Star Wars: Kenobi
© 2014 John Jackson Miller
The Republic is fallen, and the Jedi are no more. The few survivors of Emepror Palpatine’s purge have fled, scattered across the galaxy with their own individual missions. For Obi-Wan Kenobi, that entails a quiet watch over the son of Anakin Skywalker, whose life Kenobi was compelled to take on Mustafar. The boy, Luke, has been deposited with Anakin’s step-family for safe-keeping, and Obi-wan must keep him from harm at a distance while he reels in pain from Anakin’s breathtaking fall into the dark side, and the destruction of the Order. It’s going to be hard for Kenobi to find peace and do his job, though, because he’s unwittingly settled on the outskirts…..of a western.
The scene: the Pika Oasis, where the rural economy of moisture farmers sustains a general store known as Dannar’s Claim. Run by a widow named Annileen, it’s also the headquarters of the Settler’s Call, a community-supported posse that responds to Sand People attacks with extreme prejudice. Into this quiet, apparently stable, community comes Obi-Wan – or as he’s known to them, “Ben”. Although intending to blend in, the Obi-Wan in Ben keeps coming out; he can’t see someone in peril without dashing in to save them. Despite his name on the cover, though, Kenobi is not the viewpoint character of Kenobi; we alternate instead between Annie, the tough-as-teak store owner; Orrin Gault, posse leader and friend of everyone but the Sand People; and…A’Yark, leader of the local tribe of Sand People, who burns for vengeance against the settler-scum. Kenobi appears in occasional meditations to Qui-Gonn, but otherwise we see him as the settlers see him – a stranger, who is helpful and friendly enough but mysterious enough to be frustrating. As Kenobi progresses, readers learn that members of the community are hiding a secret, one that could destroy them, putting Ben into an awful bind: still reeling from the moral downfall of his brother-at-heart Anakin, how can he turn his back when he sees good people making decisions that will ruin everything they’ve worked for, including themselves? Despite the lack of a full Kenobi spotlight, we still get his story as he constantly works with the ‘real’ viewpoint characters to find a path through the chaos.
Amusingly, this felt less like a Star Wars novel and more like a western, between the unforgiving landscape, the frontier-town defended by an armed posse of farmers, and the constant attacks of the natives. One of Miller’s more interesting choices was to use the Sand People’s chieftan, A’Yark, as a viewpoint character. Presumably this was with the intention of making them less ‘other’, more like people and less like mysteriously implacable hostiles. It doesn’t work for me, though, because the Sand People are still one-trick ponies: they attack, or they wait to attack, and it’s hard to disassociate them with my first memory of them: ambushing Luke Skywalker with those awful URRRRRRRRRRR-URRK-URK-URK-URK! cries.
Although this was not the novel I was expecting, I definitely enjoyed it. Given how pathetic the sequel trilogy was, it’s nice to be reminded of a time when Star Wars had characters who, you know, grew. Here we see the outgoing Jedi knight of Obi-Wan slowly surrendering to the sad wisdom of Old Ben.
Star Trek: Takedown, John Jackson Miller. That might explain why Takedown was such an odd story — JJM is mostly a SW writer!
Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, Matt Stover. The best SW movie novelization I know of, and one with a heavy focus on Anakin and Obi-Wan’s brotherly bond.