This is a Star Wars novel fitting firmly in the current trend of books that require one to know very little beyond the films themselves. In fact, it’s exactly the kind of novel whose lack we’ve been mourning for quite some time: An character-centric adventure that doesn’t have galaxy-shaking consequences and is none the less exciting or interesting for it.
Minor spoilers beyond this point.
But you might be shocked to hear that Ben Kenobi is not exactly the book’s lead character. Much of the story is actually told through the eyes of Annileen Calwell, the owner of Dannar’s Claim in the Pika Oasis, and A’Yark, a Tusken warrior.
But there’s plenty of Ben, of course – his appearance in the lives of the Oasis inhabitants is the books driving force. Obi-wan is new to Tatooine and still struggling with his new role as hermit and his old one as a Jedi Knight. And many chapters are bracketed by his first-person ‘meditations.’
All the characters are chiefly concerned with Tusken raids – Annileen’s friend and customer Orrin Gault is the driving force behind a new method for the human settlers to protect themselves from the Tuskens. (Her son, Jabe, is part of Gault’s posse.) A’Yark – called Plug-eye by the settlers – is concerned with the survival of the tribe and their ways.
Ben is caught up in the Oasis community after helping to saving Annileen’s daughter Kallie from a runaway dewback, and he’s soon, much against his will, embroiled in the Oasis community. He’s curious about Gault’s Settler’s Call program, seeing it as a way to perhaps help protect the Lars family.
But not everything is not as straightforward as it seems, and Ben soon ends up having to act as a Jedi after all – to help both the Caldwells and the Tuskens, who share more common ground than they realized.
A few thoughts:
- I know certain corners of fandom are always chomping at the bit for ‘normal’ characters – well, here you go.
- This is, as far as I know, one of our first up close looks at Tusken culture, if you’ve ever been curious. I can’t claim to have read every reference book or work, but it was new to me – and not overwhelmingly so.
- I did have one eye-rolling continuity moment – a mention of Miller’s comic character Zayne Carrick from Knights of the Old Republic, which seems a bit affected. But all things considered, one expositionary eye-roll for me in a Star Wars book is shockingly low.
- I have found some of the pre-release praise going around a bit overwrought. (Perhaps, at least early on, due to the proximity of Crucible?) Don’t get me wrong, Kenobi is a very good Star Wars book, and certainly worth recommending to EU obsessives and casual fans alike, but I wasn’t completely blown away by it. Your mileage may vary, of course.
Still, that said, I’m pleased to see a nice balance at work in this book. If this is the kind of thing we can expect to see more of during the run-up to the sequels, I’m all for it.
A copy of this book was provided by Del Rey/Random House for review.