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

Another new release! And within a week no less! The hype surrounding this book was high. I remember the months when people speculated that “Project Luminous”, now known as The High Republic, was a codename for this book. Isn’t it nice that we got both instead?

Unlike the first instalment where I had no idea what to expect, I went into this one with an idea of what and who the stories were going to be about, as well as the general premise of the project. As such, I also went into it with a fairly good idea of what my favourites would be. I was mostly right, though there were a few surprises. This is From A Certain Point Of View: The Empire Strikes Back.

*Spoilers Below*

The Premise

Like the first From A Certain Point Of View, this one is an anthology of 40 stories, only this time we’re diving deep into The Empire Strikes Back.

One thing I noticed about this one, unlike the first, is just how many stories are given over to minor/bit characters who have a cult following. People like Dak, Admiral Piett, Willrow Hood, all the bounty hunters, the ugnaughts, Veers. The first was far more focused on moments and times and places within the story, this one seemed to be more about giving each bit character their “due”. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing as I imagine that’s where a lot of the hype came from for others. And if the characters are available, why not use them? But for me, someone who was never super into the minor characters, I was neither here nor there. Not that I didn’t enjoy the book. I did! The stories that I loved are so SO good.

My Top 10 Stories

Honorable Mention: The One I Had High Expectations For: The Whills Strike Back by Tom Angleberger

From claiming the number one spot in the first list, the Whills now find themselves down in honourable mentions this time around. I suppose part of the problem with me is that the story suffers from being compared to the first one, which I loved. This one is good too, it’s still funny, still meta. There’s even a great Star Trek crossover joke. But the first one was written not knowing if there would be another story featuring these weird, meta little Whills, so they went hard on the nostalgia in that one. This one had a lot less of the references to the old properties, which makes sense but honestly that’s what I liked about the first so much. But it still made the list, I still enjoyed it for what it was. I wonder if we’ll get a third one when they do Return of the Jedi. “Return of the Whills” perhaps?

10. The One That Got Unexpectedly Dark: Kendal by Charles Yu

There are a lot of stories about imperials in this one, and with this being the darker middle chapter of the original trilogy, it doesn’t usually go well for them – unless of course they defect.

Admiral Ozzel doesn’t defect. He famously gets choked to death by Darth Vader. And this entire story is made up of the last frantic thoughts racing through his head as he aims to find peace in his last moments. The entire story is told through the eyes of a man who is mere seconds away from death . We have to watch and listen to him die and know there’s not a damn thing we can do abut it. This story is extremely dark. I’m not sure I’d read it attentively, the next time I do read through this book. But still, it was pretty compelling.

9. The One That Made Me Hungry: But What Does He Eat? by S.A. Chakraborty

Of all the stories, this one was probably one of, if not the silliest. It is set in the kitchen of Cloud City’s master chef as she is tasked with preparing a meal to impress their high ranking Imperial guest. She is, however, thrown for a loop when she realizes the guest is Darth Vader. Not only is the pressure on BIG TIME, but she’s not even sure he can eat at all.

I like that they included this, to really highlight the absurdity of Darth Vader wanting to capture Han and Leia by…meeting them in a really nice and airy dining room. The chef misses all of the action of course. She’s too busy whipping up a lot of strange yet somehow mouthwatering dishes, and maybe reading this story while hungry wasn’t the best idea.

8. The One I Would Have Written: The Witness by Adam Christopher

I absolutely love the idea of stories where someone small in the grand scheme of things bears witness to one of the bigger revelations in a story. Like, say, if we got a whole story from a maintenance worker on Mustafar watching Anakin and Obi Wan fight to the death. I keep thinking that if I were to have written for this book, I would have written a character who witnesses Vader’s “I am your father” reveal.

That’s the story we get here.

Sort of.

This is told from the POV of a defecting stormtrooper as she makes every effort to get away from her squad and out of Cloud City. She passes underground through some maintenance tunnels where she happens to see Lord Vader fighting with that rebel he’s been looking for. Not only fighting though, they seem to be having a conversation about…something. She wants to hear what it is, but alas, the wind in the service tunnels makes it impossible to hear Vader. Of course we can’t have some random stormtrooper knowing Vader is Luke’s father, but it’s fun to imagine how close one of them came

7. The One That Really Made Me Feel Bad For The Worm: This Is No Cave by Catherynne M. Valente

The trend with all the creature stories in this book is this: as soon as I realize what creature it’s about, all I can think is “Are you really gonna make me feel bad for the ____?”

The answer is always yes.

That’s no different in this story, revolving around the asteroid bound space slug that Han and Leia accidentally fly the Falcon into. This worm, you see, is an outcast from others of its kind, who all make fun of it. It keeps “butterflies” (mynocks) in its tummy and likes to show them off. When Han and Leia show up, it becomes determined to keep them safe and warm inside its belly, and is heartbroken when they choose to leave. It even offers to expel its precious butterflies if they’re proving bothersome. This story is such a weird, sad little blip of an entry, but I will say at the very least they don’t kill the worm. They let it, and its butteries, live another day.

6. The One With Roman Holiday Vibes: Into The Clouds by Karen Strong

Picture this: a tale of a well-to-do woman with a sense of obligation to her family and the scrappy average joe that loves her. Is this a stretch, to compare this story to Roman Holiday? Yes. Is my judgement impaired because I watched that movie then read this story immediately after? Also yes.

