“You’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.”
That little quote from Obi-Wan Kenobi in Return of the Jedi sets the stage for what to expect in the latest Star Wars book from Del Rey publishing: Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View, a collection of short stories that works as a companion piece to Star Wars: A New Hope. In celebration of Star Wars’ 40th Anniversary, the anthology contains 40 different stories by just as many authors, both newcomers and veterans of the franchise alike, who all made their contributions to the book without compensation. The proceeds will instead be donated to First Book, a nonprofit organization that provides new books to educators and children in need. So it’s definitely worth getting a copy if only for that reason, but trust me when I say, this book is worth its weight in Imperial credits.
How many times have you watched Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope? If you’re like me, it’s been years since you’ve had the amount of fingers and toes you would need to tally that number up. This is a film that has been practically ingrained in my DNA since I was a child. But as many times as I watch the film, the experience is the same today as it was when I first watched it. That’s not to say that’s a bad thing – it’s actually a testament to the beauty of the film that it still has the same almost magical power over me now as it did when I was a kid – but that being said, I have always experienced it through the same lens, the same “point of view”. The original Star Wars, to me, is perfection – so how could I possibly ever add to my enjoyment of the movie? Well, in a feat of wonder that I previously thought impossible, Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View has somehow managed to enrich my enjoyment of a four-decade-old movie, and from this point on, things will never be the same.
The From a Certain Point of View anthology is a love letter to Star Wars. That is perhaps the most simple way to describe it. At the turn of every single page of this book, you can just feel the love and admiration behind the words of every author. Every story is crafted in a unique way, and the characters and styles range in such a way that I never grew bored, and I was always left wanting to dive right in to the next story at the end of each one. To be fair, not every story in this book is “amazing”, and there were a couple that had me scratching my head as to what they really added to the book, but for the most part, the stories were a blast and there is literally something for everyone. You won’t love everything about this book, but everyone will love something, and for me, there were a lot more hits than misses in this wonderful collection of short stories.
I had a lot of fun reading this book, and just about every story is worth a read for any Star Wars fan, but the ones who are really going to love this one are the obsessive canon-nuts like myself. This book is all about the details. Each subsequent page takes readers through the entire story of A New Hope through the perspective of some of the more seemingly insignificant characters in the movie. The book introduces you to the story through the eyes of Raymus Antilles, the captain of the Tantive IV, from the final moments of Rogue One to the time of his death at the crushing hand of Darth Vader. Following this story is a series of clever tales that place the reader beneath the helmet of the stormtrooper that stuns Princess Leia, under the mask of the Tusken Raider that assaults Luke Skywalker, behind the bulbous eyes of the Rodian bounty hunter, Greedo, as he makes his move on Han Solo, and more.
The cantina stories are some of the more entertaining ones of the bunch and are very reminiscent of the old Tales anthologies from the expanded universe novels. From a tale about Wuher, the gruff barkeep at Chalmun’s Cantina, to a caper involving all the freaks at table 9, the Mos Eisley portion of the book is some of the most fun I’ve had reading a Star Wars book. Some of the happenings on the Death Star are also quite entertaining, as you get a glimpse at some of the more “auxiliary” functions provided by the mouse droid that Chewbacca frightens on the Death Star as it passes secret messages between the trooper TK-421 and an unnamed high-ranking officer. All we know of this officer is that he was one of the joint chiefs at the station (the men who regularly meet with Tarkin and Vader), and he has taken a “non-work related” interest in the trooper. Let’s just say I’m surprised TK-421 was actually at his post as often as he was. There is also an interesting spin on the trash compacter scene as you witness it through the eye stalk of the resident dianoga, whose purpose for grabbing Luke may surprise you.
Along with the wacky antics in the cantina and aboard the Death Star, there are also a few moments that are designed to really pull on your heartstrings as well. When Ryland, the Rebel lookout on Yavin sends his little girl to Alderaan in attempt to find a more secure home for her during the war, there is nothing but hope emanating from the words on the page. But the darkness lies in the part of the story that remains untold as readers are keenly aware that in an act of sacrifice where he intends to provide for his infant daughter’s future, he has actually condemned her to die along with the planet of Alderaan. Readers also get to experience the destruction of Leia’s home planet through the eyes of her adoptive parents as they hold onto hope for their daughter’s future in their final moments before being blasted into oblivion.
Some of the greatest moments in the book, however, are the scenes that unfold, not through the ancillary characters in the movie, but from the perspective of some of the main characters that take place in between the scenes in the film. One of my favorite moments in the book takes place right after Obi-Wan, Luke, and the droids come upon the massacred Jawas and Luke sets off to his home to check on his aunt and uncle. While Luke is away and the droids tend to the dead bodies of the Jawas, Obi-Wan calls out to an old friend for guidance. This was perhaps my favorite story in the entire book as it gave me a scene I have been wanting to see since the ending of Revenge of the Sith. As Qui-Gon appears to Obi-Wan beside the sandcrawler, they begin to discuss Luke’s future, and you discover a lot of really cool things about the Force and one’s ability to live on after physical death.
There is also a story dedicated to the fight between Obi-Wan and Vader aboard the Death Star that is told through the eyes of the Jedi Master. During the battle, he begins to have visions through the Force, of both the past and the future. This story was an incredible tribute to the character, and it was really amazing to discover Obi-Wan’s motivation to finally submit to the crimson blade of his old Padawan through his own thoughts. During the battle, he even has a vision of Luke’s future and knows that there will be a time when Luke will face an exile similar to his own. He vows to be there for him and offer him companionship, much in the way that Qui-Gon was there for him during his own nineteen years of solitude.
