Book Review: From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back
From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back is just like the first From a Certain Point of View (which I just read), but for The Empire Strikes Back, as the title implies. We follow 40 different short stories from different characters throughout the time of the movie, each written by a different author. Each story adds its own flavor and history to the galaxy far, far away, and this book definitely did not disappoint! I'd definitely add it to your reading list, especially if you're a fan of Episode V.
If you read my review of the first From a Certain Point of View, you'll know that brevity is not my strongest suit, though I do try. Each of these stories is just so unique and interesting, it's hard for me to cut any out, so I'll try to share my thoughts on each one as briefly as I can. Which isn't that brief. But that's okay!
Spoilers ahead for From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back by 40 different authors!
The first story is "Eyes of the Empire" by Kiersten White. This story was from the perspective of the technicians who sift through the footage gathered by Imperial probe droids, specifically one of the technicians who loves her work because her parents manufacture these droids, and she always wanted to explore the galaxy and loves to look through their eyes. It's so sweet, to hear her story and how excited she is by what she sees. But it gets a little darker once they find Hoth, and she begins to feel guilty about the death that will inevitably come to the rebels because of her. This guilt leads to her later deleting footage she finds on Dagobah of a downed X-Wing. It's the least she can do. I loved how White wrote her character, she felt really fleshed out just in this short story, and I really understood her by the end. Her small choice to delete the footage obviously had a large impact, even if she never knew, but understanding that as a reader makes it so much more meaningful.
The second story is "Hunger" by Mark Oshiro. This story is from the perspective of the wampa that attacked Luke. It's actually a really sad story, as you learn about how the wampa lost his family and is alone in his small cave. We get his account of his confrontation with Luke, and it makes you actually feel really, really bad for the wampa. I also really loved how Oshiro put us in the shoes (well... they don't wear shoes but you know what I mean) of the wampa with his writing style. The way he describes its thoughts are a little more simple, straightforward and primal than what we'd usually expect when reading from a human perspective. It was really well done, and it really helped me get in this animal's head while still making it feel like a rounded character.
The third story is "Ion Control" by Emily Skrutskie. This story is about Toryn Farr, a communications officer in the Rebel Alliance who gives the order to fire the ion cannons that disable the Star Destroyer so that the rebel ships can escape. There's a lot of pressure on Toryn, and she's distracted from a little of it by some betting over Han and Leia's relationship. Then, as Echo Base begins to fall apart, she narrowly escapes the destruction by boarding a ship away with her sister. I really liked this story, it had good pacing to carry us through Toryn's little journey on that fateful day for the rebellion, and I loved the humor and levity from the betting pool on Han and Leia, and how invested the other rebels are in it. It was such a great read, and I loved every minute of it.
The fourth story is "A Good Kiss" by C. B. Lee. This story is about a rebel who's job is essentially to work in the cafeteria, deliver caf and run supplies around Echo Base. He's actually the guy who goes between Han and Leia while they're fighting in The Empire Strikes Back, which is pretty funny to read from his perspective. Anyway, because of his job, he knows the secret tunnels through the base very, very well, and this comes in handy when they're evacuating as he's able to lead people to safety when the main passages get blocked. What I loved about this story (and really, many stories in this book) is how it shows that the ordinary people can be heroes with little skills that people would usually ignore until they're needed most. They can make an impact on how the bigger story goes, even if they aren't seen, and I think it's really lovely to tell their stories and acknowledge them like this.
The fifth story is "She Will Keep Them Warm" by Delilah S. Dawson. This is another one written from the perspective of an animal, this time the tauntaun that Han rode out to look for Luke. We also learn that the tauntaun that look took was the daughter of this tauntaun. This story is really sweet, I liked getting to learn more about the tauntauns and it's always interesting to read from an animal's perspective, but also very sad. While this story doesn't take us through the death of this tauntaun, knowing what's going to happen despite the tauntaun's hopefulness. I also really liked how it showed Leia being soft and kind to the tauntaun, comforting her and trusting with her. Leia can be a little cold (literally and figuratively) in The Empire Strikes Back, for good reason, but it's still always nice to see the softer, warmer side of her too.
