From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back

Anna

I listened to FaCPoV: ESB over the course of a few weeks, and overall I very much enjoyed it. As with any time you have a collection of 40 stories, some are hits and some are misses, however I enjoyed most of them greatly. The book follows the film, and thankfully does not get bogged down in any particular location (yes, I am referring to the interminable Tatooine Cantina tales in FaCPoV: ANH). This anthology included authors I enjoy regularly (Delilah S. Dawson, Zoraida Córdova, Christie Golden, John Jackson Miller) and some I had not experienced previously (Kiersten White, Emily Skrutskie, Mackenzi Lee) and really loved. Narrators include Star Wars audiobook mainstays like Jonathan Davis and Marc Thompson, Star Wars audio play actors Emily Woo Zeller (Doctor Aphra) and January LaVoy (Dooku: Jedi Lost), and my personal favorite, Sam Witwer (The Clone Wars: Stories of Light and Dark).

Spoilers have been kept to a minimum, however there are a few, so read on at your own peril.

The writers really ratchet up the emotions (I was IN MY FEELINGS y’all) on Hoth and during the evacuation. The stories “Hunger” by Mark Oshiro and “She Will Keep Them Warm” by Delilah S. Dawson are from the perspective of the wampa and Han’s tauntaun, respectively. I never thought a wampa, let alone the wampa that nearly kills Luke would make me cry, but it absolutely did. “She Will Keep Them Warm” was fascinating to me, as the reader learns about the tauntaun packs and their relationships to each other, to nature, and to survival. Hearing Murra, the tauntaun who eventually carries Han Solo on his quest to find Luke, talk about her life and worries for her daughter, who carried Luke, is heartbreaking for the reader (or at least it was for this reader). The emotion and sensitivity with which both authors approached their non-humanoid subjects was just amazing and narrators Sam Witwer and January LaVoy, respectively, did a fantastic job of bringing them to life.

My favorite Rebel-centric stories take place during the evacuation of Hoth, including “Ion Control” by Emily Skrutskie and “A Good Kiss” by CB Lee. Both of these stories confirm the bravery, dedication and moxie of the every-person in the Rebellion. “Ion Control” follows Toryn Farr, the woman who ensures the safe escape of the Rebellion transports. The author gives the reader a great view into the daily lives of people in the Rebellion, including the hilarious betting pool as to whether or not Han and Leia will get together (it is featured in several of the stories). Toryn’s calm leadership, despite her fears, during the invasion is magnificent. For the first time, we learn that Toryn has a sister in the Rebellion, a pilot named Samoc. Their reunion, while boarding an evacuation transport ship, is so emotional, leaving the reader so thankful that they both survive.

“A Good Kiss” follows Chase Wilsorr, the Rebellion soldier seen walking between Han and Leia in the hallway as Han is yelling “You could use a good kiss!”, and a member of the Rebellion who is uniquely unsuitable for any of the jobs he would like to have. He is basically a gofer—the person who fetches things, and more importantly, keeps people at their stations fed and caffeinated. As the battle rages, Chase’s knowledge of the base and its passages leads him on a great adventure, saving several members of the Rebellion during the Imperial assault. His heroics also save Jordan, the man upon whom he is harboring a crush, and Sunshine, Jordan’s tauntaun charge. This action brings Chase his first (and very good) kiss. I love the LGBTQIA+ representation here, and it was such an emotional story. I just loved it.

It is so hard to narrow down my favorite Imperial stories. “The Truest Duty” by Christie Golden, narrated by Sam Witwer, is definitely one of the best. It follows the story of General Maximilian Veers, who led the ground assault on Hoth. I very much enjoyed Sam Witwer’s performance as it screamed of Veers, who is my favorite Imperial (side note: I met Julian Glover at Star Wars Celebration Chicago and he was DELIGHTFUL. He kissed my hand. There may have been a minor swoon). The story follows Veers through the assault and includes his feelings about Admiral Ozzel’s competence (or lack thereof) and the importance of never dissatisfying Vader. I do not want to spoil the ending, as the film never reveals what happened to Veers after the battle. I love Veers, I love Christie Golden and I LOVE any time Sam Witwer narrates, so this was an overall win for me.