While Obi-Wan is battling his old apprentice, we also get a peek into the life of Yoda on Dagobah as he goes about his day to day life on the swampy planet. During this story, Yoda has to evade Imperial droids who, after two decades, are still being dispatched across the galaxy to hunt down the remaining Jedi. When Obi-Wan is killed, Yoda senses his passing in the Force and the story ends with the spirit of Obi-Wan appearing to the Jedi Master, asking him to take on young Skywalker as an apprentice. Yoda agrees without question, revealing that he is more than eager to train her. Obi-Wan then informs Yoda that he was actually talking about Luke, and Yoda is very reluctant to accept Obi-Wan’s charge, having seen Anakin’s recklessness and anger in the boy. It was really neat to see that Yoda had been keeping a close eye on Leia and recognized that she was actually more ready in his mind to take on the life of a Jedi than Luke was at the time.
Canon-junkies will also be interested to shine some light on some age-old debates among the Star Wars fandom, like the truth behind Vader’s “No disintegrations” remark to Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back, why “Wedge” looks different at the Battle of Yavin briefing, and what exactly caused R5-D4’s motivator to blow up as he made his way to Luke Skywalker. Rest assured, Fett had nothing to do with the death of Luke’s family, and everything to do with using a weapon accelerator on three Rebel Spies who came at him with ion disrupters on Coruscant. Vader refused to pay the bounty hunter when all that was left of his quarry were three piles of ash. Now, to save face and recuperate from his loss, Fett is searching for the Empire’s missing droids on Tatooine when Jabba calls on him to provide some extra muscle as he confronts a wayward smuggler.
As it turns out, R5-D4 is a droid that may have belonged to the Rebellion at one point, and after a conversation with R2-D2 on the sandcrawler, he decides to make the hard choice, sacrificing his one chance at gaining a master to allow R2-D2 to go in his stead. There was actually nothing wrong with the little red astromech; his malfunction was actually self-inflicted in an act of heroism for the Rebellion.
Long time Star Wars fans are probably aware that the Rebel pilot in the briefing at Yavin who expresses his doubts about the capabilities of hitting such a small target (even with a targeting computer) was supposed to be Wedge, but by the time the pilots are in their X-Wings, the character had been replaced by a new actor, Denis Lawson, who would go on to play the pilot in the remainder of the saga. There is a very meta story in the book that addresses this discrepancy, revealing that the pilot in the briefing was actually a completely different character by the name of Col Takbright, a man that is resentful of Antilles, having been thrust into the other pilot’s shadow due to his uncanny likeness to him, which earned him the nickname “Fake Wedge”.
Hands down though, the coolest part of this entire book for me were the implications that Claudia Gray’s Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon tale, “Master and Apprentice”, makes for the future of the saga – so allow me to go back to that story for just a moment. We learn a lot of really neat things about the Force and the path to immortality that Yoda mentions at the end of Revenge of the Sith. For one, we discover that Qui-Gon has become one with the Force, but is able to manifest himself to Obi-Wan when his old Padawan calls his name. We learn that after Anakin’s fall to the dark side, Qui-Gon began to appear to Obi-Wan during his exile to give him guidance and companionship. Given their resumed status as Master and Apprentice, Qui-Gon has taken to calling Obi-Wan “Padawan” once again.
Qui-Gon feels guilty for placing too much responsibility on Obi-Wan in asking him to train the boy. Obi-Wan assures him that Anakin had to make his own choice and that it was no one else’s fault. This is huge because it shows that Qui-Gon is still very in touch with his humanity, despite his spiritual existence in the cosmic Force. Obi-Wan has also apparently come to terms with Anakin’s betrayal and no longer sees it as his failure, but Anakin’s own. To add even more mystery to Qui-Gon, the old master has knowledge of certain things about the future. In the cosmic Force, he exists outside a linear view of time. He seems to have a good understanding about Luke’s destiny and is also aware that Obi-Wan would be joining him very soon.
When Qui-Gon appears to Obi-Wan, Gray describes the scene as if he is putting on flesh. Obi-Wan even remarks how corporeal Qui-Gon has become lately. In other words, he’s not just a blue glowing spirit – it’s as if he is actually standing there in the flesh. Though, while in the flesh, Qui-Gon has not lost his connection to the cosmic Force. He seems to have finally mastered the art of immortality as he is able to bridge the divide between the cosmic Force and the living Force.
So what does all this mean? Well, for starters, it stands to reason that either Yoda, Obi-Wan, or both will likely appear to Luke in The Last Jedi and beyond. It would make perfect sense that if Qui-Gon mentored Obi-Wan and Yoda during their exile, that Obi-Wan and/or Yoda (and possibly Anakin) would do the same for Luke in his own. Also, it means that they could look very different from the Force ghosts of the original trilogy. This could even explain a change in the appearance of Obi-Wan and/or Yoda in the sequels. If they are able to take on flesh, why couldn’t they take on the form of their younger selves (Ewan McGregor anyone?)? I can’t wait to see where they take this and I hope The Last Jedi expounds upon this new aspect of the mythology.
There’s no way I could cover this book in its entirety, nor would I want to as so much of it is better experienced on your own, but hopefully you’ve read enough here to sway your decision either way. While not every story is a groundbreaking revelation, there is enough of that in the book to make it a worthy addition to the Star Wars canon. If you love A New Hope, you like to dig deep into the more obscure elements of the saga, or if you just want to read something fun, this book’s for you. It’s currently one of my favorite books on the shelf and maybe it will be yours too.
Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View is available now wherever books are sold. Pick up your copy at the earliest opportunity – you’ll be glad you did. Until next time, happy reading Star Wars fans!