Biweekly Book Review: From a Certain Point of View

Thinking back on it, I’m pretty sure this is the first canon Star Wars book I picked up. My first Star Wars book period, if we’re not counting novelizations. Back then, I had no idea who 99% of the authors on the cover were. I only bought it because I’d heard Meg Cabot, a bookshelf staple of mine, was writing one of the stories.

Is this a necessary book? No, not at all. It sprinkles in details where they aren’t really needed, but that doesn’t make it any less fun to read. I’d actually even argue that that makes it more fun. I love this anthology and I can’t wait for the next one. I know I’ll be old and grey by the time this day comes, but I hope we get one of these for each of the movies in the Skywalker Saga. This is From A Certain Point Of View.

*Spoilers Below*

The Premise

From A Certain Point Of View was put together in honour of the 40th anniversary of A New Hope. In this charity anthology, 40 short stories carry the reader through Star Wars Episode 4 in chronological order, except the entire story is being told by side characters. They can be recognizable side characters like Greedo, familiar faces from outside the movies, like Dr. Aphra, or even obscure characters like a random alien in the cantina or rebel on Yavin. The great thing with this is that as the GFFA expands in the written materials, this anthology shows how the events of the movies affect everyone and everything in the galaxy, and how those people affect the events in their turn. It’s all connected.

As with any anthology, some stories resonated with me more than others, so I’ve chosen my top 10 below!

My Top 10 Stories

Honorable Mention: The One That Made My English Major Self Happy: Palpatine by Ian Doescher

Ian Doescher is probably best known for his Shakesperian retellings of the 9 Star Wars Saga films, and his entry in this anthology is extremely on-brand.

This lengthy monologue (in iambic pentameter no less) is delivered by Emperor Palpatine contemplating the events that unfolded in and around the death of Obi Wan Kenobi. I don’t have much else to say about this one except that it reminded me so much of being in university and picking apart Shakespeare that I couldn’t let this list go by and not mention it.

10. The One That Started It All: Beru Whitesun Lars by Meg Cabot

I would be remiss to dive into the anthology without acknowledging the story that brought me here in the first place. I swear, when I bought this book, hers was the only name I recognized. Well, her and Wil Wheaton, but I hadn’t read any of his writing before this.

I’m extremely familiar with Meg Cabot’s body of work, and this story is so characteristically her, that if you showed me all the stories with no author name attached, I’m confident I’d be able to identify it as hers. It is a bittersweet story told from the perspective of Luke’s Aunt Beru, a woman who put her entire life on hold to raise the little baby boy Obi Wan Kenobi handed her one night. When we talk about Star Wars moms, I don’t think we give Beru enough credit. We are all quick to credit Bail and Breha Organa for the woman Leia turned into, but I think we forget that so much of who Luke turned out to be is because of Owen and Beru. He might have Anakin’s skills as a pilot and a Jedi, and Padme’s heart, but his capacity for goodness, his willingness to help others, his sense of family? He had to learn that somewhere, and this story reminds us of the people who provided him with all of that.

9. The One That’s Predicable But Heartwarming: There Is Another by Gary D. Schmidt

When I say “predictable” I only mean this story is from the point of view of a character we know well and doesn’t really push him beyond the boundaries of what we already know. We know Yoda feels keenly for all the Jedi who fell after the Empire took over. We know he has regrets over the whole Anakin/Obi Wan situation. But by no means does that mean we don’t feel for the little guy.

The story is primarily concerned with Yoda’s life on Dagobah, as he feels the shift in the Force when Anakin and Obi Wan meet again on the Death Star. Knowing things are about to change for everyone, Yoda is determined to find Leia and train her in the ways of the Force. It is only after Obi Wan has died and comes to visit Yoda that the former Jedi Master agrees to train Luke instead. But WOW does he have reservations about the whole thing. No wonder he was so harsh on Luke when he showed up a few years later.

Also Yoda uses Force lightning. Yoda is a Palpatine clone, confirmed.

8. The One That Comes Up The Most In Conversation: The Red One by Rae Carson

When I say this comes up the most in conversation, I mean that I cannot stop telling the story of this little droid to anyone willing (or unwilling) to listen when watching A New Hope.

