For Pity Sake Publishing

“Star Wars: From A Certain Point of View” – Review

Our Editor-In-Chief and resident Star Wars-tragic is reviewing the latest collection of short stories from the massive franchise. Our short story competition closes in days. Have you got your entry in yet?

I was the perfect age when I first watched Star Wars. I remember the moment through the nostalgic gleam of childhood. Family movie night. I was nine or ten years old. A mattress on the lounge room floor. My brothers and I piled on. Dad put the video in the VHS player (this was back when media was physical). And I don’t know how much it was in doubt before this moment, but after it, my future was certain – I was a nerd. Certified. I had fallen in love.

Since those years, I’ve had the ‘normal’ experience of a Star Wars fan – one of shared joy and frustration at the series repeated attempts to gorge on its success. Toys, additional films, comics, books, television series, video games…they are all hit and miss (with probably more misses than hits). Still, a guaranteed adolescent holiday read for me was usually a Star Wars book. Countless gifted writers have put their hand to the ‘extended universe’. There’s barely a grain of sand on Tattooine that has gone unexamined at this point. Every back character has a story – a birth, a life, a death.

This over-examination of the Star Wars universe is in contradiction to George Lucas’s original vision for the first film. Lucas was famously paying homage to the adventure shorts that would roll prior to a feature film in the cinemas of his childhood. These short, episodic offerings were little windows into other worlds. As a casual cinema attendee, it was impossible to watch the episodes in order. You were thrust into a story and just hung out for a bit to have fun. Lucas’ teasing ‘episode four’ in the opening credits of the original Star Wars was a wink to this idea. At the time, he didn’t know what had come before, or after. For the most part, he didn’t care.

But the world was tantalising, the nerd-impulse to fill in the gaps kicked in big time. This, combined with corporate greed, created an entire industry, and shaped cinema into the blockbuster blood sport it is today. I’ve stopped trying to keep up with the Star Wars extended universe long ago, and rarely dip back into the franchise outside of the films which, BTW, we’re going to get from now until the end of time. An annual Star Wars film is inevitable at this point.

However, my interest was piqued at the premise of Star Wars: A Certain Point of View. In celebration of forty years since the first film’s premiere, forty short stories are compiled into a single volume. Each short story focusses on an auxiliary character in the first film – a droid on the Death Star, an anonymous smuggler in the Tattooine cantina, Luke Skywalker’s doomed Aunt…

The line-up of writers is impressive. There’s award-winning and celebrated young adult authors such as Meg Cabot and Claudia Grey, podcast-famed presenters and comedians such as Ben Acker and Glen Weldon, or comic book superstars Matt Fraction and Kelly-Sue DeConnick.

Like any Star Wars fiction the stories are hit and miss. Some writers take the task more seriously than others, and the humorous fare is the most enjoyable. An Imperial Officer’s incident report to his seniors after Darth Vader has choked him is particularly hilarious. A messenger droid shepherding secret messages between two hard-nosed officers in the middle of a gay love tryst made me laugh out loud.

The other most successful submissions are those that live up to Lucas’ original vision – brief peeks into complex other worlds that happen to reside adjacent to the Star Wars story. A complicated tangle of smugglers who are in the bar when Obi-Wan and Luke meet Han Solo, for example, is beautifully written by DeConnick and Fraction, gesturing at an entire cast of characters who could easily make up their own film.

The less memorable additions are those that rely on tired Hollywood troupes. A soldier mourning the death of a fallen comrade. A fighter pilot who swings in at the final moment to save the day. There’s nothing original here, and the stories come across as deleted scenes from the original film. True to the form, but deleted for a reason.

The editorial choice to order the stories to sit alongside the film has advantages. As you read you’re getting an alternative film playing out in your head. I strongly suggest re-visiting Star Wars: A New Hope if you’re not overly familiar with the plot before reading because of this. I imagine re-watching it after reading would be fun too – you won’t be able to help but fill in the gaps the short stories provide.

Read in a single gulp, however, I became bored. A full third of the stories concentrate on background characters in the Tattooine bar, for example. So while some of the stories were great, I didn’t care, because I just wanted to get out of that bloody bar. The same is true for the final, climactic destruction of the Death Star – all the juice was taken out of the victory because I ended up reading about it from a dozen points of view.

It’s not a great book for the casual Star Wars fan looking to dabble into the extended universe. For that purpose, I would recommend the run of Marvel comics that started in 2015. Fun, casual and accessible. But if, like me, you’re an old Star Wars tragic who could do with a smile and a dose of nostalgia, Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View is a captivating read.

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