With the 40th anniversary of “Return of the Jedi” comes a new collection of 40 short stories that expand upon minor characters and events from the film. “From A Certain Point of View: Return of the Jedi” brings forth a host of stories — some good, some not, and some that are truly bizarre. It’s a perfect microcosm of Star Wars storytelling — not always a home run, but always shooting for the stars.
One interesting thing to note about this collection is that a lot of familiar names from the first two collections don’t appear. If you enjoy stories from John Jackson Miller or Gary Whitta, you’re out of luck here. There are a few stories from familiar authors in the new canon (including Emma Mieko Candon, Mike Chen, and Adam Christopher), but the lone returning author from the now-defunct Expanded Universe era of Star Wars is Sean Williams, author of the maligned “The Force Unleashed” novelizations. But if you’re hungry for new authors writing Star Wars, then buckle up.
It’s hard to read this book and not compare it to “Tales from Jabba’s Palace.” But whereas those short stories were all curated to fit together tonally, that sense of cohesion is absent from this new collection. Characters that appear in multiple stories sometimes feel like completely different characters. Less than 100 pages in, the book quickly feels like a hodgepodge of ideas, rather than something special.
Whereas Boba Fett had a single story in the collection for “A New Hope”, there were three stories that included him in “The Empire Strikes Back” collection. But disappointingly, Boba Fett only stars in a single story in the “Return of the Jedi” collection.
Reputation by Tara Sim
Finally, Boba Fett gets a short story worthy of his reputation. Tara Sim does an awesome job capturing the demeanor of Boba Fett, and he really feels like his Expanded Universe portrayal here.
I was disappointed that Boba’s story is one of the shorter stories in the collection. At just nine pages, it ends too fast. But it also helps that I deeply enjoyed it. Boba is confident, calculating, and he’s not obnoxious. He’s the best there is, and it’s simply a fact to him.
Most of the story takes place when Boba delivers Han Solo to Jabba, with the rest taking place in the lead-up to the skiff battle. For fans hoping to see any connective tissue with “The Book of Boba Fett,” prepare to be disappointed. There is one very sly hint at Boba’s thoughts on replacing Jabba, but otherwise that’s it.
Surprisingly, the story mostly serves to retell the “War of the Bounty Hunters” storyline that ran in Marvel Comics. That story details the troubles that Boba ran into delivering Han to Jabba. As someone who read (and was deeply disappointed in) that story, I thought this story did an adequate job of retelling it. But I think that readers completely unfamiliar with the story and the comic characters will be easily lost.
In my opinion, this short story is Boba Fett at his best. It’s the kind of portrayal that he deserves, and Tara Sim brings him to life with his reputation intact. I’d love to see her tackle Boba in a full-length novel. I think she’s got his characterization down, and Boba Fett fans would be in for quite a treat.
Overall, I found the quality of stories found in this collection to be about on par with “The Empire Strikes Back” collection.
If you’re interested in the other stories that this book tells that aren’t about Boba Fett, I’ve included a list below that is broken down into three sections — the stories I felt are worth reading, the stories that I feel are worth skipping, and the stories that were too bizarre for me to enjoy.
- Any Work Worth Doing — This collection of short stories opens with a story about the Death Star II, from the POV of Moff Jerjerrod. This is my favorite kind of story, because it reframes details from the movie in a new light. In this case, the idea of what it means for the Death Star to be fully operational.
- Dune Sea Songs of Salt and Moonlight — As one of the longer short stories in this collection, I was blown away at how riveting the story was. It showcases the best this collection has to offer, focusing on a very obscure character and building a compelling story around her. What happens in Jabba’s palace is just an aside, it’s not the main focus. It’s a powerful love story, and I adored it. I hope we see more of Thea Guanzon in the future.
- The Plan — I didn’t expect a short story focused on the Rancor’s handler to hit my emotions, but I was immediately drawn to his story. It felt refreshing, and my only qualm is where it ended. I wanted more!
- Everyone’s a Critic — I didn’t expect to enjoy a story about Salacious Crumb… but I did! I thought his backstory was interesting, and the dynamic between him and Jabba was simple but effective.
- From a Certain Point of View — A wonderful little Obi-Wan story that ties nicely into the Obi-Wan TV show. It was way better than it had any business being, and I really appreciated the nice insight it gave to “Return of the Jedi” with the prequels in mind.
