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The world is getting ready for another adventure from our favourite galaxy in the universe. Solo: A Star Wars Story is the latest in the spin-off anthology film series, following the escapades of a young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) and Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). Production of the film has been rife with turmoil, but in the competent hands of Oscar-winning director Ron Howard, we can hope for something spectacular.
With the World Premiere leaving most of us behind, I recommend a fun way to bide your time 'til the official release date on May 25: read a book! Not just any book; From a Certain Point of View (Star Wars) is the best way to celebrate 40 years of Star Wars: A New Hope.
Published in October 2017 by Del Rey and Disney/Lucasfilm, the anthology of 40 short stories revisits the events of the first Star Wars film through the eyes of several supporting characters. Written by veteran geek/ Star Wars writers and figures including Kelly Sue DeConnick, Claudia Gray, Beth Revis, Greg Rucka, Chuck Wendig and Wil Wheaton, the book charts incidents from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story to the culmination of the Battle of Yavin in A New Hope.
If you have been wondering about the creature in the trash compactor, just what those people in the cantina were up to, or where Lando was during the Death Star’s destruction, this book is definitely for you. To whet your appetite, enjoy my top 10 favourite stories from the collection. (Mild book spoilers ahead):
10. 'An Incident Report' by Mallory Ortberg
Admiral Conan Antonio Motti, Chief of the Imperial Navy, is probably remembered by most Star Wars fans as that pedantic top brass who got his comeuppance at the hands of Darth Vader. But, one of the best things about this book is that it tries hard to normalise the circumstances of Episode IV. Just because you are aboard a moon-sized space station called the Death Star does not mean you can go around circumventing the rules. This story is told from Motti’s point of view as he deftly navigates reporting the details of being choked by Vader during a council meeting while being mindful of Vader’s Sith ways. It’s a story about corporate shenanigans, just on the Death Star. What else could you ask for?
9. 'Desert Son' by Pierce Brown
Many of us have been enamored by Biggs Darklighter—a central figure in Luke Skywalker’s life, who perishes soon after we meet him on screen. If you are a fan of the Captain America-Bucky Barnes relationship, you will especially love this story. Biggs is a hot-shot pilot who chucks his ego to the backseat so as to protect his team leader, Luke, on the Rebel Alliance’s deadliest mission yet. He’s the big brother that Luke has grown up with, and author Pierce Brown imbues him with a kindness and geniality that make this character come alive. Plus, that final scene before Biggs perishes in the trench run will have you reaching for the tissues.
8. 'The Angle' by Charles Soule
Our favourite galactic scoundrel made his first appearance in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back; so, what was he doing during the first film? Barely keeping afloat, that’s what. Lando’s job as Administrator of Cloud City isn’t made easy with the Empire breathing down his neck, asking for bribes and upping taxation. In The Angle, he’s ensconced in an illegal game of klikklak when a golden opportunity rears its head. Just as Lando is on top, an Imperial party raid the casino and confiscate all the players’ money. Despondent, Lando meets up with Lobot, only to find out that this is not a day for sorrow—today, he must celebrate. The story captures Lando’s personality and charm with ease, giving fans much more insight into his intelligent mind than what we have seen on screen. We are even more excited for Solo now!
7. 'Palpatine' by Ian Doescher
Probably one of the stranger inclusions, as the story is told in iambic pentameter. Ian Doescher is the man behind the William Shakespeare’s Star Wars series, so it is no wonder that he carried on that style for this anthology. You will either love the author’s mastery of the craft, or dislike how jarring it is. Beyond that, Palpatine’s presence, only felt during the first film, comes to the fore in this story. He is a Shakespearean villain whose overconfidence is his weakness. Think Iago in space and marvel at the rhyme. Probably one of the stranger inclusions, as the story is told in iambic pentameter.
