A Moving Tribute to a Jedi: Kenobi by John Jackson Miller

SwkenobiKenobi is a beautiful surprise, a wonderful scene in the larger arc of the Star Wars drama. I had no idea what I was in for when I started it, and I’m glad I gave it a try. It’s an exciting and moving story of one of Star Wars most important characters.

I had stopped reading novels in the Star Wars universe after Timothy Zahn‘s Thrawn series, way back high school (long, long ago in a high school far, far away…). There are a lot of novels set in the Star Wars universe, but few have ever captured my imagination the way the original series and its characters did. Give me Han, Leia, and Luke and their supporting cast of the droids, Obi-Wan, and Chewbacca. I didn’t have the energy to devote to a gazillion novels with the same premise, but a different cast.

Then, earlier this year, I was asked by Salt Lake Comic Con to help write-up a couple of blog posts for their then upcoming convention, including one about the hero’s journey, especially as it appears in Star Wars. Already a Star Wars fan, I decided to binge research, ordering nearly every book I could get my hands on from the local Salt Lake County Library system. I didn’t read most of them–in fact, I ended up doing a more surgical review of the stuff that seemed germane and purchasing the only book I actually needed (The Hero of Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell). But one book among them struck me, though, and I found myself listening to it in the car one day: Kenobi.

Set in the period directly after the end of Episode III, Revenge of the Sith, Kenobi picks up with the story about the beginning of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s long years in the Tatooine desert as he watches over Luke Skywalker. He is a wanted man, a fugitive from the nascent Empire and, as far as he knows, the lone survivor of the Jedi Order. Disturbed by his failure to foresee Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side, and wrestling with the ramifications of Order 66, he retreats to the desert to meditate, to hide, and to watch, from afar, the Lars and young Luke Skywalker.

It is a life of anonymity and peace that Kenobi wants, but even on distant Tatooine adventure seems to seek him out. Almost immediately upon his arrival he finds himself, before even delivering baby Luke to the Owen and Beru Lars, in the midst of a cantina fight. Soon, it becomes more, and Kenobi is increasingly sucked into defending the locals against the depredations of Sand People, thugs, and even Jabba’s lackies. And yet, like the Dark Side’s subversion of the Republic, things are seldom what they seem, and even Kenobi will need to rely on all of his skills as a Jedi to survive and maintain secrecy from the eyes of the Empire.

On its face, the novel is little more than a spin-off from the Star Wars cannon, a tiny window into the events surrounding one of the story’s most important characters: Old Ben Kenobi, that hermit that will save Luke from Sand People in A New Hope and set him on the path of the Jedi before falling to Darth Vader’s light saber. And yet, John Jackson Miller surprised me and created what is perhaps one of the best constructed and most satisfying stories that I’ve read this year.

Among the many characters that George Lucas created, Kenobi stands supreme as the epitome of the Jedi standard. Where Yoda is the head of the order, Dark Sidious the ominous overlord of the Sith, and Anakin the example of the allure of the Dark Side, Kenobi develops as an easy-going, steady, trust worthy, and consistent image of the mentor, brother, and stalwart of the Jedi. It is his relationship to Anakin that makes Anakin’s fall so tragic because it sets the fall into deep highlight. Kenobi begins as Anakin’s master, but by Revenge of the Sith is more an older brother to Anakin and in that role finds himself in the position of Anakin’s executioner on Mustafar.

The Kenobi who arrives on Tatooine, then, bearing newborn Luke Skywalker, is a downtrodden and worn man. He has lost everyone he loves, including his brother, and no longer has the purpose that the Jedi order provided to his life. He is, in many ways, a lost man, and worse, he has no one to whom he can turn for counsel, advice, or consolation.

And yet, trouble doesn’t seem to leave him alone. Before long, Kenobi is pulled into a local drama, and despite his efforts is repeatedly called upon to play role that he had served his entire life–a peace keeper and protector of the weak against evil.

In Obi-Wan Kenobi, Miller has an already well established character. And yet, he manages to deepen and enrich and grow the person, a feat that could just as easily have backfired as provided a jumping off point for his story. In the end, Kenobi is a tragedy and a triumph, not because of poor choices–as is the case with Anakin/Darth Vader–but because of his choices in spite of the madness around him. He remains a proactive actor, albeit reluctantly, and his tale is a moving one.

It only adds to it that Miller’s plot is constantly on the go, moving from one moment of action to the next with barely a pause to breathe. More than once I found myself sitting in the driveway, waiting for the scene to play out, gripped in the drama and action of a Jedi knight bringing order to a lawless desert world.

That’s why Miller’s story, ultimately to be just another spin-off from the Star Wars cinematic universe, managed to resonate with me. It moves, building on a character that is already well established but not permanently fixed. If you’re going to read anything in the SWU, this is the novel to pick up. I guarantee you a moving story in a galaxy far, far away that will feel as much at home as if you were there.


 

Kenobi Book Cover Kenobi
Star Wars - Legends
John Jackson Miller
Science Fiction
LucasBooks
August 27, 2013
Audio
400

Tatooine—a harsh desert world where farmers toil in the heat of two suns while trying to protect themselves and their loved ones from the marauding Tusken Raiders. A backwater planet on the edge of civilized space. And an unlikely place to find a Jedi Master in hiding, or an orphaned infant boy on whose tiny shoulders rests the future of a galaxy.

Known to locals only as “Ben,” the bearded and robed offworlder is an enigmatic stranger who keeps to himself, shares nothing of his past, and goes to great pains to remain an outsider. But as tensions escalate between the farmers and a tribe of Sand People led by a ruthless war chief, Ben finds himself drawn into the fight, endangering the very mission that brought him to Tatooine.

Ben—Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, hero of the Clone Wars, traitor to the Empire, and protector of the galaxy’s last hope—can no more turn his back on evil than he can reject his Jedi training. And when blood is unjustly spilled, innocent lives threatened, and a ruthless opponent unmasked, Ben has no choice but to call on the wisdom of the Jedi—and the formidable power of the Force—in his never-ending fight for justice.

About Daniel

Daniel Burton lives in Salt Lake County, Utah, where he practices law by day and everything else by night. He reads about history, politics, and current events, as well as more serious genres such as science fiction and fantasy. You can also follow him on his blog PubliusOnline.com where he muses on politics, the law, books and ideas.