R5-D4, the titular “Red One” wants nothing more than to go to a home that will take good care of him, since 4 years in a sand crawler have not been kind to him. But the night before he’s trotted out in front of prospective moisture famers, he’s approached by a little blue-domed astromech who begs him to help him get free, because he’s got an important mission to carry out. When R5 is picked out by the moisture farmer and his nephew, he is faced with a choice. Should he roll into his new life, or help out the blue astromech and hope for the best?

We all know that R5 chooses to help R2 instead of going with Luke and Owen. But what we didn’t know until this past week on The Mandalorian (or maybe we did and I forgot?) was that Tatooine mechanic Peli picked up R5 and takes care of him now. So it all worked out in the end I guess, even if he does get yelled at once in a while.

7. The One That Brings Back An Old Friend: Rites by John Jackson Miller

It’s no secret I haven’t read much of Legends. But one book I have read is John Jackson Miller’s Kenobi. I’ve mentioned before how I appreciate the novels efforts to humanize the Tuskens, something I’m glad to see is continuing now in the latest season of The Mandalorian.

So yes, it’s nice to see that he’s writing the Tuskens again, with the same treatment. They are a society with their own customs and rites and are not just howling savages. But the highlight of the story is the return of A’Yark, the leader of the Tusken clan in the Kenobi novel. A’Yark is the one who develops some kind of understanding with Obi Wan, and unknown to the reader until further into the story, is actually the rare Tusken woman to lead her clan. Her gender doesn’t come up in this short story, but I’m choosing to believe it’s the same A’Yark from the book. Kenobi doesn’t necessarily contradict any existing canon (yet) and I like that Miller is trying to work elements of his book back into the main storyline.

6. The One With Obligatory Freaky Force Stuff: The Baptist by Nnedi Okorafor

I’ve read this book a few times. Each time I look forward to this story, and each time I get a little more out of it that I didn’t get before.

Deep in the bowels of the Death Star, inside one of the trash compactors, lives a mysterious serpentine creature. One day, three humans and a wookie fall down a garbage chute and join her. But how did she get there in the first place? What’s her story?

Yep, that’s right. This one is from the point of view of the creature that lives in the Death Star garbage chute. She was captured on her homeworld and brought on board the Death Star. Once her captors realized how dangerous she could be, she was thrown down the trash chute without a second thought.

But what elevates this story beyond a mere fun fact blip is the fact that the creature is Force sensitive in her way. I love when this happens in canon, when we see other cultures or species who experience the Force in a way outside the traditional Jedi structure. Really, the most overt references to her Force sensitivity is when she senses the arrival of the three humans and how one of them is “like her”.

It was inevitable that the freakiest of Freaky Force Stuff story would end up on this list, and I imagine this story has the same mystical, mysterious tones as the Force Cave story will have in FACPOV:ESB.

5. The One I Knew Would Break My Heart: Eclipse by Madeline Roux

The minute I saw the story was beginning with Breha Organa I knew it was going to break my heart. While it was sad the first time I read it, with the added context of Leia: Princess of Alderaan that I now have, it’s just that much worse.

I swear, Star Wars fans just like to hurt.

If this is your first introduction to Leia’s parents beyond the little that we see of them in the movie, it’s definitely a heartbreaking story. But knowing more about them made the whole story feel like a suckerpunch. As a reader we know Aleraan and the royal family, we’ve spent time there with them. These are people we know, and we know they won’t make it and there’s not a damn thing we can do.

Bail and Breha spend most of the story worried that Leia didn’t survive the destruction of the Tantive, then in their final moments, as the end of their lives and everything they know is staring them in the face, their last thought is that Leia made it out ok. Their last thought is of hope.

Excuse me I need a tissue or 20.

4. The One With Untapped Potential: Reirin by Sabaa Tahir

Oh look at that, it’s the second Tusken story to make the cut.

Most of this story is very tangential to the main narrative. It concerns a Tuskens runaway named Reirin who is on assignment from a mysterious employer to steal something from a Jawa sand crawler. A small, unknown something.

For the most part, the story is fairly run of the mill coming-of-age, where the young Tusken woman wants more from life than what is available to her. But it is in the final moments that it takes a turn, in a real “oh shit” moment.

The small something Reirin was tasked with taking turns out to be a kyber crystal – not that she knows what it is. What she does know is that she cannot bear to part with it. It calls to her and it belongs to her.

Tusken Jedi, y’all. We have a Tusken Jedi. Where’s her YA series, that’s what I want to know. We know from Kenobi that once years ago there was a Jedi who came to live among the Tuskens. Is there a connection there? What I’m saying is this should be explored more.

