“From a Certain Point of View” is a Star Wars anthology covering the experiences of characters who are predominantly minor (but also Yoda is in there, is he really a minor character?). The title, of course, riffs on Obi-Wan Kenobi’s “from a certain point of view” line, the one that tries to spackle deep meaning over George Lucas’ make-it-up-fast writing. Vader as Luke’s (and Leia’s) father, of course, was a twist ending that he didn’t think of during the first movie. Kenobi is, narratively, an unreliable witness. Most people are. “From a Certain Point of View” shows us a bunch of other witnesses, to various things, that may or may not be reliable.
Like most anthologies, it’s a little uneven. The good stories were very good, though. A few standouts include:
- “The Sith of Datawork” by Ken Liu, which explains why the escape pod containing the Death Star Plans was jettisoned without being immediately recalled, and goes into institutional paperwork and how it can really gum up an operation. It’s a good, fun story that digs into what really makes the Empire move: data and forms and paperwork, filled out in triplicate.
- “Stories in the Sand,” by Griffin McElroy, which is about a jawa who collects stories and wants to see the stars up close (in some ways similar to Rey). It’s fascinating reading about a little cypher of a creature and realizing it’s a person with dreams.
- “Reirin,” by Sabaa Tahir, which is about a Tusken Raider who might be a (potential) Jedi. I’m a sucker for non-humanoid Jedi. I’d really like to read more about her, especially in light of the EU “Kenobi” novel, which I’d really like to see inducted into current canon although that’s looking less and less likely.
- “We Don’t Serve Their Kind Here,” by Chuck Wendig, tells the story of the bartender who kicks R2D2 & C3PO out of the bar on Tattoine, and explains why: general bad feelings and PTSD from his parents being killed by battle droids. He’s one of the many minor characters who could have turned Solo and the droids in to the Empire, but didn’t… in his case, because a Jedi saved him from a battalion of battle droids.
- “An Incident Report,” by Daniel Ortberg, is a sardonic HR complaint about Vader inappropriately using physical force to settle a disagreement (which he was WRONG about, BY THE WAY). We’ve all worked with this guy. Not that Vader was right to force choke him, but… we’ve all worked with this guy.
- “Eclipse,” by Madeleine Roux, is the story of Breha and Bail Organa’s last moments together before Alderaan is reduced to rubble. I had to stop reading halfway through and take a break that lasted a few weeks before recovering enough to finish. I am deeply affected by anything relating to Alderaan (and also get angry at stories that use it as cheap emotional manipulation. this story is not cheap emotional manipulation).
- “The Baptist,” by Nnedi Okorafor, which is about the creature in the garbage compactor in the detention center and how it came to be there. As with the Tusken Raider, she’s a (potential) Jedi, one who helps nudge Luke along his path.
- “There is Another,” by Gary D. Schmidt, shows us the interior life of Yoda and the few possessions (and many memories) he has left… along with his desire to train one last Jedi… Leia. Instead he gets stuck with Luke, the clearly inferior twin.
- “By Whatever Sun,” by E. K. Johnston and Ashley Eckstein, tells us about Miara Larte, a character first seen in Johnston’s novel “Ahsoka” (which is very good). It’s good that she not just survived but thrived, and that we get to know that her sister (AKA Ahsoka’s girlfriend) is also alive and well.
9 out of 40 stand out stories is a pretty good hit rate for an anthology. I didn’t care for a few of the stories, but none of them were BAD, and the ones that are good are very good indeed. If you’re a Star Wars fan, especially if you liked “Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina,” definitely pick this one up.