May the force be with you on this bitch of a Friday. It’s been a while: both since I’ve posted, and since I wrote my first draft of this review, jotting down my thoughts of each story in the audiobook as they cropped up.
And here we are, December 2018, in full-on Star Wars withdrawal since Solo blew its load prematurely all over the summer blockbuster market. So to assuage my itches and shakes, I’m posting this (barely) refined review of every story from the audiobook of From A Certain Point of View. Overall, the average for my love/hate of this book settles somewhere in the middle, which is why I approached it story-by-story. Some stories are spectacular. Some are abhorrent. Most of them are just okay.
Caveat: This is review is barely edited, which I think is only fair since several of these stories feel like they were given the same treatment. Apologies for any inconsistencies because I didn’t feel like revisiting the book, but c’mon, it’s not like I work for the story group.
“Raymus” by Gary Whitta
Following Raymus, captain of the Tantive IV directly following the events of Rogue One. Good story, written by a guy who wrote one of the first drafts of Rogue One (and it shows). Really great narration—dude’s voice makes you think of Liam Neeson (and later delivers in another story). Deceptively good start to the book.
“The Bucket” by Christie Golden
Following a stormtrooper who I guess is in the 501st, part of the crew who brings in Leia. Christie Golden rarely disappoints, and that makes this a rarely disappointing find. Written beautifully, but with a mixed-up message that had me actively rooting for the main character’s death by the end.
Docked down to 3/5 for the immortal sin of describing Princess Leia’s eyes as “brown orbs.”
“The Sith of Datawork” by Ken Liu
The story of a data collector on the Death Star helping an officer out of a spot of trouble (the whole business with choosing not to shoot down the escape pod holding no life forms). Audiobook performance is a bit hammy, but this is a great story written by Ken Liu, who wrote The Legends of Luke Skywalker (not my favorite). Humorous, nuanced, and clever without being an absolute bore of exposition or introspection, which it would have been if handled by a less skilled author.
“Stories in the Sand” by Griffin McElroy
Follows a Jawa named Jot, who is a Special Boy. More heartwarming than you’d expect from a story about a Jawa. Exactly as heartwarming as you’d expect from Griffin McElroy. I can’t fault anyone for making feelsy metacommentary on the power of stories to move you, especially not the master behind the “Balance” arc of The Adventure Zone.
“Rerin” by Sabaa Tahir
Follows Rerin, a female tusken raider who dreams of better things and takes a job pulling a heist on a sand crawler. The sand crawler. Exactly as tense as you’d expect from Sabaa Tahir. Disappointed because it felt more like a prologue to a book I would for sure read to hear the rest of Rerin’s story and not so much a contained short story.
“The Red One” by Rae Carson
Story about the R-4 unit that breaks down when being sold to Owen. It’s not that deep, fam. I did like R-4’s path to be a hero by the end, but didn’t feel like we made the appropriate treads to get there. I also think this story, or something similar to it, was done before in EU.
“Rites” by Johnathan Jackson Miller
I expected better from John Jackson Miller–I love everything else I’ve read from him. Seems like an editor would have arranged for he and Sabaa Tahir to communicate about crossover in their stories, since their characters originate from the same tribe and take their characters on similar arcs. This one felt just a little too predictable and snoreworthy for me.
“Master and Apprentice” by Claudia Gray
Lovely audiobook narration. Less of a story and more like a bunch of introspection from Qui-Gon Jin emerging from the force to have a chat with Obi-Wan after he’s found Luke. Okay if you’re into that sort of thing (and if you are, you probably ship Jinobi).
“Beru Whitesun Lars” by Meg Cabot
Beru talks to the reader about her life. Left something to be desired tonally, but overall good balance of being heartwarming and original. Props to Meg Cabot for picking up Beru. It’s a loveable story from a point of view you’ve never heard from before. Hits all boxes, checks all marks, warmed my heart.
“The Luckless Rodian” by Renée Ahdieh
Extremely, almost clinically procedural story of Greedo finding Han Solo in the cantina. Dwells too long on Luke being in the bar and the narration doing this annoying thing where it’s talking about Luke Skywalker but doesn’t want to make it too obvious that it’s Luke Skywalker. Why would Greedo give a shit about Luke in that situation at all? Only the audience of the movie cares about Luke. Story tries to give Greedo some tragic backstory about losing his girlfriend and that’s why he hates Han Solo, but I learned long ago that authors are to be blamed for fridging, not established canon characters. Really, just—mistakes from every possible direction. Everyone who pays special attention to Greedo in their story after I’m forced to read this one owes me $5.
“Not for Nothing” by Mur Lafferty
Delivers on a unique voice and likeable, interesting characters. Delivers on a recurring theme. Tonally sound. Would have liked more of a focus on this reading like a Rolling Stone piece, which it started to do and then kind of abandoned. Owes me $5.
