By John Jackson Miller
Del Rey/Lucas Books
Hardcover (Also available on Kindle, iTunes, etc.)
Soon after dropping lil’ Luke off at the Lars farm, Obi-Wan settles into his new life on Tatooine, where he hopes to make sure nothing bad happens to Luke and nobody finds out who he is. He discovers that is easier said than done. For one thing, little does Obi-Wan know that one of the quirks of small town/rural life is that everybody’s very curious about newcomers and strangers. The other thing is, he just can’t quit being all heroic and stuff. Soon he finds himself entangled in settler drama and the ever-present threat of Tusken attacks.
One thing the book does really well is make use of the films and the expanded universe in the story. People who really like the comics and books as well as the films will be very pleased with “Kenobi.” But if you’ve never read any of them, you’re not going to be lost as to what’s going on. But how does Obi-Wan himself fare? I think Miller captures him pretty well and there’s much in the book that explains why for instance, Obi-Wan uses a krayt call to disperse the Sand People in ANH. Obi-Wan’s guilt, shame at his failure to realize what was happening to Anakin, and sorrow at the loss of the Jedi Order are palpable. His one-sided conversations with Qui-Gon are poignant. It’s believable that he tries to connect with these frontier types even though he knows he still has to keep his distance. Of course, the original character female lead develops a crush on Obi-Wan. After all, it’s not every day a hot guy like Ewan McGregor drops in on your crummy, backwater planet and has mysterious issues to boot. It’s also believable that Obi-Wan, even to the end, is always trying to “fix” things because he’s just too much of a Jedi at this point to not rush out and save the day. When he feels he has to take on a villain, he goes right into the do-what-I-have-to-do mode seen in ROTS. But unwittingly, he may have set up someone for certain doom later on…
But like many expanded universe novels, a lot more time than you’d expect is spent on the cast of original characters. The leading lady is a youngish widow running her dead husband’s business and trying to keep her teenage kids in line. Her dead husband’s partner runs a protection co-op and a bunch of other business ventures. Plus there’s a Tusken main character along with an assortment of other settlers and criminal elements. Things are revealed about the Tusken “chief” about a third of the way through that in one sense seems to be a surprise for no other reason to have something surprising happen, but in another sense it opens things up for an alliance of sorts. The widow occasionally got on my nerves, mostly because she’s one of those characters who always has a comeback for everything. But the biggest fault I have with “Kenobi” is the dead husband’s partner character arc. For much of the book, he’s a bit of a hustler but a likeable guy. Then he’s suddenly turned into a mustache-twirling villain. The author needed a bad guy to punish, so he decided to take it out on an entrepreneur. Oh sure, his kids are no good and I guess we’re supposed to deduce from that he’s no good either. But someone driven by desperation, and unforeseen consequences of someone else’s actions, needed a more sophisticated handling than what happens in the book. It was kind of cheap if you ask me.
“Kenobi” is no “Darth Plagueis” but it’s still a step in the right direction of focusing more on the characters central to Star Wars and telling their beyond-the-films tales.