John Jackson Miller’s Kenobi is an addictive, engrossing tale that explores Obi-Wan’s exile on Tatooine with wildly entertaining themes perfect for a western. Through this book, readers will get glimpses inside Obi-Wan’s head as he reflects on Anakin Skywalker and the events of Revenge of the Sith. But more than that, Obi-Wan is brought to life as he deals with the realities of hiding from the Empire on Tatooine. Small town folk don’t keep secrets very well, and as deadly as the Empire might be, the threat of Tusken Raiders is far closer to home.
While Kenobi may be the main character, he’s certainly not the only character. A female shopkeeper named Annileen plays a central role in the story. For readers who enjoy strong female characters done right, Annileen delivers the goods. There’s also a local farmer named Orrin whose struggle against the Tuskens becomes an indispensable part of the story. Toss in a myriad cast of local townsfolk, and you have a full cast of colorful characters. John does a wonderful job fleshing out the primary characters, expanding their plots and sending their story threads into very interesting directions. There are plenty of twists, turns and surprises. One character I thoroughly enjoyed was also quite unexpected: A’Yark the Tusken Raider. As much as I liked the exploration of Obi-Wan’s character, I was equally intrigued by the exploration of the Sand People.
Still, with all the ground that the book covers, Obi-Wan is always at the heart of it. Of course he goes by Ben now. That journey of Jedi Clone War hero to desert hermit is precisely what is tackled in this book. How did he get the name Crazy Old Ben Kenobi? What did he do there in the desert all alone? What must have it been like? Those questions and more are explored. There’s even an explanation for how Ewan McGregor Obi-Wan turns into Alec Guinness Obi-Wan as far as looks go.
In taking all these issues in stride, Kenobi returns Star Wars to its sci-fi/western roots. In another genre, this could be the story of a mountain man living in the wilderness and his occasional trips to the nearest pioneer town. There would be the struggling farmers and storekeepers trying to make ends meet. However the farmers harvest water from vaporators. The storekeepers offer landspeeder repairs. People ride dewbacks and eopies instead of horses. Plus there are no savage Indians, but rather something worse: cunning bands of well armed Tusken Raiders. The book has all the common themes and vibes of a western but with the sci-fi drapings of Star Wars. In marrying those two together, John Jackson Miller creates a story that reaches new heights.
Reflecting on the story as a whole, I can’t help but compare it to James Luceno’s Darth Plagueis. Luceno changed the way fans look at the prequels with his Plagueis book. He also shed new light on Palpatine and his mysterious Sith master. John does much the same with Kenobi. Through the story, I gained a new appreciation for Obi-Wan’s character and it changed the way I look at him in A New Hope. However, Kenobi doesn’t get weighed down with overt ties to other Expanded Universe stories readers may or may not remember or have even read. Instead of diving into the depth of detail like Darth Plagueis did, Kenobi runs forward as a story that captures the imagination, entertains and teases the intellect. There’s no dreary politics here. Kenobi is sheer fun.
When it was first announced that John Jackson Miller was going to do a novel that would tackle Obi-Wan’s exile on Tatooine, I was overjoyed. But that excitement had me worried. Would Kenobi meet my expectations? Would I ask for too much only to be let down? John Jackson Miller didn’t meet those expectations, however, he exceeded them. In fact, Kenobi broke through the roof, took flight and made orbit. I’d hate to set anyone else’s expectations too high, so I’d be tempted to say that Kenobi is simply a great book. In my opinion, though, this is the best Obi-Wan story I’ve ever read. I unhesitatingly give it a five out five metal bikinis and recommend that every Star Wars fan should read it. Whether you are a fan of the books or just the movies, this is a story worth reading.