Elizabeth Schaefer (ed.), From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back (2020)

Author: Elizabeth Schaefer (ed.), multiple authors

Title: From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back

Format: E-book

Pages: 544

Series: Star Wars: From A Certain Point of View #2

From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back is a collection of 40 short stories commissioned for the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back memorable debut in an era long gone. It’s a second such venture, after a collection of stories centered around New Hope met with fans’ enthusiasm and quite solid approval – and we all know what a rowdy and unruly and spoiled bunch SW fans usually are 😉.

I haven’t read the first collection, but buoyed by the fond recollections of the Anderson’s anthology Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina and seeing as The Empire Strikes Back remains my favorite SW movie of all times (not that it had any real competition recently), I decided to give this one a chance. There is a solid representation from well-known authors, such as Martha Wells and Django Wexler to Seth Dickinson, Catherynne M. Valente and S.A. Chakraborty, as well as a whole slew of authors completely new to me. This collection, apart from the strong nostalgia factor and a big dose of curiosity topped by healthy mistrust of anything SW-Disney 😉, represented a chance for me to check out some new names and their writing chops.

However, as simple listing of the authors and their stories’ titles has taken me nearly 300 words, I decided to review them in a slightly different than usual mode: as with short stories collections, I will give each story a rating – but this time, I will endeavor to describe every story in 5 words or more (well, usually more, as you’ll see). So, without further ado, here we go:

Kiersten White, Eyes of the Empire 6/10

Eye-opening Moment for an Empire Drudge

Mark Oshiro, Hunger 2/10

Wampa’s Food Has a Saber!

Emily Skrutskie, Ion Control 7/10

All Bets Are Off on Han-Leia Romance

C.B. Lee, A Good Kiss 3/10

Everyone Can Be A Hero, aka Not This Again

Delilah S. Dawson, She Will Keep Them Warm 7.5/10

Tauntauns Are Social Animals Too

Amy Ratcliffe, Heroes of the Rebellion 1/10

Propagandist Meets Ordinary Heroes. Barf, aka How Not to Write.

Gary Whitta, Rogue Two 4/10

Betting as (Boring) Survival Strategy

Charles Yu, Kendal 6/10

Last Moments of an Imperial General

R.F. Kuang, Against All Odds 8/10

Red Shirts Can Be Interesting!

Michael Moreci, Beyond Hope 3/10

Grunts in Trenches, aka So Forgettable That I Don’t Remember

Christie Golden, The Truest Duty 2/10

Imperial Officers Yada Yada Yada…

Hank Green, A Naturalist on Hoth 6.5/10

Interesting, Underdeveloped Take on Anti-Social Biologists

Katie Cook, The Dragonsnake Saves R2-D2 5/10

One Page “Cutie” Comic. Shrug.

Beth Revis, For the Last Time 2/10

Story Mangled More than Vader’s Face

Jason Fry, Rendezvous Point 8/10

Solid Origins of Wedge’s Squadron

Seth Dickinson, The Final Order 10/10

Finally, a Very Good Story!

Django Wexler, Amara Kel’s Rules for TIE Pilot Survival (Probably) 3/10

Trying to Be Funny. Unsuccessfully.

Jim Zub, The First Lesson 8/10

Surprisingly Tender Take on Yoda

Mike Chen, Disturbance 3/10

Emperor Knows. The World Is Round. Any Other Revelations?

Catherynne M. Valente, This Is No Cave 7.5/10

Sympathy for the Space Slug, aka Intimate Portrait of the Exogorth

John Jackson Miller, Lord Vader Will See You Now 5/10

Not Bad, Not Good, Not Necessary

Tracy Deonn, Vergence 6/10

Scattershot Attempt at Speleological Antropomorphization

Michael Kogge, Tooth and Claw 9/10

SW Stories as I Like Them

Daniel Jose Older, STET! 8/10

Fun and Blasters… Is This Mos Eisley?

Zoraida Cordova, Wait for It 6/10

Boba Fett Cameo. All Right.

Sarwat Chadda, Standard Imperial Procedure 3/10

Bad Boba. What’s the Point?