The sixth story is "Heroes of the Rebellion" by Amy Ratcliffe. This story was honestly probably my favorite of the bunch. It's about a holojournalist who hopes to document the Rebellion to inspire new recruits to rise up and join the cause. She always chases after the heroes, like Luke, Leia, and Han, hoping to get a dynamic, exciting interview. But she always seems to just miss them, and ends up getting caught in the flurry as everyone evacuates the base. She's guided to safety by a rebel soldier who saw her and wanted to help, and ends up on a transport with other rebels. It's here she realizes that the Skywalkers, Solos and Organas of the galaxy are far from the only thing that keeps the rebellion alive, and she turns to the rebel next to her and asks for his story. This is a really, really great story that I think really captures the essence of the whole book. While of course we love the big stories of our larger than life heroes, it's really lovely to look at the regular people of the galaxy and the impacts that they make, no matter how small, and tell their stories. It's something that's true both to Star Wars and real life, as many great leaders and heroes are little without the people that work behind the scenes to make their victories possible, even if they change only the smallest things.
The seventh story is "Rogue Two" by Gary Whitta. This story is from the perspective of the rebel pilot who found Luke and Han when they were in the snow. I could really feel the relief from him after he found them, and I thought that the build up to the anxiety over it that blanketed the whole base was really well-written. This story really connected me with this character, despite his small role in the film, which is exactly what this book should do.
The eighth story is "Kendal" by Charles Yu. This story is from the perspective of Ozzel as he dies by Vader's force choke. Over space Zoom no less. I joke, but this story is actually pretty scary. Yu describes Kendal's death in long, excruciating detail- both the pain that he feels in his body and the confusing mish-mash of memories flashing through his brain as he fades away. It makes for a really compelling but hard read, and I thought that it was really, really well done.
The ninth story is "Against All Odds" by R. F. Kuang. This is another really sad story, this one about the gunner that died in Luke's snowspeeder with him over the Battle of Hoth. I really connected with the character in the early parts of the story, his optimism and captivation with Luke Skywalker were pretty endearing. So of course, we know what happens after he gets in that gunner's seat in Luke's snowspeeder. It's really sad, especially to read how he feels that he's failed Luke. This story is really a heartbreaking one that shows the cost of war, and that even young, hopeful people can fall. It's pretty true to The Empire Strikes Back itself, making it perfect... but that doesn't mean it hurts less.
The tenth story is "Beyond Hope" by Michael Moreci. This story is about some of the ground troops on the Battle of Hoth. I really loved the way this story was written, I think the trench warfare aspect was captured really well. The fear and determination definitely came through. I also loved how the rebels stuck together to the end, trying to help bring others to safety despite the risk to their own lives. It really shows what the Rebel Alliance is about in the simplest of ways. And despite the hopelessness of the situation, our characters are able to escape to a transport evacuating Hoth, letting us finally take a breath after all the tension of the story.
The eleventh story is "The Truest Duty" by Christie Golden. This story is from the perspective of Veers, the general that commands one of the AT-ATs we see during the Battle of Hoth. I think that Golden wrote this story very, very well. The scenes where he talks to Vader make you really, really feel his fear. Then, after his AT-AT is downed and he gets pulled out of the wreckage, his fear of failing Vader and determination not to is what really keeps him alive above all else. It was really interesting, and I liked getting his point of view in this story.
The twelfth story is "A Naturalist on Hoth" by Hank Green. This story was about one of the rebels in Echo Base- but this one isn't a soldier, pilot, mechanic, strategist, or anything like that. He's a scientist, tasked with the work of making sure the planet Hoth is habitable enough for them. We learn all about his background and his everlasting love for the natural worlds of the galaxy, and finally at the end of his story he decides to stay on Hoth after the evacuation of the base so that he can continue to study it and unlock the mysteries that he can't just leave unknown. It was a really cool story with a different angle on Star Wars, and one that I loved to read because of this interesting scientist character.
The thirteenth story is "The Dragonsnake Saves R2" by Katie Cook. This one wasn't actually a written short story, but a small comic! It's super, super cute, and shows R2-D2 when he goes underwater on Dagobah. The dragonsnake is trying to eat him, but when he realizes R2 isn't that edible, he spits him out and then waves goodbye. It's really, really adorable, and was a pleasant surprise to find such a cute comic in this book.