6. 'We Don't Serve Their Kind Here' by Chuck Wendig
Ever wondered why the cantina barkeep was especially dismissive of C3PO and R2-D2? This tragic and compelling tale lets you know. Intertwined with the happenings of the film, Chuck Wendig draws us into the political and personal turmoil the Empire’s rule heaps on its citizens – there is so much loss, but people have to continue on. The parallels with modern-day invasions and wars are palpable particularly in this story. The political ramifications make this entry more relatable than enjoyable. You will probably not watch the cantina scene the same way again.
5. 'The Red One' by Rae Carson
I am not amiss in saying the red R5-D4 unit with the bad motivator has always intrigued me. What was his story and how is it that he conveniently combusted when C3PO needed R2-D2? Rae Carson gives this little droid a complete arc, from his hopelessness at being trapped on the Jawa sandcrawler to becoming an unsung hero of the Rebellion. It’s a quietly heroic tale of someone unlocking their latent talents only to make a sacrifice for the greater good. Hollywood loves grand gestures where heroes die or give up something they love, but in reality, it’s the little things that count. When one talks about an expanded universe, this is the kind of story they mean.
4. 'Of MSE-6 and Men' by Glen Weldon
This may be a biased inclusion, as I am a huge admirer of this story’s originator, Of Mice and Men. Not that this story is lacking in any way. For one, it’s the only one without gay characters in it—still a novelty in the Star Wars Universe (not including the Expanded Universe), which does not have (m)any canonical gay characters. Also, Glen Weldon paints our heroes as antagonists, intruding on a burgeoning romance and young ambitions. Rogue One gave us an inkling of the dark side of the Rebellion, this story explores it further, courtesy of Luke and the gang’s infiltration of the Death Star. You will be surprised to find yourself sympathising with the Imperials by the end of the story.
3. 'Duty Roster' by Jason Fry
Another story about curtailed ambitions and the educational nature of sacrifice. Col Takbright is an ace pilot for the Rebel Alliance, but his temper has got the better of him. He is annoyed by the remark that you can easily make a two-meter hit with a proton torpedo. He is annoyed by the continuous taunts of his comrades. But mostly, he hates his stupid new nickname – Fake Wedge. Col was here first, but somehow the upstart Wedge is getting all the glory. He’s hoping the trench run on the Death Star will finally give him the chance to prove himself. Unfortunately, fate has other ideas. This beguiling tale is equal parts humorous and tragic. But, what sets it apart is how well it captures the atmosphere of a people under siege. The ending is guaranteed to have you smiling giddily.
2. 'The Baptist' by Nnedi Okorafor
Star Wars creatures and aliens have always captivated my imagination; none more so than the one-eyed creature in the trash compactor. What was it doing in there and why did the creature let go of Luke? These are two mysteries that have remained with fans for a long time. Nnedi Okorafor brings to light the creature’s story and her motivations, giving the creature a name, a home and a life gone by. This story is a difficult read due to the parallels it draws with the lives of captive animals. Anyone who is concerned about the treatment of wild animals by zoos and aquariums will feel sympathy for Okorafor’s Omi. She is a vibrant character whose every move in the film is examined with precision in this entry. The Force is strong with this one.
1. 'The Sith of Datawork' by Ken Liu
If you think about it, the Empire is a huge multinational corporation, and we all know that in the corporate world every action is observed by strict codes of conduct. Everything needs to be reported and forms must be filled. In the case of the Empire, there are… a lot of forms. When Captain Bolvan realises he has made a mistake by not firing on an escape pod aboard the Tantive IV, he turns to Arvira, a logistics liaison for help. Following a thoroughly amusing, but realistic discourse, Arvira finds enough loopholes to save Bolvan’s proverbials. There may be a generation of readers who will find this entry boring, but Ken Liu’s story normalises the activities of the Star Wars universe. As Bodhi Rook showed us in Rogue One, some of the Imperials were just people doing their jobs. This book, and especially this story, run with that theme to showcase the grey areas most people live in and the surprising pleasures we take in the littlest things in life. It helps that protagonist Arvira is so like all of us.