The Expanded Universe of Star Wars tie-in fiction is vast, and Luke Skywalker’s desert home has been explored many times, but rarely has it been brought to life so thoroughly as in John Jackson Miller’s Kenobi.
Starting just before the end of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, and quickly overlapping its finale to explore Obi-Wan’s first few weeks on Tatooine, the new novel shows us a guilt-ridden Jedi Master struggling to find a balance between protecting his young charge and keeping sufficient distance to avoid drawing unwanted attention from the scum and villainy, and the fledgling Empire, all around him. As he soon is forced to admit, “Ben” is no better at keeping a low profile than when Obi-Wan stumbled into the droid foundries of Geonosis or General Grievous’ refuge on Utapau. The Force may still be with him, but many tests lie ahead still. It seems his trials will never end.
Part of the reason Ben has so much trouble blending in is the rich cast of characters around him. He is the star, but the moisture farmers, savages, scavengers, merchants and scoundrels of Tatooine quickly rise up to take the place of the students, senators and Sith Lords that defined his universe before he went into exile.
Kenobi makes use of Ben’s meditative attempts to contact Qui-Gon Jinn as a narrative device between chapters — it works, and it leaves the reader wanting more, as the fugitive Jedi still has much to learn before he can commune with his late master’s spirit. Sadly, the book misses an opportunity to tie into a similar, more successful moment in television’s animated Clone Wars, but there are other cross-media references. In fact, the novel’s Tusken Raider subplot draws heavily from previous expeditions into Sand People lore, especially Dark Horse’s Outlander comics. EU fans won’t be disappointed at all the interwoven threads before them.
I received my review copy of Kenobi from Lucas Books last Friday. With the novel’s release set for today, I was doubtful I would finish reading it in time, let alone write the review. I needn’t have worried about the first part — I devoured the book within hours, though like the sarlaccs of Tatooine, I’m still chewing it over in my mind and will be for a long time to come. Miller set out to write a western in a Galaxy Far, Far Away, and he succeeded. There are even dashes of romantic comedy amid the frontier chaos, but no more heavy-handed than the classic Star Wars trilogy’s banter. Obi-Wan’s love life has been explored before (and that is referenced here), but with his life shattered by the Sith ascendancy it only makes sense for him to assess the paths he has denied himself anew.
Kenobi isn’t the first stand-alone novel to feature a Star Wars character, and with similar tales on the way for the big screen, the novel charts a course that others would do well to follow.