On May 25, 1977, the world was introduced to Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, C-3PO, R2-D2, Chewbacca, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Darth Vader, and a galaxy full of possibilities. In honor of the 40th anniversary, more than 40 contributors lend their vision to this retelling of Star Wars. Each of the 40 short stories reimagines a moment from the original film, but through the eyes of a supporting character. From a Certain Point of View features contributions by best-selling authors, trendsetting artists, and treasured voices from the literary history of Star Wars.
Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View, published October 3, 2017, brings together a multitude of authors to tell the story of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope from alternative points of view. Many of these authors have worked on the Star Wars franchise before. Some notable to me were Paul Dini (The Clone Wars series), Chuck Wendig (Aftermath trilogy), Claudia Gray (Bloodline, Lost Stars), E.K. Johnston (Ahsoka), Christie Golden (Dark Disciple), Paul S. Kemp (Lords of the Sith), and Kieron Gillen (Darth Vader, Doctor Aphra Marvel comics), just to name a few. While this put many cooks in the kitchen, one might say (with no doubt more behind the scenes), it still looked to me like a stellar arrangement of talent. However, I couldn’t help but wonder if the book, regardless of the talent of each individual writer, would have strong enough legs to stand on as a whole.
The book turned out to be more ambitious than I’d expected. I admittedly did not research beyond the book’s summary, so I expected something a little more rigid, following literal background characters within the timeline of the film. This was the case for the most part, many of them telling the stories of the more memorable background characters, as well as prominent secondary characters like Tarkin and even Obi-Wan. What I was surprised to see how was much a number of the authors thought outside of the box, bringing in perspectives that were obvious yet I hadn’t considered, as well as obscure ones that I’d thought of as a joke, but were executed upon in interesting ways.
In the former case stories had characters like Qui-Gon Jinn, Yoda, Bail and Breha Organa (Leia’s parents on Alderaan), Doctor Aphra, and the Emperor himself. They’re characters that didn’t exist within the film itself, but factored into the greater Star Wars universe after the fact. With the exception of Aphra, each of them would have had a vested interest in the events of A New Hope too, so getting a look into their views of events as they were happening made for some of the more fascinating entries. For its part, Kieron Gillen’s “The Trigger” featuring Doctor Aphra (a rather new character) did do an excellent job of giving an outsider’s perspective on the surreal circumstances of an entire planet’s destruction, a glimpse at the impact it could have on Galactic society, as well as the moral question of who is pulling the trigger.
In the case of the more obscure background characters there were fewer instances, but they still managed to stand out in big ways. “The Secrets of Long Snoot” by Delilah S. Dawson, for instance, gives a lot of humanity to a rather inhuman alien who finds himself painfully far away from home on Tatooine. Even more surprising was the “The Baptist” by Nnedi Okorafor, which reintroduced Omi the dianoga, commonly known as the creature in the trash compactor on the Death Star. While the lengths it went to in giving importance to this character could sound a silly as a concept, Okorafor did a great job of giving her a unique and believable voice, as well as a sentience that would go understandably unnoticed.
While many of the authors did do an excellent job of fleshing out a lot of the literal background characters, this became a drawback for the book under certain circumstances. The guiltiest setting for overindulging these types of characters was, perhaps not surprisingly, the Mos Eisley cantina. Nearly every alien that appears in that cantina scene got expanded upon in a story, sometimes shared and sometimes in their own tale, and it became exhausting to get through. By the end of the string of stories I’d witnessed the scene where Luke walks in up until Han shoots Greedo from so many different viewpoints that I was downright sick of it. On their own none of them were badly written, but with varyingly flimsy connections to the greater story we know was going on it became difficult to care.
What these stories hinged on, regardless of the focus, was telling a story that managed to expand the Star Wars universe in a meaningful way, however big or small. I think the stories I had trouble with didn’t do a particularly good job of that. There were more that did than did not, however. Even in the case of more prominent on-screen characters we are often given greater insight into the characters and the world, sometimes to a good dramatic effect, and in other cases great humour. I was actually laughing out loud at “An Incident Report” by Mallory Ortberg, because it is literally an incident report written by Admiral Motti, whom Darth Vader choked during a meeting. In it he complained about Vader’s assault of him during their disagreement, that despite his intimidation Motti was still right, and that preaching your religion so aggressively at work was highly inappropriate. It worked in-universe, gave a closer look into Imperial bureaucracy, and was nothing short of hilarious to me.
From a Certain Point of View was a great novelty to bring to the Star Wars universe, especially as a way to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the ground-breaking original film. It was full of some great original stories, interesting expansions of lore, and characters presented in a whole new memorable light. It also had some references to characters from other new Star Wars media, as well as Easter eggs touching on behind-the-scenes aspects of the film. I don’t think I’d want to see the other films in the original trilogy get the same treatment, however. It could get a little too indulgent at times, which made it tiresome when it’s meant to be celebratory. It probably goes without saying if you know little to nothing about Star Wars this is a bad place to start. It is, however, an excellent book for fans, and certainly worth reading despite its flaws.