Rogue Planet

April 26, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

planetRogue Planet by Greg Bear

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I was excited to start on this novel, since it’s the first book set in the Expanded Universe to be written by an established science fiction author. The other authors in the series are accomplished, but seem to be known mostly for their Star Wars works; Greg Bear, though, had been publishing recognized science fiction for over twenty years before writing his Star Wars novel. So I was eager to see what he could do in the universe.

Bear takes the idea of Star Wars and adds a mix of hard science to it. The opening scene of Rogue Planet involves a convoluted process for discarding the trash from Coruscant that involves chemical pools, worms that eat waste, cannons, and ships that collect containers from orbit. The entire thing is an aside, and Bear uses it as a means to show Anakin’s recklessness, but the detail and the thought behind it (because how, indeed, would a city-planet like Coruscant rid itself of its garbage?) are indicative of Bear’s background in science. It’s not that he goes into great, formulaic detail to explain how the process works, but that he thought of it to begin with. Star Wars is a great universe, full of great stories, but it’s never really been science fiction; Bear, however, reminds us that this is a story set in space, using science and technology beyond what we currently understand.

The story revolves around Zonoma Sekot, the titular rogue planet, which lies at the edge of the outer rim of the galaxy. The residents there grow organic spacecraft, and Anakin and Obi-Wan travel there to investigate a missing Jedi, Vergere, who was last known to have visited the planet some time before the events of the novel. At the same time, Wihuff Tarkin has sent a colleague of his, Raith Sienar, to the same planet to conquer it for its ship-building technologies. Of course the Jedi cross paths with Sienar, and it’s that plot that carries the story.

Bear shows us the entire process for how the ships are built, from idea to execution, and there’s a lot of detail to cover, enough so that it takes up most of the novel. It ties in neatly with the Star Wars universe — the process seems to be Force-sensitive, and involves the future owners of the ship more than it does the actual ship-builders — and it’s interesting, but man, it was more detail than I was expecting from a Star Wars novel. I think it goes back to Bear’s hard science fiction background, and I’m sure that fans of that type of fiction would love this sort of story, but I would have been more interested in a story about the people instead of the technology.

Ironically, Bear’s characterization of Anakin is more in-depth than what I saw in The Phantom Menace. He delves more into his troubled personality, and how he struggles with his impatience and his fear of losing his loved ones. He also shows us the child in Anakin, as he’s still only twelve years old in this novel, with the same impatience and eagerness one would expect of a child that age. One of the sticking points in The Phantom Menace involved Anakin being too old to begin training as a Padawan, as most are selected shortly after birth, and Bear shows us just why that’s the case. Anakin has too much of a personality by this point, and he proves to be more difficult to train because of it.

I enjoyed Rogue Planet for what it was — a more serious science fiction story using the backdrop of Star Wars. I wouldn’t include it among my favorites thus far, but I did enjoy that the book was something different from the books I’ve read up to this point. I’d recommend it with reservation to other Star Wars fans, but wholeheartedly for fans of hard science fiction. I’ve since discovered that this book serves as a bridge between the Extended Universe from before A New Hope and that from after Return of the Jedi. Specifically, the book serves to establish some critical plot points and background information for The New Jedi Order, which takes place twenty-one years after the destruction of the second Death Star. I’m just hoping I’ll remember all these details when I get around to it, since I have over 100 books to go to get to them.

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