Stories From the Last Droid on the Left: A Review of From a Certain Point of View

If you’d told me, as I started this book, that by the end of it I would not only have bawled my eyes out multiple times but would also, completely on purpose, have rewatched Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, I would never have believed you. And yet, here we are. Or rather, here I am, awash in feelings.

From a Certain Point of View (2017)
Authors: Various
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 477 (Hardcover)
Series: Star Wars
Publisher: Del Rey

Why I Chose It: To explain why I chose it, I first have to explain what it is. This book tells the story of Episode IV from the perspective of randoms standing in the background. Remember that red astromech that Uncle Owen and Luke first purchase from the Jawas on Tatooine? Yep, he gets his own story. And that’s honestly what made me want to read it. I freaking love stories told from just outside the main plot. They fascinate me, how these people, the heroes of their own tales, view the main storyline happening around them. As soon as I heard what this book was, I wanted to read it. Luckily, it was available at my library.

Premise: Not that I haven’t already jumped on this, but here, from the publisher:

On May 25, 1977, the world was introduced to Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, C-3PO, R2-D2, Chewbacca, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Darth Vader, and a galaxy full of possibilities. In honor of the fortieth anniversary, more than forty contributors lend their vision to this retelling of Star Wars. Each of the forty short stories reimagines a moment from the original film, but through the eyes of a supporting character. From a Certain Point of View features contributions by bestselling authors, trendsetting artists, and treasured voices from the literary history of Star Wars:

  • Gary Whitta bridges the gap from Rogue One to A New Hope through the eyes of Captain Antilles.
  • Aunt Beru finds her voice in an intimate character study by Meg Cabot.
  • Nnedi Okorofor brings dignity and depth to a most unlikely character: the monster in the trash compactor.
  • Pablo Hidalgo provides a chilling glimpse inside the mind of Grand Moff Tarkin.
  • Pierce Brown chronicles Biggs Darklighter’s final flight during the Rebellion’s harrowing attack on the Death Star.
  • Wil Wheaton spins a poignant tale of the rebels left behind on Yavin.

Plus thirty-four more hilarious, heartbreaking, and astonishing tales from:

Ben Acker • Renée Ahdieh • Tom Angleberger • Ben Blacker • Jeffrey Brown • Rae Carson • Adam Christopher • Zoraida Córdova • Delilah S. Dawson • Kelly Sue DeConnick • Paul Dini • Ian Doescher • Ashley Eckstein • Matt Fraction • Alexander Freed • Jason Fry • Kieron Gillen • Christie Golden • Claudia Gray • E. K. Johnston • Paul S. Kemp • Mur Lafferty • Ken Liu • Griffin McElroy • John Jackson Miller • Daniel José Older • Mallory Ortberg • Beth Revis • Madeleine Roux • Greg Rucka • Gary D. Schmidt • Cavan Scott • Charles Soule • Sabaa Tahir • Elizabeth Wein • Glen Weldon • Chuck Wendig

All participating authors have generously forgone any compensation for their stories. Instead, their proceeds will be donated to First Book — a leading nonprofit that provides new books, learning materials, and other essentials to educators and organizations serving children in need. To further celebrate the launch of this book and both companies’ longstanding relationships with First Book, Penguin Random House has donated $100,000 to First Book, and Disney/Lucasfilm has donated 100,000 children’s books — valued at $1,000,000 — to support First Book and their mission of providing equal access to quality education. Over the past sixteen years, Disney and Penguin Random House combined have donated more than eighty-eight million books to First Book.

There are no spoilers for any of the short stories in this discussion.


Discussion: With forty stories in this collection, it would be impossible to go over all of them and tell you why their inclusion was not only necessary but perfect. I will instead hit highlights (as I judge them) and tell you that if you like the Star Wars franchise even a little bit, this is a must read.

“The Sith of Datawork” by Ken Liu stands out as an early favorite. The third in the collection, the story centers around an Imperial clerk who not only takes her job incredibly seriously, but is a master at using the bureaucracy of the Empire to cover for her friends’ mistakes. In this instance, she’s assisting the gunnery captain who chose not to fire on the escape pod that didn’t have any life sign readings. Light on feelings, but high on hilarity.