- No Contingency — This Mon Mothma story is so good, mostly because it puts the character in a situation we rarely see her in – taking charge and diving into action. Surprisingly, it even ties into the Andor TV show. Only thing that felt weird to me? Not a single mention of Bothans!
- Gone to the Winner’s Circle — The story of one the Endor scout troopers that Luke defeats in one of the film’s most riveting moments. This was surprisingly great! It was so interesting to read about an Imperial who had a great reason for joining up, and seeing the iconic scene from his point of view was really cool. Really enjoyed this one!
- One Normal Day — This story, starring Wicket, tells how the Empire arrived at Endor. I didn’t expect to like it, given how humanized the Ewoks are, but I thought it was super cute. Plus, bonus points for referencing the old Ewok movies!
- Divine (?) Intervention — This story focuses on an Ewok shaman, and dives deeper into the religious beliefs of the Ewoks. Entirely fascinating, and I quite enjoyed how the Ewoks were portrayed.
- The Impossible Flight of Ash Angels — By all accounts, I shouldn’t have liked this story. It isn’t consequential, and doesn’t focus on any familiar characters or moments from “Return of the Jedi.” But the writing is so wonderful, that I was immediately enthralled with the story. It’s a story that is part self-discovery, part love story. A truly wonderful little story.
- The Ballad of Nanta — I adored this story of a young Ewok who dreams of exploring the stars. This little storyteller, who plays a poignant, memorable role in the film. His story is heartbreaking and hopeful, and I loved this. One of the best stories in the whole collection.
- Impact — I didn’t expect to like this story, as it totally rewrites an event in “Return of the Jedi.” And while I didn’t care for that, I loved how this story was written. I loved the style, moving backward in time. It was short, but to the point.
- To The Last — A short story focused on Piett. It is wonderfully written. It honestly doesn’t add much to the collection, but it was so well-written. I just really liked this!
- The Emperor’s Red Guards — This story lifts the veil on the royal guards, and I love that it canonized some elements from the old Crimson Empire comics. I was initially unenthusiastic about a story told from the first-person perspective, but I really liked that this story dealt with the idea of devoting your entire life to one person, and led to questions about what happens when that person is suddenly gone.
- Wolf Trap — This short story focuses on a scout trooper that is captured by Ewoks and must find a way to escape before he is eaten. It’s extremely well-written, and I enjoyed it despite the fact that this story focuses on yet another Imperial trooper who is disillusioned with the Empire.
- The Veteran — The biggest surprise story in this collection is a story from Dexter Jettster after the Death Star II explodes. It’s a story that is small in scope, and deeply sad. I loved how poignant it was.
- Brotherhood — This story telling Anakin Skywalker’s final moments was perfect. Mike Chen, who wrote the Brotherhood novel, returns to the characters of Anakin and Obi-Wan to write a story guaranteed to bring tears to the eyes. It’s a powerhouse story, and easily the collection’s best.
- Fancy Man — This story serves as a bit of a backstory for Max Rebo. It’s overly long, yet also doesn’t feel long enough. It mostly takes place in the time leading up to the Max Rebo Band arriving at Jabba’s palace. It’s a weird mix of slapstick comedy, and entirely too many references to the fact that Max’s species only have feet.
- The Key to Remembering — A slice of EV-9D9’s life. As Jabba’s torture droid, there’s a lot of potential here. But the story primarily serves to showcase how EV-9D9 ended up as a bartender in the time of The Mandalorian. I wanted to like it, as the writing is solid, but it’s fairly forgettable.
- Fortuna Favors the Bold — A short story featuring (you guessed it!) Bib Fortuna. His motivation in this story was surprising, and I thought it was interesting. But the story isn’t long enough to really do anything with it. There’s only the slightest of kernels that tie it into when we next see him, when he dies in the post-credits scene of The Mandalorian’s second season.
- Kickback — One of the shortest stories in the collection, focusing on the skiff guard who Luke “kicks” while fighting. It’s a classic movie blunder, as the kick clearly doesn’t connect. And in true Star Wars retcon fashion, the missed kick was declared by fans to actually be a Force kick. The story has nothing redeeming, it’s just a quick six pages designed with that one small detail in mind.
- Satisfaction — I wanted to like this Sy Snootles story, especially given the nuance that The Clone Wars added to her character. But this story doesn’t tease out any more of that information. It hints at it, teases it… but leaves all burning questions unanswered. It felt very unsatisfying.
