Seriously, who came up with this idea? It’s great. For the fortieth anniversary of Star Wars (now ponderously titled Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope), forty authors who are Star Wars- or nerd-adjacent take side or peripheral characters from the original film and write short stories from their perspectives. These stories are all told in chronological order, from the death of the captain of the Tantive IV all the way to the awards ceremony at the end of the film where we get POV from one of Leia’s fellow Alderaan survivors. The affect is this strange little collage-like alterna-version of the film. You can’t help but replay the real version in your head as you read about the supposed scenes that took place while you weren’t looking.
Highlights for me included stories from Mallory Ortberg, Glen Weldon, and Claudia Gray, but I knew going in that would probably happen, since those authors GET ME. But I was surprised by how much I enjoyed others, namely those from Alexander Freed and Elizabeth Wein, though in hindsight neither of them should have surprised me. I ugly cried at Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity, and Alexander Freed is an extremely talented author straight up who for some reason has so far limited his talents solely for Star Wars purposes. Both of them are magic. Other stories were up and down in terms of enjoyment, though I only disliked one of them out of forty, and that was Nnedi Okorafor’s “The Baptist”, which is from the POV of the dianoga, aka the trash monster. I think I just have to accept that her writing is not for me. We are like magnets pushing at each other. In my opinion, that story took a pulpy character and tried to SERIOUS IT UP. It just made me roll my eyes.
Certain events get more play than others. I was really ready for them to leave Tatooine and the Mos Eisley cantina by the time, what, the fifth story? took place there. Too many concentrated there for sure. Other areas that could have used a little more spread: the destruction of Alderaan and the final battle at Yavin IV. Also, I kept worrying the whole time that the stories would contradict each other in continuity (still not convinced that some of them didn’t). My favorite stories were definitely the ones that had bite and cleverness to them, rather than the ones that were trying to be profound. The longest story in the book by far was Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction’s Cantina caper. Luckily, it was also really well done and one of the more entertaining stories in the collection.
All in all, well worth your time if you’re a Star Wars diehard, and maybe even if you’re not. I hope they do this again for the 40th anniversaries of Empire and Jedi.