Mackenzi Lee, There Is Always Another 1/10

Is This Whining Jerk Supposed To Be Kenobi? aka Tone-Deaf Love Song to Poor Baby Anakin

Cavan Scott, Fake It Till You Make It 8/10

Jaxxon the Green Space Rabbit: A Sly, Heart-Warming Story

S. A. Chakraborty, But What Does He Eat? 4/10

Full of Good Intentions, Spoiled by the Title

Lilliam Rivera, Beyond the Clouds 3/10

Eh, Meh, aka Union Strike on Bespin, Seriously?

Austin Walker, No Time for Poetry 7.5/10

I Do Love IG-88 Stories (Even Clunky)

Martha Wells, Bespin Escape 7/10

Finally, A Story on Ugnaughts! Could’ve Been Better, Though.

Brittany N. Williams, Faith In an Old Friend 6/10

Cool Concept, Failed Execution, aka Don’t Turn AI Into Humans (and Stop with That Lando-Droid Love Story!)

Rob Hart, Due on Batuu 3/10

Nothing To Write Home About, aka Another Forgettable Wannabe Smuggler

Karen Strong, Into the Clouds 1/10

Invasion of the Body Snatchers aka Help! The Cloying Sweetness is Killing Me!

Adam Christopher, The Witness 5/10

Ex-stormtrooper Hiding In Utility Shafts Witnesses Luke and Vader’s Duel. REALLY?

Alexander Freed, The Man Who Built Cloud City 7.5/10

Oh, the Power of Stories, aka The Beggar King and His Assassin

Anne Toole, The Backup Backup Plan 6/10

Wait, What? aka Ocean’s Four

Lydia Kang, Right-Hand Man 7/10

Clunky, Well-Meaning – A Droid to Watch For!

Tom Angleberger, The Whills Strike Back 10/10

Very Short, Very Funny!

A few final thoughts on this collection. First of all, the idea of amassing 40 stories for the 40th anniversary, while theoretically pleasing, in this case clearly backfired; a few really solid, highly entertaining and even thought-provoking entries are simply drowning in the sea of mediocrity. Less is more! And it also pertains to the problems with understanding the concept of a short story as opposed to novella, and in some cases results in serious structural issues: some of these stories practically beg to be more fleshed out as we get only a bare-boned sketch of a novella.

Second, but related to first: some stories are so bad they really shouldn’t have ever been published. It’s not even about their content, though there are a few that are just so desperately redundant or tone-deaf it’s painful to read. But there are some that are just, to put it simply, so terribly horribly written, they gave me a headache. They’re well meant, I have no doubt about it; but when I was trying to imagine how was this whole idea conceived, I could only come up with a vision of a few SW/Disney insiders calling a bunch of their SW fan friends one evening and asking if they wanted to take part in this cool new project. And once they were in, they stayed in no matter the quality of their input.

That said, there are a few very good, well plotted and enjoyable stories, adding to the lore in unexpected, welcome ways. The ultimate stand-outs for me were Dickinson’s The Final Order, a perfectly structured and executed short story packing more suspense into its few pages than the all the rest of the collection, and Angleberger’s The Whills Strike Back, which was sly, self-aware and tongue-in-the-cheek funny. So, as usual with anthologies, From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back is a mixed bag of treats and tricks –the majority of the stories is utterly forgettable, but there are some that will stand the test of time. Pick up the good ones if you can!

I have received a copy of this novel from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks.

Score (based on average): 5/10

54 thoughts on “Elizabeth Schaefer (ed.), From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back (2020)

  1. Anthologies often tend to be hit and miss. I was surprised to see how low-rated some of the stories are. It looks like the editor has gone for quantity over quality. I loved reading your short summaries for each story! 😍 Were they fun to write?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Some of these stories really shouldn’t have seen the light of day; I tried to be more funny than scathing in my review, but man… Some of these should’ve never been professionally published. It’s all the more pity that because of the quantity over quality tack the good stories mixed into this anthology fade a bit into the background.

