In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the release of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Del Rey has released a compilation of 40 short stories dubbed From a Certain Point of View (FACPOV). Back in 2017, for the 40th anniversary of A New Hope, they did the same thing with their first From A Certain Point of View book. And while the quality of the stories in that first compilation ranged from absolutely terrible to pretty great, they decided to do the experiment again.
Paying an homage to the old Legends Tales From… series, such as Tales From The Mos Eisley Cantina or Tales from Jabba’s Palace, these stories are meant to expand the background characters in the movies. The FACPOV series is set up as 40 short stories written by 40 writers. However, unlike the Tales From … series, these stories act as a sort of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead-esque series, telling the events of and around the movie through the first person points of view of the background characters. The stories are then presented to the reader chronologically, first dealing with the events on Hoth and then continuing to move forward slowly, following the events of the movie.
As was true in the first volume, this second volume has its range of quality for the stories. Some of the stories are great, while others were less than stellar. It also has a tremendously wide range of story lengths. The shortest story is a single page comic drawn by renowned Star Wars artist Katie Cook. The audiobook rendition of the comic was interesting to say the least. The longest stories, on the other hand, range up to 30 pages (over an hour in the audio format), with everything in between. The subjects of the stories are also similar to the first book, where human and alien characters aren’t the only perspectives we get stories from. In addition to what we would consider sentient characters, we also get stories from the view from a wampa, a tauntaun, the exogoth, and the dark side tree, among other creatures. These were the more what I would consider “experimental” of the stories, and while they were interesting reads, not all of them worked for me.
Among the authors are a series of long time Star Wars authors like Jason Fry, Christie Golden, and John Jackson Miller mixed in with newer Star Wars authors like Amy Ratcliffe, Tracy Deonn, and Jim Zub, and many writers in between. And overall I would say that the story quality in this volume was much more consistent than the first volume, with not as many stories I would consider “below average”. However, with so many of the stories ranking as “average”, the better stories don’t tend to stick out as much. Despite the general “pretty good” quality of the overall book, there were a few stories that really stood out to me.
- Jason Fry’s “Rendezvous Point” was a call back to the old Rogue Squadron series of novels, complete with an homage to the “Yub Nub, Commander” joke that was truly iconic.
- There was a reference to the New Jedi Order: Traitor novel, where Ganner Rhysode states “None Shall Pass”, within Seth Dickinson’s “The Final Order” where the main character daydreams of a show named Laser Masters.
- Django Wexler gives us a fairly humorous, and almost Aphra-esque, look at TIE Fighter pilots on “Amara Kel’s Rules for TIE Pilot Survival (Probably)”.
- John Jackson Miller gives us essentially a mini-sequel to his novel A New Dawn, with the return of Rae Sloane.
- Cavan Scott’s “Fake It Till You Make It” holds a special place in my heart. Several of the stories chose to go with events behind the scenes of the movie, using the movie only as a backdrop for their own story. In many of these instances the main character isn’t one we see in the movie, however several of them use characters that are known from elsewhere in the continuity, exploring where those characters were during the events of the movie, such as Miller’s Rae Sloane. Cavan Scott takes it to the next level, using one of my favorite obscure characters and pushing him even more into the lime light; Jaxxon. Jaxxon, the Star Wars version of the Trix Rabbit, is a giant green rabbit-like alien with a checkered past. And Scott manages to place him just off screen during the events of ESB. The fact that story is set up to initially make us think it was Lando and then pulling the bait-and-switch was gold on the audiobook. It definitely had me guessing why they had Lando sounding like the nerdy guy from Family Guy with the lisp.
- The book then wraps up with an encore of the wrap up story from the first volume, where the “Whills” are trying to write the story of Star Wars, while arguing over the content of the story. This story by Tom Angleberger managers to pull in lots of Legends mentions like the Star Wars Holiday Special, Skorr the bounty hunter, the deleted scene wampa attack, and even a Star Trek reference. This chapter had to have been made for the audiobook version because it is perfect in that format.
This book was clearly made for the audiobook. Not only did it feel like many of the authors leaned into the audio narrative, but the narrators really seemed to be enjoying doing the book, making the book a lot of fun to listen to. The stories were broken up amongst a variety of narrators, so that each narrator read a few different stories. And the narrators seemed to be assigned stories that best fit their audio attributes well. It made the switching between stories much more engaging. There were only a couple of stories that were truly off-putting based solely on the audio rendition. One of them was the one I mentioned before, Katie Cook’s cartoon, which ended up just being a series of growls and R2 beeps. The other one was from the perspective of one of the Ugnaughts on Cloud City, where the constant piggy squeals and squeaks got old really, really quickly while listening to it.
Overall, I would say this was an improvement over the first FACPOV volume from A New Hope. I found that I greatly enjoyed quite a few of the stories, with most of them falling into a comfortable average quality range. Most of the stories didn’t stand out, but they also weren’t awful. There were a few stories I would identify as less than average, with most of them being “experimental” stories, taking the perspective of animals or objects you normally wouldn’t expect. But the book in general feels like a niche storytelling anthology. If the first FACPOV worked for you, then you will absolutely love this one, but if the first one wasn’t your favorite, then this one might be a hard sell.
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