Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View (Novel)
The latest Star Wars book from Del Rey brings an assortment of authors together to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the original film in an impressive, and highly entertaining, short story compilation. Check out my full review to see why it's worth picking up!
While most eyes are firmly looking ahead to Star Wars: The Last Jedi, this year also marks the 40th anniversary of the film that started it all. Lucasfilm celebrated the anniversary date in a variety of ways (including some awesome Black Series figures), but one of the coolest announcements was a new book of short stories, retelling the events of A New Hope from the perspective of various background characters.
It's an audacious undertaking compiling 40 different stories (one for each year) from 43 different authors. That's a lot to handle, and Del Rey has managed to do it impressively, while giving something exciting for Star Wars readers (new or old) to enjoy sitting down with.
I'm not here to review each and every single story in From a Certain Point of View...that'd be a little insane and, considering the length of some of these stories, you'd be able to read them quicker than I'd tell you about them. Instead, I'm going to talk about the overall compilation and how it flows together and manages to work despite the many different parts working together.
The basic idea of the compilation is fairly simple: take a bunch of background characters/extras in Star Wars: A New Hope and use their point of view to explain/flesh out events in the film. The end result is something of a "retelling" of the original film, though not nearly as explicitly as that implies. It's a book that works in tandem with the movie, and gives you an interesting glimpse into the private lives of the characters we only see briefly.
Some of the stories include obvious choices like the R5 droid who malfunctions and leads to R2 being purchased by Uncle Owen, a story on Aunt Beru, and the gruff bartender of Mos Eisley Cantina. Some of the others are a bit unexpected, including an appearance from Yoda and Qui-Gon Jinn, along with Jawas, Tuskens, and even the Dianoga (the monster in the Death Star trash compactor)! It's an eclectic mix of characters, but it somehow manages to work and be a lot of fun.
Fun is the key factor when it comes to A Certain Point of View and is the books best quality. On top of utilizing different characters/perspectives, the stories themselves take on a wide variety of styles. Some are presented in first-person perspective, some take a "looking back" perspective, while others take a more traditional approach. A few even present themselves as in-universe works. Not for Nothing by Mur Lafferty appears early in the book and acts as an excerpt from a Cantina Band members' autobiography, and is one of the many neat ways these short stories are brought to life.
There's a little something for everyone here as there are plenty of stories that take themselves seriously and offer up deeper lore/insight to characters from the film. Some of my favorites, however, are the tongue-in-cheek stories that aren't afraid to poke a little fun at themselves, or trying something entirely different (the Whills and Palpatine ones are excellent examples here).
Additionally, the book doesn't necessarily have to be read sequentially. The table of contents at the beginning gives you the chance to jump around to whichever story you want to start with, rather than going cover to cover. While I read it from the beginning to end (it's just easier for me), it's nice to have the option to skip around. This works especially well for those wanting to go back and re-read their favorite stories.
Each story is kept relatively short, more like the shorts you'd see in magazines, which makes this an easy book to pick up and read at your leisure. If you're pressed for time, it's easy enough to read through a story or two in a couple minutes. Hell, I was waiting in line at the bus stop for my kids and managed to get through a couple of the shorter ones without rushing.
This aspect is both a good and bad thing. It's good that you feel like you're making a lot of progress and getting something out of it even if you're pressed for time. The bad part is that some of these stories/characters feel like they need to be longer. You get super invested and things are engaging, but then it's wrapped up. It's a problem inherent in the 'slice of life' format of the book, but was sometimes a bit frustrating.
To be entirely honest, though...that's about the only negative I can think of in regards to From a Certain Point of View. While some, more serious, fans might take umbrage with the sillier stories/narrative approaches, I loved seeing all these different styles come together.