Review: Miller’s Kenobi is a fun Star Wars read

Kenobi by JJMKenobi is John Jackson Miller’s second Star Wars novel and his first featuring a movie character, and quite possibly the best one of the year thus far.

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.

Grade: Aurebesh B+

A copy of this book was provided by Del Rey/Random House for review.

8 Replies to “Review: Miller’s Kenobi is a fun Star Wars read”

  1. There have been a few other references to Tusken culture. One of the things I mentioned in my review was that I thought the Tusken culture wasn’t nearly as well done as what we got in the Illustrated SW Universe or the first KOTOR game.

    Other than that, I loved the book, but I’m also a Firefly fan :)

    1. Dom: It’s been so long since I read that book… And of course, I haven’t played KOTOR at all. But as I said, it was mostly new to me.

  2. Forgot this was out today. Really looking forward to it. I’ve been wanting for someone to tell this story for years.

  3. KOTOR did a surprising bit of stuff on Tusken culture – you end up in a Tusken camp, and you can draw out a lot of their history and traditions (and a sense of Tatooine’s history) from their shaman, if you manage not to offend them. of course, that was Tusken culture 4,000 years BBY.

  4. The Old Republic was fairly in line with what James described. I’m almost done with the book, so I will be reading this in depth after I finish the book and get my review up, with my own thoughts.

    It was hard to get over Obi-Wan not being the main focus at first, but I’m digging the cast of characters so far.

  5. Warning: I tried to keep this short and simple, but it didn’t quite work out. :-) So…

    To my own surprise, I finished Kenobi yesterday. Surprise, because I simply couldn’t put it down. Not because it was an A novel – I would agree with the B+ rating – but because of how the story was structured. To me Kenobi was a classic page-turner, because I couldn’t wait to get to the next Kenobi scene. Yes, I had hoped for more Kenobi in a Kenobi novel, maybe I had even hoped for a little more Owen and Beru in a novel about the first days on Tatooine, and I had certainly hoped for a little more Qui-Gon. Well, maybe even a lot more Qui-Gon.
    Still: It was a great read, because the new – and main – characters were interesting to meet and fun to get to know. The “villains” were certainly quite fascinating, even though at first I was sincerely worried that the Tuskens might end up being demonized from start to finish. Glad that they weren’t.
    What I loved were the references to Yoda and the Alderaan connection. And I got my krayt dragon(s).
    What I found as eye-rolling-ly superfluous as Dunc were the references to both Knight Errant (which I loved) and the KOTOR comics (which I loved for the most part). Too much, Mr. Miller. ;-)
    What I found haunting were the very few moments where Obi-Wan reveals his feelings on being responsible for the rise of the Sith. If Matthew Stover gave us Anakin’s point of view – “this is how it feels to be Anakin Skywalker – forever” -, John Jackson Miller added the Obi-Wan counterpart, and he did it with a sure instinct, great skill and a lot of tact.
    Lastly I would like to agree with Dunc’s point that Kenobi is a small novel and exactly the type of book that has been missing for too long. I loved Tim Zahn’s Survivor’s Quest for exactly that reason: It was small, even meaningless, and it was great. Same goes for Troy Denning’s Tatooine Ghost and, of course, JJM’s own Knight Errant. Glad to see that this more personal, more lovable EU is still around.
    And I’m still hoping for a second Knight Errant novel, of course. :-)

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