I’m not a big fan of short story collections or Star Wars novels. But I loved Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View. It’s a collection of 40 stories offering unique points of view surrounding the original Star Wars: A New Hope movie.
The stories offer glimpses of the main characters—Luke, Leia, Han Solo, Obi-Wan, Darth Vader, etc.—and even some dialogue straight from the movie, but mostly we’re following the stories not told in the movie:
- How the Imperial gunner who didn’t fire on the escape pod with no lifeforms used bureaucratic paperwork to cover his ass.
- An excerpt from the celebrity memoir of one of the Cantina band performers.
- The untold story of what really happened with the red R2 unit that Uncle Owen almost bought instead of R2-D2.
- The harrowing saga of how the trash compactor monster came to be on the Death Star and the larger role it had to play.
Why It’s a Great Short Story Collection
This is a fun short story collection because all the stories are tied together around a specific theme. But even more so, they follow A New Hope in roughly chronological order, which makes them even more interconnected than a typical themed short story collection.
There had to have been an incredible amount of coordination to make that happen without too much overlap and contradiction.
As is, I noticed only one contradiction (in the final battle over the Death Star, one story describes the Rebel Alliance as having more X-Wings than pilots, while another says they have more pilots than X-Wings).
The only overlap is perhaps too many stories focused on Mos Eisley and the Cantina (which seems like a natural place for a lot of stories, so it’s forgivable) and then the final showdown with the Death Star (and here the problem is too many of the stories follow the exact point of view of the movie, so we hear much of the movie dialogue multiple times).
But those minor issues are easy to overlook. Overall the stories are unique and engaging, with only a couple out of the 40 that I didn’t like.
Why It’s Better Than a Star Wars Novel
As much as I love the Star Wars movies, I have not been a big fan of the expanded Star Wars universe and accompanying profit machine. I don’t care much for the related novels or comics (with one exception: I loved Rey’s story in Star Wars: Before the Awakening).
I think the problem is that often they take the beloved characters from the movie and tell stories that try to match the movies. But nothing could be as epic as the showdowns we see in the movies, so either it’s a lesser story or it is epic but it becomes unbelievable because why wasn’t it in the movie (most of the comics suffer from this latter problem). Every interaction with Luke and Vader in the comics feels anti-climactic because you know it changes nothing.
But our beloved main characters are not the main characters in these stories. I think that frees the stories up to be something different.
Also, many of the stories fill in gaps—much like Rogue One expanded on a simple sentence in the opening crawl of A New Hope. Perhaps these are gaps that don’t need to be fleshed out, but it’s still entertaining to see it done.
Let’s be honest: George Lucas’ masterpiece has been relentlessly picked apart and every detail scrutinized. In some ways what he’s done has holes and is lacking in a few ways. But revisiting those holes and filling in the gaps in this manner both acknowledges that history with a loving and playful nod, but also offers real explanations (much like Rogue One did).
For example, one of the greatest Star Wars bloopers—a stormtrooper hitting his head on a doorway in the Death Star—is explained in one of these stories. It’s a blooper, it didn’t need a backstory. But true Star Wars fans will appreciate the attempt.
In a more serious turn, some of the stories featuring Obi-Wan give real insight into his role and help explain some of the problems with his character (many of which surfaced when Star Wars became multiple trilogies and not just a single movie): Why is his fight with Vader in A New Hope so lackluster, how did he learn how to become a “Force ghost,” and the most crucial of all—why did he lie to Luke?
Yes, there are answers to all those questions, from the Hollywood practical (sword fighting choreography changed a lot in 25 years) to the movie world practical (he was an old man!). But it’s fun to see those answers fleshed out in a story instead of just a nerd argument.
One of my favorite stories in the collection is the trash compactor monster. It’s such an unlikely story and it helps answer practical questions (how did an alien lifeform end up in the garbage disposal?) and adds an intriguing layer to the story (I won’t spoil it, but that alien is more than meets the eye).
I heard about this collection because the author of the trash compactor monster story, Nnedi Okorafor, kept bragging about her story on Twitter. And rightly so (I’m glad she did).
— Nnedi Okorafor, PhD (@Nnedi) August 9, 2017
Supports First Book
If you’re still not convinced, perhaps the best part about Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View is that all proceeds go to support the nonprofit First Book. All 40 authors have donated their royalties, Penguin Random House donated $100,000, and Disney pitched in 100,000 books.
I’m a big fan of the work First Book does to get books into the hands of kids and families who don’t have books. Simply owning books is a major boost to reading.
So go check out Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View.