel like the author misses a good opportunity here. Yes, we get the usual “the little guys have overlooked talent” trope, but just focusing on the importance of keeping the troops fed is something more narratives need to focus on.

She Will Keep Then Warm (Delilah S Dawson) – by giving the tauntauns this much sentience, it converts the Hoth situation from sad to cruel. This is probably a sign it was always cruel and we were just biased against caring about animals.

Heroes of the Rebellion (Amy Radcliffe) – A reporter is on Hoth to get footage to recruit folks for the rebellion. As some of the other stories have done, it shows that everyone in the rebellion is important, not just the ones we follow on the movies.

Rogue Two (Gary Whitta) – ostensibly about the guy who finds Han Solo on Hoth, but actually about Luke Skywalker’s leadership style and how he brought group cohesion to his squad.

Kendal (Charles Yu) – An unexpected and neat short story in which Yu takes us through the dying moments of someone being force-choked by Darth Vader. It’s a meditation on what it might be like to examine your life as you die, especially working for The Empire.

Against all odds (RF Kuang) – we get to see the point of view of Luke’s gunner. As happens often in these short stories, it gives sympathy to the characters we sliding consider.

Beyond Hope (Michael Moreci) – the story of one of the rebels holding the love during the At-At attack.

The Truest Duty (Christie Golden) – we get to be in the mind of the general who leads the empire’s ground assault on Hoth. In this case it’s less about sympathy than an understanding of what it would be like to serve the empire at that level.

A Naturalist on Hoth (Hank Green) – what’s so great about this story is that it fills in a little more of the Star Wars universe to make it more realistic instead of focusing on a handful of folks. Our main character grows up in a company town – the company that makes many of the spaceships used by the government (the Star Wars Boeing). He eventually goes to college to become a naturalist. Because of course those exist in the Star Wars universe. These are some of my favorite stories in these collections.

For the last time (Beth Revos) – A look into the psyche of Admiral Piett. I thought the author did a good job of showing how Piett would feel about Ozzem’s death.

Rendezvous point (Jason Fry) – in a moment we didn’t see on film, Wedge Antilles leads a squad of fighters against some pirates harassing rebel supply lines. Spoke of PTSD as well as how hard killing can be, even in the military.

The Final Order (Seth Dickenson) – head of an imperial ship reflects on the ultimate effects of a despotic ruler. How it distorts the military as well as society. He also reflects on how he has a different view of it from his subordinate who grew up in that world.

Amara Kell’s Rules For Tie Pilot Survival (Probably) (Django Wexler) – Not quite as silly as it seems it’s going to be at first, this is another one of the stories in the collection that makes me want to see a TV series or a book series that’s a sympathetic POV from the Empire. Yeah, some soldiers/sailors are going to be evil. But some are just going to be folks who are in government service. I really liked the story voice in this one.

The First Lesson (Jim Zub) – a slight cheat since Yoda is a main character, but it does take place before Luke gets there.

Disturbance (Mike Chen) – the story posits that Palpatine already knows about Luke while he’s training because he senses Vader’s plan for them to rule as father and son.

This is No Cave (Catherine M Valente) – A fascinating backstory for the giant worm that the Millennium Falcon lands into. I wonder if this is entirely Valente’s creation or based at all on any previous canon.

Lord Vader Will See You Now (John Jackson Miller) – An interesting story of an imperial captain who can’t catch a break lately. Her report to Admiral Piett ends up revealing that The Millenium Falcon escaped.

Vergence (Tracy Deonn) – in one of the most creative stories in this anthology, Deonn makes the cave on Dagobah sentient. It had also had many force users enter it

Tooth and Claw (Michael Kogge) – never really paid any attention to Bosk until the Robot Chicken episode. This story fleshed things out alot. Makes me think a bounty hunter tv show might be fun .

Stet! (Daniel José Older) – I have no idea who they character is – they must REALLY be a background character. However I love the conceit where we’re reading editor’s notes on an in-universe news story. Mr. Older has a great sense of humor!

Wait for It (Zoraida Cordova) – Gives us a little about Boba Fett just before he appears in the bounty hunter scene in the Death Star. Brings in done of the backstory from the clone wars tv show. It’ll be interesting to see how things go for the ROTJ book now that authors will have the information from The Book of Boba Fett.

Standard Imperial Procedure (Sarwat Chada) – Another understanding of how Boba Fett ended up in the trash area with the Millenium Falcon. Involves a tragic story about some of the workers on the ship.

There is Always Another (Mackenzi Lee): Obi-Wan as a force ghost when Luke is about to leave Yoda. He reflects on his time mentoring Anakin and how obstinance and caring both run in the Skywalker family.

Fake It Till You Make It (Cavan Scott): Apparently there are some rabbit-like creatures in Star Wars. One of them worked with Lando in the past and tries to get Lando to go into a deal with him. Also a mention of Black Krrsantan who I’d never heard of until season 1 of The Book of Boba Fett.

But What Does He Eat? (S. A. Chakraborty): Of course there had to be a chef who cooked the food at Vader’s meal with Han and Leia. The story gives us a bit of what might be going through their mind while cooking for Darth.

Beyond the Clouds (Lilliam Rivera) – A wannabe bounty hunter wants to join up with Fett. Even more tenuous connection than the last story since there’s no evidence this person existed. That doesn’t make it a bad story, though.

No Tone For Poetry (Austin Walker) – A fun little story that explains why Dengar and IG-88 didn’t catch Solo.

Bespin Escape (Martha Wells) – I had no idea there were Ugnauhts on Bespin. A story about escape after Lando tells everyone to leave Cloud City.

Faith in an Old Friend (Brittany Williams) – Don’t know if this is canon from one of the side movies, but the different AIs that make up the Millennium Falcon get an interesting backstory.

Due on Bantuu (Rob Hart) – Boy, things are hopping in Cloud City! This time a wannabe smuggler who’s given something to get out of Bespin but things go awry when Calrissian gives the evacuation order.

Into the Clouds (Karen Strong) – this time our main character plays an unseen part in the story, helping Leia evade some stormtroopers.

The Witness (Adam Christopher) – I guess it would get tiresome to read too many of these types of stories, but I’m surprised there weren’t more stories of storm troopers who realized they might be on the wrong side. I liked the stakes here – our main character is on a facility she doesn’t know too well and is trying to avoid other troopers from recognizing her once she’s decided to go AWOL.

The Man Who Built Cloud City (Alexander Freed) – Perhaps the most creative story here (not meant to as a slight against any of the others), it is about someone who claims to have been king of Bespin. It weaves a very interesting tale about the power of stories.

The Backup Backup Plan (Anne Toole) – A fun story about what happened to those left behind after the cloud city evacuation.

Right-Hand Man (Lydia Kang) – A neat story from the point of view of the medical droid who attaches Luke’s new hand.

The Whills Strike Back (Tom Angleberger) – Another funny (your mileage may vary) poke at the opening scrawl for the movies.

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