Tuesday, September 3, 2013


Have you ever wondered what happened between Star Wars Episode III and Episode IV during the period in which the Jedi Master Obi Wan Kenobi lived on the far off planet of Tatooine keeping a watchful eye over " the new hope" as the crazy hermit Ben Kenobi?  Not much has been addressed over the years about that time period in the Star Wars mythos where this key character transitions in life from middle age warrior to elderly wizard. That is the focus though of a new novel by John Jackson Miller titled: STAR WARS: KENOBI.

In Miller's book, a few weeks have passed since Obi Wan battled Anakin on the lava planet of Mustafar.  Kenobi believes Anakin to be dead, not knowing of Darth Vader, and has taken Luke to live with Anakin's step-brother, Lars Owen, on the desert planet of Tatooine.  Obi Wan plans on laying low and keeping a quiet watchful protective eye over Luke but the locals don't make that as easy as that might seem as Kenobi is entangled in a series of adventures despite his best efforts to avoid them.

The story is an entertaining bed time or vacation read that doesn't take a lot of time to devote to finishing. I  read the whole book over the Labor Day weekend.  It takes an interesting angle by portraying the story with a Western theme, with a few gangsters thrown into the mix because you can't be on Tatooine without including Jabba the Hutt's gang.  The focus of the story is on the battle between the settlers of an oasis near where Kenobi sets up his hermit camp, and the Tusken Raiders (Sand People) who don't want humans encroaching on their territory.  The characters fit into the theme of cowboys from the American Western movies and the Native Americans they battled within that genre.  It was an interesting approach to tell a tale from this famous space opera as a Western and the author did an admirable job of replicating a Wild West theme on a distant planet from a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.  Miller develops interesting characters on both sides of the conflict and Kenobi essentially becomes a secondary character until the last few chapters of the book.  You don't mind that Kenobi is essentially a second-tier character in a book with his title on the cover though because the author does a nice job of developing the primary characters and plots of the book to hook you in so you want to know their stories and outcomes. I believe that not having the book entirely focus on Kenobi was actually a nice approach for the novel to take and gives readers a look at the Star Wars Universe from a different perspective which gave the novel a refreshing viewpoint to fans who already know a lot about the central characters from the movies.  Yet the words in print still portrayed to the reader a feeling as if you were watching one of the Star Wars films.

For the most part I enjoyed reading KENOBI, but there were some things I found disappointing.  The biggest disappointment in the book was that a mystery so many die hard Star Wars fans have, how does Kenobi learn to vaporize himself during the Death Star duel with Darth Vader and subsequently communicate with Luke from the dead, isn't answered. Kenobi meditates throughout the book in lengthy passages trying to communicate with his dead Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jin, from Episode I, and the reader is waiting for an eventual response.  We never get one it essentially is Kenobi just rambling to himself throughout the book. He is caught doing this by the settlers and gets the name "Crazy Ben" for talking to himself.  We know from the movies and also this story that Kenobi doesn't have these skills at this point in his life that he has later on in the original trilogy movies. So the question remains unanswered.

Also I always pictured the Sand People as might warriors from the first time I was startled as a kid as they ambushed Luke Skywalker and made me jump out of my seat in surprise, they are portrayed that way in all the movies, but Miller takes the approach of presenting them as a dying race in a similar scenario as unfortunately the American Indians faced in our United States history.  While that is an accurate historical portrayal of how unfortunately things were for native Americans in the Wild West it really diminishes the image of Tusken Raiders for fans.  I can understand why the author did this to develop the story and character for the Sand People's leader but he could have had just that one tribe be down and out rather than the whole race of beings on the verge of extinction.

Additionally the whole story only involves the first few months of Kenobi being a "hermit" on Tatooine and his dealings with a select group of settlers and Tusken Raiders.  It would have been nice to have had a broader story detailing more about Kenobi's more than a decade watching over Luke Skywalker as the child grows up.  I guess though writing it this way open up more possibilities for sequel books for the author.  Plus you probably don't want to read a war and peace length novel on this topic so breaking this time period into short stories is most likely the best approach.  I have to say though I had such high hopes and looked really forward to reading this book and afterward it just seemed to be lacking.  The story was just a little too simplistic for me in the end.

That being said, I did enjoy reading the book overall.  It was a nice distraction from the stress of everyday life taking me away to a fantasy world for a few hours during my Labor Day weekend.  If you are looking for a book that you can just sit back and  just enjoy the adventure, I would recommend picking up STAR WARS: KENOBI.  This book will keep your attention and amuse you during a long plane ride or while sitting by a pool and when it comes to a paperback that is my primary objective for picking out a fantasy novel...will it take me away ... and KENOBI does complete that mission.

Check out this book profile from the publisher for more info about this new Star Wars story:

The Republic has fallen.
Sith Lords rule the galaxy.
Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi has lost everything . . . 
Everything but hope.
Tatooine—a harsh desert world where farmers toil in the heat of two suns while trying to protect themselves and their loved ones from the marauding Tusken Raiders. A backwater planet on the edge of civilized space. And an unlikely place to find a Jedi Master in hiding, or an orphaned infant boy on whose tiny shoulders rests the future of a galaxy.
Known to locals only as “Ben,” the bearded and robed offworlder is an enigmatic stranger who keeps to himself, shares nothing of his past, and goes to great pains to remain an outsider. But as tensions escalate between the farmers and a tribe of Sand People led by a ruthless war chief, Ben finds himself drawn into the fight, endangering the very mission that brought him to Tatooine.
Ben—Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, hero of the Clone Wars, traitor to the Empire, and protector of the galaxy’s last hope—can no more turn his back on evil than he can reject his Jedi training. And when blood is unjustly spilled, innocent lives threatened, and a ruthless opponent unmasked, Ben has no choice but to call on the wisdom of the Jedi—and the formidable power of the Force—in his never-ending fight for justice.

DISCLAIMER:  I received an advance reviewer digital pdf copy of Kenobi from the publisher.  The thoughts and opinions in this post are my own.

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