Friday, November 3, 2023

Review — From a Certain Point of View: Return of the Jedi

A collection of short stories exploring the worlds of the minor characters seen on screen in the third movie of the original trilogy. 

This may be hard to believe, but once upon a time, there wasn't much Star Wars content. 

After the original trilogy came out, there was a quiet period. Then, there was Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire, the first installment of what would become the Expanded Universe — and it was like cool, clear water to us fans dying of SW thirst. 

But what really cemented my obsession with all things Star Wars was a compilation book called Tales From Jabba's Palace. In it, different writers chose a background character — Max Rebo, Malakili the Rancor handler, Salacious Crumb — and crafted an entire backstory around them. 

It was intoxicating, and I can stil remember a ton of them, actually. 

If this intrigues you as a Star Wars fan, then that's exactly what From a Certain Point of View is like. Also available are versions for A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, which were both published in the past few years.

What Worked for Me

40 different authors contributed to this compilation, including sci-fi heavyweights like Charlie Jane Anders, Max Gladstone, Amal El-Mohtar, and Alyssa Wong. With this many, of course, some were bound to be more engaging and better-written than others. Here are a few of my faves:

Sy Snootles, the long-legged, long-lipped singer in Jabba's palace. We get her take on everything that goes down when Luke comes to rescue everyone, and it's a fun, different take on what goes on behind the scenes working in the employ of a Huttese crime lord. You also learn cool little details, like the fact that she pressed the tiny, needle-like stingers of a local insect to get her lips plumped (an outer rim collagen filler dupe, naturally). 

Obi-Wan's force-ghost tale is sweet — we get an annotated version of the very brief exchange we see between him and Luke on Dagobah in ROTJ. This line crushed me:

"There was a great deal of Anakin in him, but he had inherited mainly Anakin's best qualities. Obi-Wan hadn't killed Anakin Skywallker, but neither had Vader. The best of him lived on in Leia and Luke."

We get to hang out with Wedge again! As as fan of the X-Wing series in the EU, I love me some Wedge Antilles. He's the Horatio Hornblower of the Star Wars universe, all luck and diffidence and hard-working stubborness. The story is also filled with teeny-tiny Easter eggs that made me chuckle, like the idea of getting Lando "a victory cape for the ages" or how the climate on the Mon Cal ship Home One is kept super humid because Admiral Ackbar & his species are water-loving and need it. 

What Didn't Work So Much

I'm not a big fantasy fan, so any of the chapters with Ewoks — and there are more than you'd think — were definitely skim-worthy. 

One chapter attempts to ret-con the concept of "jizz music," which is a style of play that was first popularized in Tales From Jabba's Palace, specifically as played by Figrin D'an and the Model Nodes. Now, understandably, this is a deeply silly and potentially offensive term. One understands what the original creator of jizz was trying to do — create a vaguely similar, but spacely-different term for jazz — but it's gross. In one chapter of From a Certain Point of View, the music is described as "jatz" music. I refuse this change and will forever be a fan of jizz music!

And while I love the idea of Max Rebo ( the big, blue, elephant-like alien that plays the keyboard at Jabba's palace), it turns out I don't need to know anything about him. Why he falls by the wayside and Sy Snootles doesn't, I'm not sure — it could be the writing, or the characterization, or the chosen backstory. I guess it all comes down to what resonates with you in the Star Wars world.

I hate to say it, but you can definitely tell who really loves and deeply understands Star Wars in these chapters. Here's an example of a sentence that made me roll my eyes: 

"I set out a spread with something for every one of my expected guests. Alderaanian biscuits, colo claw fish, and blue milk from Tatooine."

It's probably the pedantic nerd in me, but there's no way I ever believed blue milk was created and marketed from the tiny backwater planet in the Outer Rim. Blue milk is a given in the Star Wars universe, like how oatmeal is brown in ours — it's not something to be commented on to give detail.  Okay,  I seriously apologize for that, it's maybe too nerdy of me. 

But overall, this book is fun, and if you like spending time in the Star Wars universe, you'll definitely have fun reveling in at least a handful of chapters — but probably more. 


The Math

Highlights: This is licensed and sanctioned fan fiction! It's fun.

Nerd Coefficient: 8/10

Reference: From a Certain Point of View: Return of the Jedi (Star Wars) by Olivie Blake, Saladin Ahmed, Charlie Jane Anders, Fran Wilde, Mary Kenney and Mike Chen [Penguin Random House, 2023]

POSTED BY: Haley Zapal, NoaF contributor and lawyer-turned-copywriter living in Atlanta, Georgia. A co-host of Hugo Award-winning podcast Hugo, Girl!, she posts on Instagram as @cestlahaley. She loves nautical fiction, Vidalia onions, and growing corn and giving them pun names like Anacorn Skywalker.