The fourteenth story is "For the Last Time" by Beth Revis. This story is from the perspective of Admiral Piett, and it's absolutely fascinating! We see the point of view of the Imperial loyalist as he watches Ozzel die right next to him, but the most interesting part is actually when he sees Vader in his vulnerable state where he isn't fully covered by armor. That's when Piett realizes that Vader is actually a deeply wounded human, and that makes him all the more afraid because he can't imagine what could possess a man to make him choose this life rather than just die. It was really fascinating to read Piett's thoughts through all of this, and even more when he finally decided to just try and forget about it, but he can't, because now he doesn't only fear Vader, he pities him. It's such a cool read, and I think Revis did such a great job detailing Piett's thoughts here.
The fifteenth story is "Rendezvous Point" by Jason Fry. This story is from the perspective of Wedge after the rebels leave Hoth behind and meet at the rendezvous point, with Luke, Leia and Han nowhere to be found. The rebels want to move to a new place because their position is threatened by nearby pirates, but Wedge puts together a team to fight off the pilots so they can stay to make sure the others can find them later. It's a really fun, exciting little side adventure, and I loved how we got to watch the team grow together in just this little mini story. It was like a really, really condensed version of Alphabet Squadron, and I loved it!
The sixteenth story is "The Final Order" by Seth Dickinson. This story is about a Star Destroyer captain who is put in a tough situation while the rebels are on the run. He finds himself stuck while trying to also manage his young second in command. It was really fascinating to read through his thought process here, as well as all of his conflicting emotions about both his past and his future. It was really well done, and a super great, compelling story.
The seventeenth story is "Amara Kel's Rules for TIE Pilot Survival (Probably)" by Django Wexler. This story was really, really fun. Amara Kel is a TIE pilot who has her rules for making it through battles and not just getting blown up like many, many of the TIEs that we see. Don't get attached, don't be a hero, etc. However, Amara ends up breaking her own rules when she falls for one of her fellow pilots, and they fall right back. Lucky for her, the pilot she falls for is an incredible one, and she's able to rescue Amara when she finds herself in a bad spot as they chase the Falcon through the asteroid field. It was a super cute little story, and Amara's narration style and voice in the story was very entertaining.
The eighteenth story is "The First Lesson" by Jim Zub. It's from the perspective of Yoda once Luke first arrives to Dagobah, and the first lesson that Luke has to learn- or as some people put it, the test that he fails. It's of course, the pretty hilarious scene where Yoda acts like a maniac and wreaks havoc on the little camp Luke is trying to set up. It's still pretty fun from Yoda's point of view too (I just really love that scene in general, partially because of Seagulls). I loved the Yoda story from the last book, and I really loved this one too. He has such a great angle on things, and it's always really interesting (and often pretty funny) to read.
The nineteenth story is "Disturbance" by Mike Chen. This story is from the point of view of good old Palpatine. Or evil old Palpatine, actually. In this story, he feels a disturbance in the Force- that disturbance being Luke starting his training with Yoda. He has a vision of the future, one where Vader overthrows him, and realizes that it's Vader's dream. Palpatine is hardly surprised and not worried at all though, he knows his own power, and doesn't fear Vader. It's pretty ironic (isn't it) to read Palpatine dismiss the future that is coming for him, and this story is definitely a fascinating read, as it gives us a peek inside his weird little head.
The twentieth story is "This is No Cave" by Catherynne M. Valente. This story was actually really, really sad. Another one from an animal's view, this time the exogorth. We get to learn some about the history of the exogorth civilization, and how the particular exogorth that the Millennium Falcon flew into was an outcast of it's kind. It loved the mynocks (or "butterflies") that it kept in its stomach, and wanted to keep them safe. It was so excited to have new friends in Leia, Han and Chewie, and was really upset when they left. Obviously we're glad that our heroes didn't get stuck inside the exogorth, but in this story it's hard not to feel bad for the poor, lonely exogorth that just wanted to make some friends, and felt like the reason that they left was that it wasn't good enough. Poor thing.