“Amara Kel’s Rules for TIE Pilot Survival (Probably)” by Django Wexler, read by Emily Woo Zeller, was a DELIGHT. Her rules were very practical, the story told with a great deal of amused aplomb. Amara Kel is so engaging on every level, especially when she breaks many of her rules in a magically human way. The narration really makes this tale, with big time kudos going to Emily Woo Zeller. This was definitely the story that had me laughing the most.

Finally, “Lord Vader Will See You Now” by John Jackson Miller, read by January LaVoy, brings us a Rae Sloane tale that is very reminiscent of something Grand Admiral Thrawn would do. It was not an expected story in the least, but one that was enjoyable in no small way due to her absolute competence as an Imperial Officer, which is not what we normally get to see. It also benefits from starting with the best Vader related Dad joke ever (it’s so bad and so, so good). Rae Sloane continues to be a force with which to be reckoned.

Our favorite bounty hunters can be found in Zoraida Córdova’s “Wait For It”, read by Jon Hamm, “Tooth and Claw” by Michael Kogge, read by Mark Thompson and “No Time for Poetry” by Austin Walker, read by Jonathan Davis. If you are a Boba Fett fan, then Córdova’s tale is definitely the story you are looking for. “No Time for Poetry” is also a fun romp featuring characters that we know, but for whom we don’t have a real background. I very much enjoyed this offbeat tale of partnership between Dengar and IG-88. “Tooth and Claw” was the real standout in terms of stories about the bounty hunters. The discovery that Bossk LOATHES Wookiees, and especially despises Chewbacca was so intriguing. This tale follows Bossk on his mission to capture the notorious Wookiee Chainbreaker, who has been rescuing enslaved Wookiees. Bossk’s adventure is the longest in the book, and one of the most engaging in terms of character growth and knowledge. I found it riveting. The reader learns so much about both Trandoshans and Wookiees. As per usual, Mark Thompson does a fantastic job reading this story. I highly recommend it and suggest that one sets time aside to listen to it in its entirety (just over an hour).

My overall favorite of these 40 tales is “There Is Always Another” by Mackenzi Lee, read by Jonathan Davis. The story follows Obi-Wan, who is bringing ALL OF THE CLONE WARS OBI-WAN SNARK, opening with:

“I had hoped that dying would be enough to untangle me from the Skywalker family’s Issues.
And yet here I am again, Obi-Wan Kenobi, one with the Force and still the only thing standing between a Skywalker and an impulse decision that could have galactic consequences.
Tatooine had, by no means, been a glamorous locale for exile, though I had no choice but to settle myself near Luke’s new guardians. Yoda, however, with an entire galaxy at his fingertips, had been so determined to make a meal of his martyrdom that he chose Dagobah as his refuge, the only planet that smells worse than the Jedi Temple training rooms after a combat class with fourteen-year-olds.”[1]

I was slain and it only gets better. It is such a fantastic tale of Obi-Wan’s exhaustion with the Skywalker men, the Jedi Order, and really, himself. The snark is strong in this story and I am HERE FOR IT. I am also here for Obi-Wan’s complimentary discourse about Leia and Padmé. Side note: in “The First Lesson” by Jim Zub, Yoda says he had far more interest in training Leia and had to be convinced to train Luke. I very much enjoyed this peek into Force Ghost Obi-Wan’s thoughts, and it fantastically bridged Ewan McGregor, James Arnold Taylor and Sir Alec Guinness’ performances as Obi-Wan Kenobi. I also enjoyed the confirmation that R2-D2 swears at people, because with everything he has seen, how could he not.

From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back is absolutely worth your time and money, with more hits than misses, storywise. The stories I have discussed are the real standouts in my mind, and I enjoyed almost all of the others. As with everything, there were tales I did not enjoy, however people with other interests might love them. This is the beauty of Star Wars. There is something for almost everyone, and it is okay to have preferences (though it is NOT OKAY to be a dick about them). Did you enjoy From A Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back? Did you listen to it as an audiobook or read it? Hit us up on Instagram and tell us what you think and what you loved!


[1] Mackenzi Lee, ‘There Is Always Another’, in Tom Hoeler (ed.), Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back, New York, Del Rey Books, 2020. pg. 341