3. The One That Might Be A Sign Of Things To Come: Master and Apprentice by Claudia Gray

Did you know we’re getting a Kenobi show and that I’m stupid excited about it? Yes? I may have mentioned it once or twice?

This story, by my fave Claudia Gray, is what I’m mostly hoping for in the series. We know Obi Wan will have been through a lot, and that he has much in his past to reckon with. Which he definitely does here.

Granted this story is actually from Qui Gon’s point of view, as he pulls himself out of the Force to physically manifest into a “Force ghost” to speak to Obi Wan while Luke runs off to check on Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen (spoiler: it doesn’t go well for them)

This story is exactly what we expect from Claudia Gray. A lot of feels, a lot of heart, and no matter how long or short it is, it leaves us wanting more. It’s a nice precursor to her novel of the same name. Where in that we see Obi Wan and Qui Gon at odds with each other, here they are far more the Master/Apprentice or father/son we might expect. Qui Gon knows what’s coming for Obi Wan and while he is personally excited at the prospect of the two of them reuniting in the Force, he grieves for all the things Obi Wan will never get to do. I did not ask you to punch me in the feelings like this, Claudia Gray.

I’m hoping the upcoming series has more scenes of this kind. Conversations between Obi Wan and the ghosts of his past. Yes, I say this mostly so I can spend the entire runtime screaming into my hands.

2. The One That I Was Inevitably Going To Rank High: Time of Death by Cavan Scott

“Oh wow, the Kenobi story ranked high I’m so shocked” said no one ever.

Much like the Claudia Gray story, this one is focused on a lot of interior struggle and feelings. This is set in the few moments before Obi Wan becomes one with the Force during his duel with Vader.

He reflects on his life on Tatooine that led him to this point, his life before Order 66, and at one point he even has visions of the future (like…Sequel Trilogy future). The overall sadness of Luke, Han and Leia’s futures is briefly touched on here, and is all the more heartbreaking to read now that their plots and their lives wrapped up in a truly devastating and not at all satisfactory way.

In a sweet addition to the story, Obi Wan remembers the years when Luke was a child, how he tried to play a role in his life, until Owen forbade it in order to keep his nephew safe. I can’t help but wonder if we’ll see some of this in the series as well. Particularly the parts where Obi Wan makes toys for little Luke and leaves them somewhere for Beru to find and give him. *sob*

1. The One That Makes Me Feel Excited In A Way I Can’t Describe: Whills by Tom Angleberger

I can’t even begin to explain why I like this story so much.

The whole thing is written as a dialogue between two of the Whills, the mysterious beings who record the whole history of the galaxy. One sits down to record the story, with countless interjections from the second. But the Whill isn’t just recording the story…they’re writing the opening crawl to A New Hope.

There’s something about the way the second one keeps cutting in to remind the first of all the exciting parts of the story that take place before Episode 4, parts of the story that I’m personally very attached to. Something about the way they talk really expresses that excitement you feel when you talk about Star Wars, or anything you love and are passionate about with your friends. But there is that added story element where the events they’re discussing are all real…they just took place a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. The story is a little meta and a whole lot of fun. Apparently FACPOV: ESB is including a part 2 for this story and I truly cannot wait to read it, especially as it comes after the conclusion of the Sequel Trilogy and after the premiere of The Mandalorian.

Random Thoughts

The Kloo Horn Cantina Caper, one of the stories in this book, is too damn long. It’s nearly 30 pages long and it’s all about a bunch of aliens tangentially related to the ongoing action. And by tangentially, I mean they see Luke in the cantina for a second before getting on with their own plot. I’ll be perfectly honest and say that in this, my third time reading this book, I skimmed this story.

The extreme petty nature of Incident Report is a genuine delight while you’re trying to get through all the Imperial focused chapters.

According to this book, the trooper that famously bumps his head is the same one who let Luke and Obi Wan go, and he bumps his head because he’s distracted thinking about that. Did I need this detail? No. Is it hysterical? Yes.

Of MSE-6 and Men is told entirely from the perspective of the little mouse droid that Chewie roars at, and it’s an interesting story in its own way. But because it’s told by a droid it’s full of time codes and system commands. Easy enough to skim if you’re reading it, but wow is it annoying on audiobook.

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