“We Don’t Serve Their Kind Here” by Chuck Wendig
Caveat: Chuck Wendig is a really cool and nice dude, from what I’ve heard of him on podcast interviews. I’m just not a huge fan of his writing style.
Chuck Wendig seems to have tempered his staccato style from Aftermath (I could only stomach the first one), but by luck of the draw beats a dead horse in this cantina story that is both less interesting than the previous two cantina stories and conflicts with them plot-wise. Tries to give the cantina owner some contrived tragic backstory and PTSD relating to droids to explain why he doesn’t allow them in the bar, when “Not for Nothing” explained this logic in a simple sentence (“Why let droids take up space that could be used for living, breathing, paying patrons?”). It falls flat. It also shoehorns in Greedo. Owes me $5.
“The Kloo Horn Cantina Caper” by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction
Well-written technically, but super contrived story tying together some colorful characters in the cantina who I couldn’t give a shit about. Audiobook narration is absolute ham sandwich, like, your-dorky-dad-reading-you-a-bedtime-story-and-doing-terrible-voices hammy. Two authors I guess means they felt entitled to twice the length of the other stories. Makes recurring joke about Luke being a teenage girl that felt like a low bar for humor, especially coming from these two. Owes me $10 (two writers made the dumbshit choice together to include Greedo).
“Added Muscle” by Paul Dini
Excellent voice from Paul Dini. Delicious audiobook narration by Jon Hamm. Short and sweet. Accomplishes exactly what it needs to. Doesn’t overstay its welcome and leaves nothing to be desired.
“You Owe Me a Ride” by Zoraida Córdova
Ultimately, not bad. Ultimately, it doesn’t seem to be about anything important. Like “Rerin,” this feels like an extended canon book I’d pick up in hopes that it would lead to a bigger story.
“The Secrets of Long Snoot” by Delilah S. Dawson
Audiobook has great impressions of Dr. Zoidberg and Donald Trump that make this story feel much sillier than it actually is. It has a really great voice and makes you sympathize with the main character without any dirty tricks (looking at you, Wendig and Wheaton) and gives a perspective that is more complex than the simple “rebellion good, imperial bad” point of view. Makes you more than a little sad that the droids get away in Docking Bay 94. It feels like this is the true purpose of what this book was made for.
“Born in the Storm” by Daniel José Older
Really great and unique voice. One of the best audiobook narration pairings in the entire book (up there with “Raymus” and “Master and Apprentice”). Shows the opposing side of what it’s like to be Jedi mind-tricked. Fucking actually seems to tie in story-wise with “The Secrets of Long Snoot,” because apparently it’s a big ask that two stories both considered canon by story group also make sense regarding one another. Successfully humorous. Like “The Bucket” but not so annoyingly self-righteous. Resolves itself very nicely.
“Laina” by Wil Wheaton
Overly blubbery, manipulative sob story that doesn’t have anything to do with anything, except that a rebel is sending his infant and about-to-be-orphaned daughter, Laina, to live a better life on (Woe! Irony!) Alderaan. I guess you can get away with a cheap shot like that when you’re Wil Wheaton.
“Fully Operational” by Beth Revis
Story from Tagge’s point of view aboard the Death Star. Adds context post-Scarif to the side of the Imperials. Get to see what it’s like inside that board room when Vader chokes someone out, which I love. Provides a good lead-in for the next story, “An Incident Report,” despite their extreme differences in tone. Left me wanting a little bit of a deeper dive, but satisfies none the less.
“An Incident Report” by Mallory Ortberg
Really great whiny non-apology from Motti regarding the incident with him getting choked out by Vader, as though Vader was offended by Motti “insulting his religion.” Story sells with a lot of bureaucracy jargon that you’d find typical of some CEO sending out an internal memo. This is the kind of story you tell to make you hate the Empire—men far up the chain making a big fuss over things like manners and religious sensitivity and board room insubordination when they literally commit genocide around the galaxy on the daily basis, not tear-jerky mush like “Laina.”
“Change of Heart” by Elizabeth Wein
Audiobook narrator’s impression of Leia is… bad. Told from second-person narration, because I guess it doesn’t have much else going for it. This is just a recap of the scene from ANH from the point of view of a passive observer. Almost like a… moviegoer. Pointless, but mercifully short and not offensively bad.
“Eclipse” Madeleine Roux
Retcons (or rather, establishes) Breha Organa to being alive when Alderaan went kaboom. Bail and Breha are deeply in love, and this story makes you believe it. Great emotional arc centering around not knowing the fate of their daughter in the fall of the Tantive IV. Highly reminiscent of the final scene between Jyn and Cassian in Rogue One. Heartbreaking and absolutely grim as fuck and made me cry.