The twenty-first story is "Lord Vader Will See You Now" by John Jackson Miller. This is a story about Sloane, who we love! She finds herself trying to return to her Star Destroyer after doing some factory tours in the middle of the hectic chase through the asteroid field from the movie. However, she discovers a mynock with a blaster mark in it, which makes her piece together that the Falcon has hidden somewhere close by in the field and not truly escaped. Her discovery brings her a bump in her career, which she gladly takes. This story was interesting because of the way it's like she does some detective work to figure it all out, and I loved watching her piece together what we already knew.
The twenty-second story is "Vergence" by Tracy Deonn. This story has a really peculiar perspective, as it's from the point of view of the mysterious tree on Dagobah. The tree has a slightly volatile personality, as it's angered by Yoda calling going into its cave a "test," claiming that it's no such thing, only showing fears to people who dare enter. It's also angered by Luke bringing his weapons into the cave and, well... we know what it does next. However, my favorite part of the story was the way that it tells us a little bit about what Yoda got up to in his exile on Dagobah. Yoda apparently frequented the cave, for reasons the tree does not understand. It definitely sounds like a Yoda thing to do, and I think it's very interesting that he tested himself with it so many times. But what I really wonder is this- what did Yoda see?
The twenty-third story is "Tooth and Claw" by Michael Kogge. This was from the perspective of Bossk as he searches for a bounty, and while doing so gets a message from the Empire about the new bounty that they're putting out on the Millennium Falcon. But Bossk doesn't get all of those details, because the transmission cuts out. He decides to worry about it later, and search for his real bounty- a Wookiee tech genius. He breaks into the Wookiee ship and knocks down many Wookiees, and finds his bounty... only it isn't a Wookiee, it's a Trandoshan! And Bossk's believed to-be-dead sister no less! She's disabled due to her egg being wounded, but she was found and raised by Wookiees, and wants to end the animosity between Trandoshans and Wookiees. She makes Bossk swear not to hunt any more Wookiees, and he agrees (after being threatened by the Wookiees that he thought he knocked out), and then leaves to take the bounty on Han and Chewie. This story was so, so fun. It had great pacing and action, and I really felt myself drawn into the confrontation between Bossk and his sister. It was a great read, and it really makes me want a whole book just about this idea.
The twenty-fourth story is "STET!" by Daniel José Older. This story is actually written in the style of a news article submitted for editing, with annotated notes from the editor and all. It was really, really funny to go between the story of this journalist meeting with Zuckuss and 4-LOM with the violence that entails when his grandfather, an extremist fighter, attacks the establishment they're in because of the presence of an old enemy, to the notes of the droid editor who is just flabbergasted by the violence and crossing out swear words and anti-Imperial sentiments. The story itself was a pretty interesting one, and one of many Star Wars stories that demonstrates the never-ending cycle of violence that gets people get caught up in when they're involved in the criminal underworld. I really liked it, I always love Older's writing style and this story, though a little bit different format-wise, is no different.
The twenty-fifth story is "Wait for It" by Zoraida Córdova. This story is from the point of view of Boba Fett as he receives the bounty information from Darth Vader and then talks with the other bounty hunters as they leave to go hunting. He, Dengar and Bossk briefly consider working together and reminisce on their old days of working together, but Boba really shoots down the idea, and goes hunting for Han himself. He of course, as we know from The Empire Strikes Back, locates the Falcon and follows it to Bespin, making him the successful one of the bunch, and we in part learn how he was the only successful one later.
The twenty-sixth story is "Standard Imperial Procedure" by Sarwat Chadda. This is a story about a demoted Imperial officer who is frustrated with how the Empire is going, especially with the hiring of bounty hunters. He regularly pull stunts that gets him more and more in trouble, and then he gets annoyed with the presence of the Slave I in his hangar. However, he also discovers the presence of the Millennium Falcon stuck to the back of the ship, but is caught by Fett before he can report it to his superiors in the hope of climbing up the ranks again, and Fett sticks him in a pod and jettisons him out with the trash, leaving him alone in space while Fett goes to find the Falcon. It's an equally frustrating and sad story, but definitely an interesting one.