      Yes, I enjoyed writing those teeny-tiny reviews a lot – I’m very glad to hear they’re fun to read! 😊

      Liked by 2 people

    1. It has its moments, but absolutely in no way can’t compare to Tales. I enjoyed writing my review, though 😉

      But seriously, how hard can it be to write something original and not trite in SW universe? It’s a really big space, and The Mandalorian proves that it’s possible – but I guess it really boils down to time, effort and will. And a necessary bit of talent, like some of these stories prove in a very painful way 😉

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Yes, it got too big and convoluted to maintain any logic for the most part, and the main plot arc seemed to run away from the authors… But still I much preferred the craziness of the late canon that this new mindlessly unoriginal gruel of new Disney SW 😤 Ah, the Thrawn trilogy… 😉

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I was hoping with so many stories, this one would get more than a mediocre rating. But it seems you are right, less is more! I’m not really into anthologies, though I was willing to give this one a shot. But now I’m not sure again anymore 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, sorry to spoil it for you… 😉 There are some good ones in this anthology if you’re willing to give it a try, but beware – most just don’t live up either to the old canon Tales or – even more – to the original movie. The whole big anthology has the feel of something rushed and maybe a hint of a press gang effort, but there are a few diamonds in the rough 😄

      Like

    1. I believe Piotrek reviewed one of his books – The Traitor Bari Cormorant – and didn’t love it, but it was hyped quite a bit and garnered a lot of good reviews elsewhere.

      Thanks! Me too – imagine the length of that review! 🤣 This way, I had a bit of fun with it, too 😁

      Like

    1. I thought you might give it a pass 😏 there are definitely better anthologies out there! BTW, i read that Lee’s story – a cool one but very short – i honestly thought there will be a continuation somewhere 😅

      Liked by 1 person

  3. piotrek

    I’d trust your judgment here more, if you didn’t choose Dickinson’s story as the best, I’ve read one book of his and I wasn’t impressed 😉 Maybe he’s better at short fiction.

    But if I ever somehow get this, I’ll use this review as a guide which stories to even read 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL, I see that Dickinson burned you to the core! 🤣🤣🤣 I was actually quite surprised the story was so good, as I remembered your scathing (for you) review of his book.

      Bear also in mind that I might’ve been a bit more exacting in my reviews if the rest of the stories was any better 😉 – but really, this one’s pretty solid anyway.

      Yeah, this way you might come away feeling much happier than I did 😂😂😂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You had a great idea with this kind of review! It was fun to read and informative anyway. And even if with anthologies the mixed bag is almost always a given in this case it seems really worse than usual, and that’s quite a shame! I hope your next reading would be way more satisfying than this one!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Susy! 😀

      It was actually fun to write, too, despite the mediocrity of the anthology itself 😉 I was afraid that writing this review would be a chore, but because of the format it turned out to be pretty pleasant! 😀

      Yes, the new books are more promising, thankfully 🙂 – 7 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, Harris’s V2, and an upcoming re-read of Dune 😀

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes, it’s a surprisingly good book – at first I wasn’t sure it would hold my attention as the beginning is a bit muddy and slow, and the premise rather preposterous, but very soon I was hooked! 😀 I’m already half book in 😉

          Liked by 1 person

  5. How disappointing for you, sounds like some of these demonstrated the worst aspects of the depths fan fiction can descend to; Elizabeth Schaefer clearly needed to exercise her critical faculties more ruthlessly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was actually toying with the idea of comparing this anthology to fan fiction, but deemed fan fiction better that this 😉
      Yes, indeed – if only editor did their job it could’ve been a much better collection… This way, it’s just a few good stories in a sea of bad, mediocre and forgettable. Ah well, I think I’ll give the next SW anthology a pass 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  6. While it goes with the territory that anthologies might contain some “meh” stories, the idea of collecting 40 of them for this one seems to have defeated the celebratory purpose and filled the “box” with many sub-standard stories. It’s a pity, because the anniversary of that movie deserved much better… 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Totally agreed on all points! This was such a cool occasion, but I feel that the aim of collecting 40 stories was a self-defeating one, in a way: to find 40 really good stories one needs time and good authors – and here, it seems, there was a dearth of both… Ah, well – lesson learned: steer clear of Disney-SW stuff, at least for now 😉

