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Kenobi (Star Wars - Legends) Hardcover – August 27, 2013
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This outstanding Star Wars novel arose from the author’s concept of a Star Wars comic series using the elements of a classic western. So we have a not-too-habitable frontier setting (Tatooine); a wealthy rancher with a hidden agenda (marrying a virtuous widow, among other things); the children of the widow and those of the rancher (mostly with more guts than sense); a bandit chieftain (Jabba the Hutt); marauding Indians (the Tuskan Raiders, very fully brought to life); the technology of farming in an environment that makes the Mojave Desert seem lush; and a host of life-forms ranging from krayt dragons to the pit-dwelling sarlaccs. Oh, and there is a drifter named Ben who wanders into town in the middle of all the conflicts and befriends the widow, though not as much as she would have liked. Deserves very high ranking among Star Wars fiction. --Roland Green
“Buy this book right now. . . . [This novel] manages to explore the depths of Ben Kenobi but still maintains the aura of mystery around his character.”—Tosche Station
“Addictive, engrossing . . . wildly entertaining . . . There are plenty of twists, turns, and surprises. . . . John Jackson Miller creates a story that reaches new heights.”—Roqoo Depot
“Brilliant . . . This is Star Wars fiction at its absolute best.”—Examiner
“Enthralling . . . almost impossible to put down.”—Eucantina
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Dannar's Claim, a trading post, inn, and bar, operated by Annileen Caldwell and her children Kallie and Jabe is the center of life at The Oasis, the hub around which those brave souls attempting to eek out a living from Tatooine's harsh environment seek community and connection. Dannar's Claim also houses the Settler's Call, the brainchild of moisture farmer and entrepreneur Orrin Gault. The Call is a subscription alarm service, consisting of a fund managed by Gault that coordinates the community response to attacks on subscribers by Tusken Raiders. As the best friend of Annileen's late husband, the lives of the Caldwells and the Gaults are inextricably entwined. When Tusken attacks spike, led by the raider known only as Plug-eye, tensions spike between Annileen and her long-time friend, made worse by her son's insistence on joining Orrin's dangerous raids. As tensions between the settlers and the Tuskens mount, a reclusive stranger named Ben arrives, one whose secrets may hold the secret to the settlers' salvation...if he isn't destroyed first.
It's been YEARS since I read a Star Wars extended universe novel. I cut my science fiction-loving teeth on the likes of Timothy Zahn's Thrawn trilogy, novels which captured not only the feel of the original trilogy, but were superb storytelling that -- long before Disney acquired Lucasfilm and announced plans to make new films -- opened new chapters and introduced new characters to the Star Wars universe. Thanks to Disney's reboot of the extended universe canon, the original extended universe novels that I loved are now no longer canon, but classified as "Legends." However, stories like Kenobi are stellar examples of these books at their best -- illuminating new facets and eye-opening possibilities in the lives of beloved characters like Obi-Wan whose screentime only provides tantalizing hints of their history and potential.
Ewan MacGregor's portrayal of a young Obi-Wan was a highlight of the uneven (to say the least) prequel trilogy, and portrayal heavily influences Miller's characterization of the Jedi Master in Kenobi. I've always viewed Star Wars, particularly Episode IV, as a western in space, and this novel takes the concept of a western space opera and turns it into a full-fledged, old-fashioned classic western epic. Obi-Wan -- now the hermit Ben -- is the retired Gunslinger who wants nothing more than to be left in peace. Orrin, the rancher-cum-robber baron whose once pure motives have been corrupted by a drive to consolidate power and succeed, while Annileen is the determined widow transformed into a businesswoman, one whose once-bright dreams have long laid dormant until the arrival of a stranger, the compelling and mysterious Ben.
Miller knows the story beats of a classic western, and therein lies the success of his exploration of the unknown chapter of Ben's life on Tatooine prior to the arrival of a blue and white astromech droid bearing a desperate plea from a princess. This novel is everything I never knew I wanted from a Obi-Wan-centric story, everything I felt the prequels wasted with an actor of MacGregor's potential bringing a youthful Kenobi to life. Miller brings Kenobi to vibrant, three-dimensional life, delving into the insecurities, questions, and sense of failure he must have grappled with following Anakin's turn to the dark side. Here Miller explores if a man who once thrived on action, who was conditioned to never let a call for help go unanswered, adapt to the life of a hermit -- if such a withdrawal from a society in need is even possible.
I absolutely loved how this novel fleshes out not only Ben's character but the culture of Tatooine, a world that plays a critical role in the Star Wars universe as the home of Luke, the birthplace of Anakin, and the site of a rage-fueled massacre of Tuskens that sets Anakin on a galaxy-shaking trajectory, culminating in his transformation into Darth Vader. While Ben's characterization is a welcome addition to the extended universe, and the settlers are deftly sketched western mainstays, transplanted in space, its the characterization of the Tusken Raider culture that proves most illuminating. On film they are faceless, mindless bandits -- here the Tatooine natives have a culture, history, and drive, led by the formidable, fearless warrior Plug-eye, a Tusken with secrets that, if discovered, could reframe the Tuskens' age-old conflict with the settlers.
Kenobi is peppered with echoes of the films, from mentions of Jabba and the Lars family to suggestions of greater events unfolding in the galaxy as the Empire rises following the Jedi's fall. But putting the Star Wars references aside, Miller has delivered a cracking good western capable of standing beside classics of the genre by the likes of L'Amour and Mulford. This is why I love science fiction, why I adore the Star Wars world -- Kenobi is page-turning adventure filled with compelling characters, explosive action scenes, intrigue, and a classic showdown between good and evil. For all the talk of destiny in the canon, for me Star Wars has always been a story of choice, of choosing light, of choosing to be the best version of one's self., and Miller taps into the timeless nature of that battle. I can only hope that Miller one day gets to revisit this universe, but if not, here he's delivered one of the most satisfying reads in this extended universe -- and if, like me, you can't help but view it as canon...who can blame you? This is a Star Wars (and westerns) at their best -- entertaining, thought-provoking, and just plain fun.