The twenty-seventh story is "There Is Always Another" by Mackenzi Lee. This story is from Obi-Wan's point of view as a Force ghost on Dagobah, trying to convince Luke not to leave. Really, the best part of this story was Obi-Wan's inner monologue. It's of course always funny to get that trademark Obi-Wan attitude, which Lee writes very, very well, but it was also very sad as Obi-Wan keeps seeing Anakin in Luke. Over and over again, Luke is reminding Obi-Wan of Anakin, and you can really feel Obi-Wan's pain. It was a very well-written story. The real kicker is at the end, when Yoda says that there is another, and Obi-Wan has to remind himself that it isn't Anakin. Ouch. Poor Obi-Wan.
The twenty-eighth story is "Fake It Till You Make It" by Cavan Scott. It's the bunny! The bunny! This story is from the perspective of Jaxxon, resident space rabbit. He is trying to break out of the swindler life, and wants to start an honest business, so he goes to Lando, our favorite swindler-turned-honest-ish-man, for some help getting started. Lando is not willing to give Jaxxon any money though, because he's got much bigger things on his mind. Jaxxon is devastated, but resigns to just steal from Lando instead. However, when Cloud City is evacuating, Jaxxon can't help but notice some tiny people that need his help escaping. So Jaxxon goes back to smuggling, but this time, with the right cargo. This was a really funny, really cute and hopeful story, and definitely worth the read. Also did I mention that Jaxxon is a bunny? A bunny!
The twenty-ninth story is "But What Does He Eat?" by S. A. Chakraborty. This is from the perspective of a chef in Cloud City who is tasked with preparing a meal for Darth Vader, for the dinner where Han tries to shoot him. Lucky her. She agonizes over what to cook him- she doesn't even know what he eats- and she and her sous-chef consider trying to poison him before deciding that wouldn't be wise. This story was really well written, I thought the suspense and dread that must come with having to cook a meal for Darth Vader was really well written. But above all else, honestly, I just felt bad that after all that work and worry, the meal never got eaten. As far as we saw, I guess.
The thirtieth story is "Beyond the Clouds" by Lilliam Rivera. This story is about a prospective bounty hunter who gets caught up in the action as everyone evacuates Cloud City. As Boba Fett arrives, our protagonist wants to talk to him and ask if she can work for him, but she doesn't get to. She tries to work suspicious jobs threatening people in exchange for an introduction that never happens, and gets more and more caught up in the violence and corruption of the underworld. Her friends try to offer her an escape, a chance to help save people in Cloud City, and while it takes a little while, she does come around, and helps them in the evacuation. It was a very entertaining story- bounty hunters are always fun- and the protagonist was a pretty interesting character that I did like a lot.
The thirty-first story is "No Time for Poetry" by Austin Walker. This story is about Dengar and IG-88, who are reluctantly working together to try and find the Millennium Falcon before any of the other bounty hunters, though they mutually agree once they're actually found that it will be a fight between the pair on who gets the bounty. They follow some coordinates that Boba Fett sent, but they lead them to the wrong YT-1300 freighter (what a trickster, that Fett), this one controlled by the Hutts. They do still end up leaving with some beskar in exchange for keeping quiet about the Hutt dealings in this part of space, but are disappointed that. they won't be collecting on the Empire's bounty. This story was really fun, I enjoyed IG-88's deadpan, straightforward way of speaking that often reminded me of the humor from IG-11 in the first episode of The Mandalorian. It was really funny, and just a great story overall.
The thirty-second story is "Bespin Escape" by Martha Wells. This story is about some of the Ugnaughts of Cloud City as they band together to make their escape. There's a lot of fighting among them, though, as some think that the Empire will continue to provide them good work and they should just stay. Add in a conspiracy of corruption with some of the more influential Ugnaughts, and they've got quite a mess. However, the little Ugnaughts manage to escape and fly away to freedom, thankfully. This story was really captivating and interesting, and gave us a new look at the lives of the little Ugnaughts that everyone takes for granted.