      Liked by 3 people

  7. “Barf, aka How Not to Write.” made me laugh quite a bit, thank you! 🤣🤣
    The idea of compiling 40 stories intrigues me but it does sound like a recipe of disasters. 40 stories is about 30 stories too many for an anthology. I almost requested this book on Netgalley and I’m glad I didn’t…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re very welcome! Glad I could bring a bit of fun into what was otherwise a rather sad experience 😁
      Yeah, you dodged a bullet here! It did look promising, though, and had some really good reviews… I’ll learn from this (I hope! 😆)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I see the appeal of this kind of anthology because in the midst of 40 stories, you are bound to find a few that are good but it also sounds like too much work. If I were to read this particular anthology, I would probably just check the stories from the authors I already know and like such as Dickinson, Valente, José Older etc… and only read the first paragraphs of the other stories to see if I would like them or not and drop the hopeless ones… 😆

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Good strategy!
          Yeah, I might take your advice and do something similar for the next one 😀 It’s just that whenever I get a book for review from NG I feel obliged to give it a chance – sometimes it ends worse for the book than it would’ve otherwise, but well… 😆

          Liked by 1 person

              1. Yes, it’s always hard to DNF ARCs since we receive them for review. However, if it’s not working for me at all, I still drop them. First because reading is my hobby and I don’t want to force myself to finish something and second, because if I finish it, I’m very likely to write ranty review that is not going to be helpful to anyone (definitely not for the publisher but also not even helpful for readers because I’m usually too disappointed or angry to write something coherent haha).

                Liked by 1 person

                1. Your approach might be better than mine! I’m 60% into an ARC right now, wondering if I’m going to end up with a 1 or 2 stars rating for it once I’m finished 😉
                  I do wonder though, some publishers seem to prefer any review to DNFs, I think I’ve even seen a warning message on NetGalley to that end…

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. I have not DNFd a lot of Netgalley ARCs (probably 3 or 4 since starting this blog) so I don’t really know. I remember that I received a very nice email from a publicist after I told them that I decided to drop the book (I had sent a couple of sentences as a feedback on Netgalley to explain why I decided to stop reading). They said that they were sorry that the book didn’t work for me but that they were still grateful for the feedback, even if it wasn’t a full review and I didn’t post the feedback on my blog.
                    But it may vary from publisher to publisher! 😅

                    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow, so really hit and miss. As I’m not hugely into Star Wars, I think I’ll be skipping this. Think I’ve only read a handful of these authors anyway. And anthologies… 😬 Thanks for the warning/review, Ola!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really hoped this would work, there used to be some cool stories and anthologies back when Disney was not even a nightmare on the horizon… Though to be fair, even then SW books were hit and miss. I just didn’t expect this one to be so predominantly miss! 😅😂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. S.D. McKinley

    I was curious about this one having seen it in a couple of different places ( maybe People magazine and netgalley, I’m not quite sure I slept and ate bologna sandwich in-between now and then ), would you say is worth it for the good stories alone at an Amazon chopped price?

    The only good SW book I read was centered around a Solo smuggle and I can remember the name of it to save my life. 🤠

    Thanks for sharing Ms. G.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading, S.D.! 😊
      If you want to read a decent SW novel/short stories collection, I’d strongly suggest trying out Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy (old or new, though the old one is better), or Anderson’s Tales from Mos Eisley Cantine. These are some of the best of what SW universe has to offer. I’d avoid this one, though – I don’t feel the few good stories here are worth digging through the rest, and on their own are probably not worth the price anyway 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I didn’t know a second anthology was released and I’m even more surprised that YOU dared venture there hahah I’m glad you tested it out nonetheless, I would’ve dived right in there too, especially after the ending of the Mandalorian S2. 😛 Glad to note that there were some authors who did it right for you but that most of them failed as expected… I see a lot of popular YA authors in there too. Seems like the idea of this anthology was innocent and nice but the final result was bound to flop… Great honest review as always, Ola! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahaha I’m a sucker for Yoda (or Grogu, for that matter! :D) I’ll have you know I have read a fair share of SW books in my adventurous youth! 😛
      I’m not well acquainted with YA authors, I might have missed this clue – though undoubtedly it would’ve been helpful to temper my expectations a bit…

      Thanks, Lashaan! 😀 You do seem to enjoy those scathing reviews the most 😛

      Liked by 1 person

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