Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View takes a little bit of a different approach to the typical Star Wars canon novel. This book is a compilation of 40 stories from more than 40 authors (some stories were written by multiple people) all taking place during and immediately surrounding the events of A New Hope. These stories are told from the perspectives of characters that are usually background ones though from time-to-time the main characters make an appearance — like Obi-Wan’s interaction with force ghost of Qui-Gon.
The short stories are arranged actually very cleverly, with the action of each story taking place in parallel to how the movie unfolds. So early stories in the book focus on Tatooine, later stories deal with the Death Star, and so on. You can actually flow through the events of the movie from different perspectives as you work your way through the book.
Personally, I am not a “short story” kind of guy. I get rather bored with a compilation of them after a while and there is nothing bringing me back to the book after I finish one of them. It is not just this book — I’ve just had issues trying to read short story compilations forever. The quality of the stories are usually all over the place and often I just don’t see what the bigger picture could be (if there even is one). So, in that case, I am likely to be down on this book from the start. Luckily I am aware of this bias, so hopefully I can help filter that feeling.
I started physically reading the book two months ago, and I got tired of it. The stories were overly “meh”, and there was nothing I found to keep me coming back. So I got about halfway through the book and put it down, never really to be picked back up again. (I always finish a book, but I hadn’t gotten around to it yet.) That led me to realize that I could just listen to this book on audiobook. I frequently enjoy a good audiobook during my hour long commute and I had avoided doing Star Wars books this way because I want to catalog their timeline placement (by means of dog-earing the pages) and I simply couldn’t do that with an audiobook. Well, I discovered that you can bookmark sections of the book, and I felt this would work in place of dog-ears.
After the audiobook decision had been determined, my next question was which audiobook should I start with? I could either go back and listed to the two books released immediately before From a Certain Point of View (Phasma and Princess Leia), both of which I haven’t had time to read yet, or stick with From a Certain Point of View since I already started it. I had actually heard a lot of good things about the audiobook so I decided to start the book from the beginning in audio format.
The audiobook of From a Certain Point of View is presented by multiple narrators. It’s not really an audiodrama, per say, but each story seems to have a unique narrator, who does their best to present the voices of the characters in their particular story. However, there are some stories that do have multiple people representing the different vocal parts. This helps keep the stories fresh. It also allows female-centric stories to be read by a woman and male-centric stories to be read by a man. My biggest concerns are often that not all of the narrators do great at imitating voices. Sometimes the voices they are representing are jarring (a particularly husky Leia towards the beginning of the book or a male voice that clearly sounds exactly like a female doing a fake male voice).
But audio quirks aside, I dived back into the book from the beginning. And like my reading of the first half, I simply did not like a majority of the audiobook for the first half. A lot of the stories seemed pointless and some even downright frustrating. There was one entirely about an Imperial filling out forms trying to absolve himself of preventing the Star Destroyer from firing on the escape pod. I’m sitting there listening the entire time going, “What the hell?” And so my frustration with the novel from before extended into the audio format of the book.
I then hit my breaking point, the point where I left the novel. This was right around the end of the Mos Eisley time period, encroaching upon the Death Star time period of the novel. Upon passing this point in the audiobook I found myself rather enjoying the book. Not only did the quality of the stories start to go up, but I really started to like them. There was one taken from Motti’s perspective after the choking scene where he was filing an Imperial report about the incident that was absolutely historical. Talking about religious persecution and the such was perfect.
And just like that I was drawn back in. I’m not sure if my initial reading of the novel had soured me, or the full audiobook experience had helped to uplift the book, but either way it was working. The audiobook was complete with sound effects, music, and like I said, often a variety of voice talent. This was apparently exactly what I needed to help me enjoy the book. But then came some major flops in the middle of the book. There is one taken entirely from the perspective of the mousedroid, which happened to be the droid of TK 421, and if I never have to hear the reboot sequence of a mousedroid again, it will still be too soon. My god, that was obnoxious. Each and every time the narration had to go through its “computer speak” when someone talked to it and each and every time I wanted to take that stupid droid and bash it into a wall. Even now, the mental picture of droid pieces flying all over fills me with euphoria.
Shortly after that there was a story entirely from the perspective of the dianoga. I had originally thought I couldn’t care less about the dianoga. But here we are. I actually care less. It is a this point that I have pretty much given up on the book mentally. There is nothing in my mind that could bring it back. But again, I was wrong.
Scene-wise, we eventually progress to Yavin IV and the Death Star assault. This is when we get one of the best stories of the book, “Duty Roster” written by Jason Fry. This one was for the fans who know Star Wars. It has often been said that the guy in A New Hope who said that the shot to hit the exhaust port was impossible was Wedge Antilles, even though it was a different actor. Well, this story takes that into account and plays it up awesomely. (You can read more about that here). I loved it.
As a continuity minded person, many parts of this book grated on my nerves. Many of the stories had contradictory (or seemingly contradictory) situations. But as you get to the end, you find out that A New Hope was written based on these first hand accounts. Making them not necessarily “canon” but personal recollections of canon events. Something I can give a pass to, but I grit my teeth as I do it.
After all is said and done and I come out of my funk with the dredge stories (I’m also looking at you, all-too-long kloo horn story) I actually really enjoyed many aspects of this book. But it comes back to my issue with short story compilations to begin with. How does one rate a book where parts of it rank a “10” and parts of it rank a “1”. Well, I go with my gut on where it averages out overall. Most of the stories were above average but the bad ones, were really, really bad. So, overall I’d say that if you were to read this book, hop around. If you aren’t enjoying a story, by all means skip it. Few of the stories overlap so you aren’t going to be missing much. From a Certain Point of View has very inconsistent quality in its stories, but when the stories are good, they’re really good.