The thirty-third story is "Faith in an Old Friend" by Brittany N. Williams. This was seriously like, one of my favorite stories. It's about the three droids that live inside the Falcon, communicating with each other and when droids like C-3PO and R2-D2 plug in. One of these droids of course is L3-37, and I really, really loved reading about how she lives on. There's a lot of amazing, amazing things about this story, like how when Lando walks through the Falcon, L3 puts up the map of Kessel on the screen to show him that she's still there, or the way that they give attitude to C-3PO, or how much they all love R2-D2 because he plugs in occasionally to chat with them. It's such an amazing, great story, and I really, really enjoyed reading it.
The thirty-fourth story is "Due on Batuu" by Rob Hart. This is the most anticipated story, of course... good old Willrow Hood! A little different from his Legends counterpart, this Willrow Hood has him agreeing to take the camtono to Batuu in exchange for a lot of pay. He doesn't know what is in it, and the person giving it to him is a little bit shady, but he wants the money so he can get a better life and not just have to work in the gas mining center. It's a pretty entertaining story to follow him as he does his famous run through the halls. Definitely a story worth reading before your next Running of the Hoods.
The thirty-fifth story is "Into the Clouds" by Karen Strong. I really, really loved this story. It follows a young girl who dreams of adventure, and she's fascinated with Leia, the rebel princess, and dresses just like her. But when called out by a close friend, she feels guilty and insecure, like she doesn't have the bravery it takes to be like Leia. But she proves herself wrong when she takes shots at stormtroopers to try and aid the rebels in their escape before she leaves Cloud City. I really loved watching this character grow and challenge herself just in this short story, it was really fun to read and definitely worth it.
The thirty-sixth story is "The Witness" by Adam Christopher. This is a story about a defecting stormtrooper who hides in the walls of Cloud City as she tries to make her escape unnoticed. As the title suggests, she witnesses something- that something being the battle between Luke and Vader, and Vader telling Luke about his true parentage. She doesn't catch everything (like the "I am your father part" she doesn't hear, funnily enough), and doesn't quite piece together everything that we know, but she does see the fight and is in awe of it. It's actually so, so cool to read a bystander perspective on that fateful duel, and I really loved to read this story. The fun of the defecting stormtrooper escape parts also added a fun angle to it all.
The thirty-seventh story is "The Man Who Built Cloud City" by Alexander Freed. This story is about an old man in Cloud City who helped to establish and grow it a long, long time ago, and he's... a little delusional. He sees himself as a king, and the people around him as various people of royalty, like a royal assassin for example. He's outraged over the Imperial invasion of Cloud City, and almost gets himself killed making that outrage known, but luckily Lando likes the man and has him rescued. While delusional, the man's determination to save his home is pretty admirable, and I did like the slightly hopeful ending to this story as he swears to protect Cloud City.
The thirty-eighth story is "The Backup Backup Plan" by Anne Toole. This story is from the perspective of some rebels coordinating to fight back against the Imperial occupation of Cloud City. Things seem to be going to plan (kinda) until they're caught by an Imperial officer... except that was just the backup backup plan, as the "Imperial officer" is in a relationship with one of the rebels, and was able to pretend to blow up their ship to let them escape home free. It's a fun rollercoaster of a story with dynamic and entertaining characters, and I really enjoyed reading it.
The thirty-ninth story is "Right-Hand Man" by Lydia Kang. I really, really loved this story, and honestly did not expect it to speak to me as much as it did. It's about the medical droid that attaches Luke's prosthetic hand, and the conversation. that Luke has with him. It's the same droid that tended to Luke after the wampa attack, which Luke specifically requested. The droid is honestly pretty wise about life and offers Luke great advice, which Luke seems to appreciate and honestly, the droid's words resonated with me a lot. It was a great read, and probably up there with my favorites of these stories.
The final story is "The Whills Strike Back" by Tom Angleberger. If you read my last review of the first From a Certain Point of View, you'll remember that the final story of that was similar. to this one. The two beings arguing over how the story should be told, with one of them writing what is the opening crawl of the movie. This one was just as entertaining as the last one, especially with one of the being's outrage over the lack of focus on Willrow Hood and his important heroics. It's very funny, as always, and I really enjoyed this story as a great way. toend the book.