- Kernels and Husks — This story focuses on one of the Emperor’s advisors. It’s a very skippable story. It’s written well, but it offers nothing new to “Return of the Jedi.” It doesn’t even flesh out the role of the advisors.
- The Burden of Leadership — I was disappointed that the Lando story is basically just a story of him giving a speech to a potential deserter about why they need to stay and fight back against the Empire. There’s so many potential stories to tell from Lando’s point of view, and this felt like the lamest option.
- The Buy-In — A story focused on Nora Wexley, one of the characters from the Aftermath books. It’s a cheerful story, but it mostly focuses around a sabacc game. Because if a story has Lando in it, I guess he’s contractually obligated to sit at a sabacc table at some point.
- The Man Who Captured Luke Skywalker — This story had a lot of potential, but I was really disappointed with how it turned out. Entirely too brief, and just didn’t flow well for me.
- Ending Protocol — A story of the shield generator battle, told from the point of view of a stormtrooper who – for reasons that make no sense – is now anti-Imperial. Mostly forgettable.
- The Last Flight — I didn’t care for this story. Mostly a flashback about how an A-Wing pilot joined the Rebellion. The love story is hackneyed, and very much played out.
- Twenty and Out — The story of a Death Star gunner with a brilliant retirement plan. Getting a little tired of the Imperial perspective of people that don’t love the Empire. At this point in the book, it feels very overplayed to me. It doesn’t make for a compelling protagonist!
- Trooper Trouble — This is one of my least favorite stories in the collection. There’s nothing I hate more than a story that tries to be funny. Told from a diary perspective of a stormtrooper, it’s filled with the kind of humor more likely to make you wince than chuckle. It throws everything at the wall to see what sticks. It doesn’t know if it wants to be a pro-union comedy or an observational comedy. I laughed at none of it, and it is one of the longer stories in the collection.
- The Extra Five Percent — A short little love story about a pilot that comes face-to-face with an exploding Death Star. It didn’t hit me emotionally, I just felt kind of numb to it.
- When Fire Marked the Sky — This story starring Wedge Antilles felt very dull to me. I did like that this story referenced some of the earlier stories (one of the only stories in this collection to do that!) but I didn’t care for Wedge’s characterization in this.
- The Chronicler — One of the longest stories in this collection focuses on a character whose job it is to tell the stories of the Rebellion. And this chronicler is not good at their job at all. It’s a way to have all the main characters cameo for their interviews, but it feels really forced. Didn’t like it, and it dragged on for way too long.
- The Steadfast Soldier — I guess this is supposed to tease the First Order’s future, but this bizarre story doesn’t really do anything other than introduce Pryde as a very incompetent Imperial. Despite the tease, there’s nothing here that even hints at the future of the First Order.
The Truly Bizarre (Your Mileage May Vary)
- My Mouth Never Closes — I love the work of Charlie Jane Anders, but this story told from the point of view of the Sarlacc was not enjoyable for me. I’m not a fan of stories told from the viewpoint of creatures, especially when they try too hard to be funny. The idea that the Sarlacc doesn’t even like eating meat, and if only people would just leave it alone… it’s weird! The one saving grace is that it is the only story in this collection that has a tie-in to the Book of Boba Fett. But mostly, it’s just a super weird story. Not for me!
- The Light That Falls — I would have loved a story from Yoda’s point of view, but for whatever reason, this collection includes Yoda’s death from the point of view of a dragonsnake. It offers nothing new or intriguing, and at six pages, it’s one of the shortest stories collected here.
- Ackbar — A short, four-page comic of Admiral Ackbar that ends with (you guessed it) “It’s a trap!” Points for something different, but what a waste for a story focused on Ackbar.
- Then Fall, Sidious — I… didn’t get this? It’s a short story with 10 sections (counting down from 10 to 1), but it never makes it clear what the numbers mean. It’s an internal monologue from the Emperor’s point of view, and I dunno… it just feels weird to me. It’s full of big, clunky words that no one would ever think or speak. It just didn’t feel like an accurate portrayal of the Emperor.
- Return of the Whills — The final sequel to my least favorite stories in the other “From A Certain Point of View” collections is definitely my least favorite story in this collection. Return of the Whills is supposed to be a humorous exchange between R2-D2 and the Whills as the droid relays the story of “Return of the Jedi” through the film’s opening crawl. The humor is non-existent. It’s simply not funny, and it’s not enjoyable. The only good thing is that it’s four pages.
“From A Certain Point of View: Return of the Jedi” was released on August 29, 2023.