Four stories later is “The Red One” by Rae Carson, which is the one I mentioned earlier about the red astromech. I don’t want to give too much away but this one is so good that I not only cried quite a bit about a robot you see for about five seconds on screen, I called my friend up and read the story to her over the phone while she cried and I cried again. That’s how you know it’s good, friends.

If you are anything like me, you like to pretend the trilogy that came out in the 90s doesn’t actually exist. I mean, we already knew where Darth Vader came from, right? Was it really necessary to bring us Jar-Jar? But if there’s one thing I took out of that trilogy, it’s Obi-Wan Kenobi’s somewhat tragic backstory, which I slowly found out about through fan-fiction and the Jedi Apprentice junior series that cropped up after the fact. If you don’t know this, you should definitely take a look at the plot synopsis on wiki. And then remember that part at the end of Episode III? When . . . someone, I’ve blocked who, reminds Obi-Wan that he can still communicate with Qui-Gon through the Force? (I’ve now been informed by our trusty editor that it was Yoda, and she is incredulous that I blocked Yoda, but honestly you guys I’ve blocked SO MUCH about those first three episodes because they are SO BAD.)

So yeah, my next favorite story is “Master and Apprentice” by Claudia Gray, which is a lovely and sad conversation between two old friends about the consequences of their actions and how to fix things. Or how they lost the chance to fix things. Or how some things were inevitable, and could never have been fixed.

Wil Wheaton’s “Laina” also deserves a mention, if only because it also caused copious amounts of tears. A mechanic for the Rebellion sends his two-year-old daughter away on the eve of battle to keep her safe. He records a message for her before she ships out with his sisters, just in case he doesn’t make it. He tells her the story of his involvement with the Rebellion, of her mother, who died when Laina was just a baby. All of these stories are pretty short, but this one packed a hell of a punch.

On a slightly different note, “An Incident Report” by Mallory Ortberg had me cackling over the hubris of Admiral Motti. I don’t remember if he’s named in the movie (that I just watched the night before writing this) but he’s the one who questions the operating capacity of the Death Star just before he is Force-choked by Darth Vader. Who then, by the way, utters the classic line, “I find your lack of faith disturbing.” As you might imagine, none of this went over very well with Admiral Motti, who made it known to his superiors.

We’re currently voting for February’s book club choice, and I mention this because one of the books I nominated is by Nnedi Okorafor, who wrote my next favorite short story in this collection, called “The Baptist.” Remember the tentacle monster in the trash compactor? This is her origin story, and it’s amazing. Also, I cried. I told you, I spent way more time crying at this collection than I would ever have imagined.

The last one I’m going to mention individually is “Grounded” by Greg Rucka, which tells the story of Chief Nera Kase, Fighter Boss on Base One. This group of short stories takes the events of Rogue One into account, and reminds us that the Rebellion has just suffered major losses in stealing the intel about the Death Star. They’ve not only lost all of the people on the ground at Scarif, but many of their pilots and fighter crafts. Nera Kase reminds us in the wake of the joy of winning these battles, heavy losses are also suffered. She doesn’t let us forget that for every pilot who dies, a ground crew loses a close friend and colleague.

There’s a good balance of stories here. For every heartbreakingly sad one, there’s one that will make you laugh, there’s one that will make you go “hey! I understood that reference!” And there’s probably several that will make you want to watch the movie again, just to look for that one guy in the background.

In conclusion: I am so happy I got this book out from the library, and I fully intend to purchase it so I can read it again and again. I read this in hardback and my plan is to also purchase it in hardback. Mostly because I like flipping through to a particular story but also because I just like having nice copies of books I really love. Either way, this is a beautiful collection.

5 Comments

  • Kelly McCarty December 21, 2017 at 11:57 pm

    I’ve never see a Star Wars movie all the way through but I still kind of want to read this book.

    Reply
    • Shara White December 23, 2017 at 7:53 am

      Libraries for the win!

      Reply
    • Merrin December 27, 2017 at 4:49 pm

      Honestly I think you’d still be able to follow it? Like, if you know enough about some of the characters, they’re exploring super deep background stuff that you don’t really need a lot of movie knowledge to appreciate. Although I will warn you that it did make me watch A New Hope again.

      Reply
  • Shara White December 23, 2017 at 7:54 am

    Someone gifted me this book for Christmas. YAY!

    Reply
    • Merrin December 27, 2017 at 4:48 pm

      Someone knows you very well 🙂

      Reply

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