The new trailer for The Last Jedi was not the only exciting Star Wars news this past week. In celebration of A New Hope’s 40th anniversary, Del Rey has published an anthology of 40 stories that weave in and out of the original film. Whether it’s Greedo, Antilles or the red droid (you know the one), A New Hope is bursting at the seams with weird and fantastic side characters. Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View hands those characters over to 43 weird and fantastic authors. The set-list alone is amazing: scifi heavyweights (Nnedi Okorafor, Ken Liu), seasoned SW veterans (Jason Fry, Jeffrey Brown), comic book writers (Kelly Sue DeConnick, Kieron Gillen), and media luminaries (Griffin McElroy, Mallory Ortberg) offer up a diverse range of tone, form, and lore.
There’s nothing new under two suns in a sprawling franchise that’s celebrating its 40th year. What the Expanded Universe hasn’t covered, fanfiction has laid its messy, beautiful little hands on. But the EU has already been reshuffled by the reboot, and the playground feels fresh and new. Where there’s still love for a story, there’s still room to explore it—and there is still a whole lot of love in the galaxy for scrappy, fresh-faced rebels destroying evil galactic empires.
The original story of A New Hope is still in place in FACPOV, and that structure is one of the anthology’s best features. Instead of collecting a patchwork of stories inspired by the movie, the book presents the stories in chronological order, so that it reads as a montage or mashup of the original. As Luke, Leia, and Han’s story progresses, FACPOV reveals what is happening in the background. Dreams are thwarted, love is rekindled, incident reports are filed, the music goes on. Some stories are tied more closely to the main story than others, whether by theme or action. The most tried-and-true theme of Star Wars—scrappy nobodies trying to find their place in the universe—appears often, and is unique each time.
In general (though with 43 talented writers, there are almost as many exceptions as rules), the most successful stories in the anthology are the ones that focus on characters that live their lives on the margins of the main action. The unnamed are just more ripe for the picking: Authors don’t have to rely on canon for their narratives, and are free to tug on brand-new heartstrings. In her story “The Baptist,” for instance, Nnedi Okorafor creates a backstory for Omi, the garbage-eating alien aboard the Death Star. In “The Red One,” Rae Carson imagines the inner turmoil of the droid that Luke and Uncle Ben leave behind when they adopt R2. Again and again, we see aliens, droids, and NPCs trying to make a life under the empire, suffering or making light of it, and sometimes both.
The stories that experiment with form are some of the best as well. One of my favorites of the lot, Glen Weldon’s “Of MSE-6 and Men” is presented as a series of MSE-6 diagnostic reports. Unlike some of the other, more Turing-testable droids that populate the anthology, this MSE-6 unit is as dry and unfeeling as they come. And yet, amazingly, the little guy orchestrates a blossoming love affair between a stormtrooper and his superior officer, carrying messages, and beeping and booping at all the right times. The story legitimately made me cry laughing, and the title is, though I’m loathe to admit it, kind of perfect. Weldon knows how to make a dry format funny, and how to make, for all intents and purposes—they are the bad guys, after all—unlovable characters lovable.
Another stand-out story is “The Kloo Horn Cantina Caper,” by comics writing power couple Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction. Somehow, in a 30-page story, DeConnick and Fraction manage to pull off an ensemble cast. A group of low-lives, The Muftak and Kabe among them, swindle, snitch, and steal from one another while slumming it in the cantina on Tatooine. The hot topic this week? The famous Kloo horn of Lirin D’avi, played all too briefly by the legend’s down-on-his-luck son. If there were any manners present, I’d call “Caper” a comedy of manners—characters are constantly crossing and double-crossing paths, misunderstanding and ultimately loving one another in their own strange ways. Like so many of the other stories about villains and criminals in FACPOV, this one has a lot of heart to it. Stealing and murder aside, these cantina crawlers are just doing their best with what they have.
There are many other great stories in this collection that I don’t have space to talk about, but rest assured that if you see a name on the contributors list that you love, it’s well worth the read. And if the contents of the FACPOV alone haven’t sold you, perhaps its secret mission will: Proceeds from the book’s sales will go to First Book, a childhood literacy organization. Nothing supports rebellion quite like putting knowledge in the hands of kids that aren’t supposed to have it.
A full list of contributors, stories, and characters can be found here.
Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View is available now from Del Rey.
Emily Nordling is a library assistant and perpetual student in Chicago, IL.