I can’t help it. I’m a sucker for a good love story, and this one was infused with enough crackling chemistry and inner turmoil that I would have happily read an entire novel about Jailyn and Dresh: how they met, how their relationship developed as he worked for her gambling addict father. As it is, we get the tail end of their romance before they run off into the sunset together. But I appreciate the beautiful beginning of a love story set against the backdrop of the evacuation of Cloud City that we did get.

5. The One With The What Ifs: Disturbance by Mike Chen

I don’t particularly like Palpatine (shocker). I was prepared to not like this story at all.

Then they had to lob the Freaky Force Stuff at me, and here we are. This story is at the number 5 spot on my list.

The story is mostly set within a Force vision that Palpatine has, that tells him Luke is Anakin’s son. He sees the father-son pair overthrowing him and taking over the galaxy. We even get brief mention of Anakin, Padmé and Luke as a family unit (Palpy doesn’t know about Leia it would seem) and for all that this is a twisted Dark side vision, it kind of thrilled me to see it. We don’t often factor Padmé into ideas of what Luke’s life would look like if his parents had survived, and we forget that of the two of them, Luke inherited his mother’s heart and sense of right.

There’s also a reference to Matthew Stover’s Revenge of the Sith novelization. Many bonus points were awarded for its inclusion.

4. The One That’s Just So Soft: A Good Kiss by C.B. Lee

Of all the stories included on this list, this is the one whose premise was funniest. It is an entire story from the point of view of that guy who walks in between Han and Leia in the corridor on Hoth.

Turns out, like everyone else, he wishes they would cut the crap and kiss already. Or at least get out of his way. Our poor hero, Chase Wilsorr, is struggling with the fact that he isn’t getting the jobs he wants within the Rebellion and is instead relegated to kitchen duty. He’s also frustrated with his going-nowhere crush on Jordan, the stablehand. Fortunately for him, Jordan doesn’t seem to mind clumsy kitchen boys.

OK this one is so soft and so wholesome and sweet. More of this in my star war please.

3. The One With My Requisite Freaky Force Stuff: Vergence by Tracy Deonn

The concept of an entire story from the point of view of the Dagobah cave might seem odd. It might seem like a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea.

But in the hands of Tracey Deonn, it works perfectly. As in her debut novel Legendborn, she has this ability to dig down into the roots of magic, and make it feel like a character all its own. She does it in Legendborn with various kinds of magic, and she does it here with the Force.

Though the cave appears Dark and evil, it is only a product of the world around it. Many seek it out to discover their fears, so the cave shows them what they come to see, in a one-and-done deal, until Yoda shows up and develops almost a “friendship” with it. Certainly the two work together – albeit without the cave’s knowledge – to show Luke what he most fears.

I know it’s quite a ways away, but I would like to see this concept and personification return for the Force cave on Ach-To. Maybe we can do a 10 year anniversary anthology for The Last Jedi so Tracy Deonn can write that one too.

2. The One That Was Better Than I Thought: Faith In An Old Friend by Brittany N. Williams

Solo: A Star Wars Story was just fine. Not my favourite, not the worst. It was fine. But my hands-down favourite part of the whole thing was L3-37, Lando’s copilot droid with an attitude and outsized sense of justice.

So imagine my heartbreak when the movie kills her off at the end of Act 2.

Her brain is plugged into the Millennium Falcon and she becomes a part of the ship’s computer. Using this as justification, and taking Threepio’s line about the Falcon speaking a “peculiar dialect” is enough to launch us into this story about the “Millennium Collective”, the three droids that make up the brain of the Millennium Falcon. There is eloquent, angry, emotion-ridden L3 of course, but she is unexpectedly and delightfully joined by ED-4, a slicer droid with an extensive vocabulary, and V5-T, the original shipboard computer who speaks in staccato “yells”.

The story spans the length of most of the movie, as the droids bear witness to any events taking place on board the Falcon. They spy Han and Leia’s budding romance, are responsible for giving Han the idea to go to Bespin, and L3 even manages half a reunion with Lando. For someone who really liked L3’s character and was sad to see her go, it was a nice surprise to see her pop up in this.

1. The One That Proves How Predicable I Am And Also Punched Me In The Feelings: There Is Always Another by Mackenzi Lee

Bold of me to assume the Obi Wan story wouldn’t rank high here, honestly. I’m such a sucker for this character who has been through so much sadness and pain.

Set in the moments Luke is packing his ship to leave Dagobah, Obi Wan reflects on how much this young boy is like his father, the same brashness and passion, but also the same proclivity for the dark. Most of the story is Obi Wan’s Force ghost reliving old memories of his life, reflecting on the good and bad parts of his relationship with Anakin, and all the others he loved and lost.

I won’t go too into detail because I want you all punched in the feelings like I was. Because trust me. This story will do that to you. As well as make you excited for the upcoming Kenobi series.

Random Thoughts

Cavan Scott’s story, “Fake It Till You Make It”, is entered around a giant green rabbit named Jaxxon, a former Legends character who has made his way back into canon via the Star Wars Adventures comics. When I saw him on the cover of some of the comics, I thought it was a joke. Like someone drew on the Trix rabbit, painted him green, and called it a variant cover. But no. Apparently this is a real thing.

Everyone on Echo Base knows Han and Leia are flirting and are running betting pools. Amazing.

Yoda’s story is basically what you would expect it to be, and makes a good companion to the story from FACPOV. But what really elevates it for me here are the constant constant digs at Luke. Poor Luke. I mean I laughed, but still.

The story from the point of view of a TIE pilot makes it clear that TIE’s can be piloted by any idiot who knows how to fly straight and just hold the trigger down. I have to say, I did not come here to be bullied for my Squadrons playing style.

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