(2017) various authors, Century, £20, hrdbk, x + 477pp, ISBN 978-1-846-05683-3
What do you do to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Star Wars? Well, apart from reissuing the Alan Dean Foster novel based on George Lucas’ screenplay (which actually came out before the film under Lucas’ own name) as a rather nifty hardback, you do this? What/ Well, you release an anthology marking the 40th anniversary of the original film, that features Star Wars stories by bestselling authors, trendsetting artists, and treasured voices from Star Wars’ novel history. Over 40 authors have lent their unique vision to 40 “scenes,” each retelling a different moment from the original Star Wars film, but with a twist: every scene is told from the point of view of a seemingly minor character. Whether it is the X-wing pilots who helped Luke destroy the Death Star or the storm troopers who never did find the droids for which they were looking.
And that really is it in a nutshell, or a broken curved bit of droid, but the rather clever idea is that the stories are told in chronological order, following the action of the film, which is happening elsewhere, perhaps, in a different corridor, or garbage disposal unit or rebel base, where the major characters of the film – Luke, Han and Leia – are playing an off-screen role. To produce any book with 40 short stories in it is a major undertaking and probably a logistical nightmare for whoever put the book together, and as you might expect it really is a mixed bag and overly jokey and slight in places depending on the character the writer has chosen to follow. I’m not a complete Star Wars fanatic so some of the lead characters meant nothing to me, but there are some major names who appear in other stories including Qui-Gon Jinn, Greedo, Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi, even Yoda, Darth Sidious and Lando Carlrissian , and probably because of their familiarity they are among the better stories, although the one featuring Darth Sidious called “Palpatine”is actually written in rhyming iambic pentameter-very Shakespearian!
The authors are varied and some have a unique connection to Star Wars, like Gary Whitta, who wrote the first draft of the Rogue One screenplay, so it’s no surprise that his story connects that film to “Star Wars: A New Hope. On the other hand Christie Golden is an experienced Star Wars novel writer with Battlefront II: Inferno Squad her most recent title. Here, we get the story of the Stormtrooper who hands Leia over to Vader. Readers will be familiar with other writers who contribute a story such as Chuck Wendig, Meg Cabot, Alexander Freed, Kieron Gillen (a guest of honour at this year’s Eastercon). One name that might surprise readers is Wil Wheaton, perhaps best known as Wesley Crusher from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Writers aside, the best of the tales are Glen Weldon’s “Of MSE-6 and Men” which is written as a series of diagnostic reports and charts an unfolding love story, imagine it, tech plays cupid, but the best story of all is “The Kloo Horn Cantina Caper” by comics powerhouse (and co-creator of one of my favourite titles “Bitch Planet”) Kelly Sue DeConnick and her husband, Matt Fraction, another comic writer, which is set in a certain cantina in Mos Eisley in Tatooine and if you remember that scene it is full of all sorts of low-life with all sorts of dodgy deeds in their minds and hearts of the regulars where there is always a deal or a hustle happening.
All life is within the pages of the book, be it human or not, and so are all aspects of the film, from those trying to find stolen plans to those involved in a certain medal ceremony. As mentioned it is a mixed bag, which is a shame because it is a very novel idea to have the stories follow the same timeline as the film, but I’m sure the ups and downs of the stories on offer won’t bother Star Wars fans who are probably hoping for a similar treatment of The Empire Strikes Back.
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