Author’s note: I actually read this story before reading Claudia Gray’s spectacular Leia: Princess of Alderaan. They go very well paired together.
“Verge of Greatness” by Pablo Hidalgo
How I personally feel about Pablo Hidalgo being snarky on Twitter aside, this is an awesome story. Tarkin’s reflection that Krennec wanting credit for the Death Star was like a brick-layer claiming credit for a king’s castle is so preposterously in character that it almost pisses me off. It also adds context from Rogue One as to why the senate was disbanded as mentioned in A New Hope. Doesn’t hold your hand procedurally through a scene you’ve obviously seen a billion times like so many of these other stories do. And, it switches POV to Krennec moments before his death, vowing that his creation would be the downfall of Tarkin. Excellent work with Tarkin reflecting on the shortcomings of Krennec being an engineer and not a politician, and Krennec reflecting on the shortcomings of Tarkin being a politician and not an engineer. Upsettingly brilliant. I loved every word.
“The Trigger” by Kieron Gillen
Aphra’s perpetual, Deadpool-esque sass is counteracted with just a preposterous amount of plot armor. She’s found by Tagge at the former rebel base on Dantooine and has to explain what she’s doing there. Aphra refers to a bio-plague on “Geonsha” (pronounced in audiobook as “Genosha), which I assume is supposed to be Geonosis, though Wookieepedia doesn’t clarify this in any way. (Could have used an editor for that one.) The nearby town is also called “Dantoo Town.” You know, Dantoo Town on Dantooine. Tone deaf. Reeks of “OC original character DO NOT STEAL” and maybe I would have been prepared for that if I’d read anything of Aphra in the comics, but I literally just can’t with her.
“Of MSE-6 and Men” by Glen Weldon
This story almost made me put the book away entirely. The droid log is an almost-clever way of telling a story that is excruciatingly bad in an audio medium, but that’s really the least of this story’s problems.
My biggest problem isn’t that this story makes Tarkin or TK-421 gay. My problem is that it reduces Tarkin, an otherwise distinguished and highly refined gay, to a randy old man who breaks protocol to use a glitchy mouse droid to orchestrate an affair with a subordinate. Please.
TK-421 is cast in an effeminate stereotype and then gets fridged (I guess by Han when TK-421 boards the Falcon? The canon of this conflicts with the next story, “Bump”). TK-421’s death is then used to try and make us sympathize with Tarkin’s goal of Killing All Rebels, which suddenly is motivated by revenge.
This story only exacerbates the disturbing trend of Star Wars only seeming to add LGBT characters who get fridged (Biggs, see “Dusty Roster” below), sidelined (Kaeden Larte, Ketsu Onyo, Temmin Wexley’s aunts from Aftermath), or distinguished members of the Empire (Sinjir Rath Velus, Moff Delian Mors, and now… Grand Moff Tarkin). You’d think it wouldn’t slip past a panelist on NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour that making the most by-the-numbers genocidal character in all of Star Wars gay isn’t exactly a win for LGBT representation.
“Bump” by Ben Acker and Ben Blacker
Mentions TK-421 being among the dead after this trooper hits his head on the doorframe, so that’s confusing. FINALLY, a stormtrooper POV that doesn’t reduce them to the morally gray, “just following orders” down-on-their-luck drips of the galaxy. Good voice, good story. Doesn’t make you feel like you’re being pandered to. Washed the bad taste out of my mouth that I got from “Of MSE-6 and Men.”
“End of Watch” by Adam Christopher
Written equivalent of that shot in Rogue One that makes you feel just how panst-shittingly massive the Death Star is. Cool perspective on the secretive nature of the mission on Scarif, and how very few people aboard the Death Star actually knew what they were doing at Scarif, or that they were at Scarif, or what happened while they were there. Very nice inclusion of that bit of trivia from Carrie Fischer describing Peter Cushing’s scent (lavender) and attributing it to Tarkin. Highly relatable for anyone who ever has worked in a 24-hour environment.
“The Baptist” by Nnedi Okorafor
Lovely story about how the Force manifests in other beings. Gives more purpose and context to the trash compactor scene in A New Hope and expounds on the limitless cruelty of the Empire’s reach while keeping the focus on Omi’s journey. Highly unique and endearing. I could have read an entire novel on Omi’s place in the universe. I’ve always been a fan of Nnedi Okorafor’s refusal to compromise for what is expected. This is my favorite story in the book and it sets the bar for all others. Truly understood what would have made this anthology the best it could be.
“Time of Death” Cavan Scott
Parsing apart the seconds of Obi Wan’s death with the added context of the prequels, The Clone Wars TV show, and of The Force Awakens. It’s tragic and beautiful, melting together all the best parts of all corners of Star Wars. This dude Cavan Scott knows his canon. Made me cry.
