Kenobi is the first book in a long time that I’ve truly lost myself too. And not just because it’s a Star Wars book, and one that focuses on my personal favorite character at that, but because it is a masterfully told story of a man who has lost everything. It’s poignant, emotional, and original, unlike anything we’ve seen before in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, and very much deserves your attention.
This book takes place mere months, or actually, weeks, after the end of Revenge of the Sith, and shows Obi-Wan Kenobi as he begins his transformation from valiant Jedi Master to Crazy Old Ben. It’s something Star Wars fans have never really seen before, but is absolutely bursting with potential.
Potential that is gleefully delivered on in ways I couldn’t dream possible. Written with extreme care and precision by John Jackson Miller, Kenobi isn’t only the best Star Wars book to come out in years, but one of the best books I have read in a very long time, period.
What’s perhaps most intriguing about the story, besides its premise of course, is how subdued it is. There’s no galactic war going on, no evil Sith Lord to destroy, and the fate of the known universe is not at risk. Instead, our environment is set in a small town on Tatooine, a town with simple people who are barely even aware of the shift in power that has transpired back on the Inner Planets.
This is a refreshing change of pace, especially compared to the size and scope of some of the more recent Star Wars books have relied on. Miller writes the story in much the same way you would a western, and while he uses many recognizable western plot devices, it works in a way that really surprised me.
It didn’t feel cliched at all, but rather like a welcome addition to the obvious Star Wars feel of it all. The characters all fit in with the western theme, but still feel right at home in a galaxy far, far away.
While this is obviously Kenobi’s story, it’s not exactly told through his eyes. Instead, Miller took a risk and decided to tell the story from the perspectives of a trio of secondary characters, each unique in their own way.
Orrin Gault is the head-honcho of the town the story takes place in; a street-smart farmer and business man who is the closest thing to a leader the townspeople have. He’s an interesting, rounded character that Miller has a lot of fun toying with, especially through the way which he interacts with ‘Crazy Ben.’
However, it’s the perspective of Annileen Calwell, headstrong store owner and single-mother, that steals the show. Miller imbues this character with a life you don’t often see in a one-off Star Wars book like this, and I fell in love with her personality mere pages after she was first introduced.
While it’s true that she acts as a sort of love interest for Obi-Wan, or more accurately, Ben, it never feels forced or unnecessary, but instead a very important trial for Ben to overcome. It’s sweet, touching, and a little sad, exemplifying the feelings Ben must feel after the events of Revenge of the Sith.
As much as I loved the way the alternate perspectives gave the novel a life of its own, and even developed Kenobi in a poignant way, it won’t appeal to everyone. The third character who’s eyes we see through is A’Yark, a Tusken Raider chief. And as far as I know, this is the first time we’ve seen any idea of what goes on in the heads of the infamous Tuskens.
However, as interesting and original as the results are, it is incredibly hard to humanize killers like the Tuskens. Miller does more than an admirable job of giving life and personalities to the sand people, and while I greatly enjoyed seeing the Tuskens in a new light, A’Yark’s perspective was so different from the others that the story felt a tad bit disjointed when told through the Tusken’s viewpoint.
Despite that minor drawback, Miller’s risk almost entirely pays off. Seeing Ben through the eyes of people completely unaware of his history gives the story a very personal touch, as the reader is privy to facts and nods that only they can pick up on. It really helps draw you into the world and make you feel like you’re living right alongside these characters.
To be honest, Kenobi is easily one of the very best written Star Wars books to ever come out. That’s not to say the others are bad, but Miller’s writing is so concise, so perfectly timed and directed that there were times when I was just blown away by the flow and feel of his words.
Miller is obviously a man who knows Star Wars incredibly well, and he handles every word with the utmost care and respect. What especially shines though is his dialogue. Never before have I seen an author so perfectly understand a character that he didn’t create himself, as his portrayal of Kenobi is just absolutely spot on.
Everything about this book floored me, I loved every word, and didn’t want it to end. For a brief time I lived with Ben Kenobi, and felt as he tried to deal with his drastically different world. It touched me on a personal and emotional level, not only as a passionate Star Wars fan, but also as a simple reader who got caught up in a good story.
It’s not only the best Star Wars book to come out in years, but it’s one of the best books of the year by far. If you’ve ever wanted to explore the Expanded Universe, or have been disappointed by it in the past, then I strongly encourage you to pick up Kenobi. I don’t think you’ll regret it.