“There is Another” by Gary D. Schmidt
Yoda dreams about teaching Leia the ways of the Force, about giving her his lightsaber, and about teaching her that she would be the one to save the galaxy. He knows about Luke and thinks of him as a daydreamer with no discipline for the force. Heartfelt meeting of old friends as Obi Wan emerges in the force. Adds context to Yoda’s having to teach Luke over Leia, and being prematurely disappointed with his apprentice. It’s a nice little bit of validation for those of us who spend long hours daydreaming about alternate universes with a spitfire farm girl having to rescue a doe-eyed prince of Alderaan. Also, can you beat a title like that? No, you can’t.
“Palpatine” by Ian Doescher
I think this would be a little confusing to come across without the context of what else Ian Doescher has written for Star Wars. Not bad, considering. I love Doescher’s other stuff and don’t have much to say about this one. Another fine addition to his collection!
“Sparks” by Paul S. Kemp
Story from the point of view of Dex, a pilot killed in the Death Star battle. Dex shares Luke’s willingness that shooting a torpedo down the ventilation shaft is definitely possible, which is nice. Good old story about rebellion sacrifice.
“Dusty Roster” by Jason Fry
Nice moment of Biggs finding out that his old buddy Luke is the new pilot (from Col’s point of view). Col gets really upset that he isn’t allowed to fly the Death Star mission. Really tense scene in the battle room. Really good hotshot pilot vibes. Doesn’t make you feel pandered to. Heart-rending play-by-play of listening to fellow pilots get picked off one by one, and has a touching arc with Wedge (they made Tarkin over-the-top campy stereotype gay with a stormtrooper, but couldn’t manage to let Col and Wedge have a tender moment together? Okay then.).
“Desert Son” by Pierce Brown
Porkins manages to make a gay joke that isn’t offensive and all but affirms Biggs’s leanings toward men. It’s pretty apparent that Biggs has feelings for Luke. Frustrating to a degree that his feelings aren’t outright stated, because it’s subtle and I think would be otherwise lost on people, but that may be Disney censorship at work. Gives context to Luke and Biggs’s relationship, growing up on Tattooine together, and makes his sacrifice to save Luke a lot more impactful. Makes my heart hurt. A lot.
“Grounded” by Greg Rucka
Cool perspective from the ground crew of rebel ships. Main character lost a good number of ace pilots in Scarif, emphasizing the odds stacked against the rebels in A New Hope. This is the fourth story covering the Death Star Battle, but unlike the Cantina scene, this is the sort of event that this anthology is meant to cover. Really good meta on pilots. Successfully makes you identify with an original character.
“Contingency Plan” by Alexander Freed
Interesting doomsday perspective from Mon Mothma, basically running through what will happen when (not if) they lose the Death Star battle. Explores dark territory of Mon Mothma basically knowing what dark fates will befall her and everyone in the rebellion. Obviously, they don’t lose, and the relief of that tension is wonderful to read.
“The Angle” by Charles Soule
Pretty good POV from Lando hearing news about the Death Star and wondering what possessed Han Solo to do what he did. Wanted this to be a little more focused on Lando, less on what Lando thought about Han, but I suppose there’s no easy way to do that. Good none the less.
“By Whatever Sun” by E.K. Johnston and Ashley Eckstein
Cool tieback to the Ahsoka novel with Meara Larte. Not much happens. Made me hungry for some more Ahsoka canon.
“Whills” by Tom Angleberger
Silly story that sort of pits the “good” and “bad” parts of Star Wars against one another in a fun sort of way. Neil Patrick Harris got essentially top buzz for being on this audiobook but only does a whole two minutes of narration. As far as I can tell, this is the only story he narrates. So that’s lame.
This story refers to ewoks as being “at the top of the food chain,” making them apex predators, which despite all the other shortcomings is my favorite thing about this book being considered “canon.”
Overall Verdict: *Hand wobbling* ehhh
Look, just read it. Or listen to it. The important thing about this compilation is that only enhances the stories we see on screen. Or read in other books. It doesn’t detract–not really. Even the worst stories are either too ridiculous to even accept as a canon possibility or too boring to have any lasting impact.
Props to this project for attracting a list of authors with both old blood and new in regards to Star Wars contributions. Some of these stories I took major issue with, and some of them felt like little more than luxurious padding via commissioning some titan geeklord to bring their sway to the sales.
I give it a 3.5/5 overall–mostly because the potential for a series like this is remarkable. With just a little more planning and refinement, I think this could be one of the best things for Star Wars books ever. Also, I want a second volume. Also, I want one for each of the anthology films, especially Rogue One.
Also, I… want to write for one. Or more. Guess I should get on the Twitter campaign horn for all of my… *checks phone* 57 followers. That’s how Wendig got Aftermath, right? Right??