Kenobi

October 3, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

kenobiKenobi by John Jackson Miller

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The long-running debate about Star Wars is whether it’s science fiction or fantasy. I’m firmly on the “fantasy” side of the argument, but I can see why people still consider it science fiction; it has spaceships, involves aliens, and has futuristic technology. Kenobi, though, has more in common with Westerns than with either fantasy or science fiction, a fact acknowledged by the author in his note at the beginning. In Dreamsongs, though, George R.R. Martin writes about how genres are unimportant, and that the most important thing is the story itself. That he starts out comparing a western story with a science fiction story and finding huge similarities is only serendipity.

Kenobi, despite its title, is about a woman named Annileen Calwell, who runs a mercantile in a small town on Tatooine, which is often attacked by Sand People. A stranger who calls himself Ben moves in further outside the town, though his need for supplies takes him to the town more than once. He gets involved with the settlers there, and as he helps them against the raiders, he begins to discover more and more about them, and the truth behind the attacks.

Kenobi uses all the tropes one would expect to find in a western. There is the rich landowner and his spoiled children, the feisty heroine and her honorable children, the stranger who comes to town to right the wrongs, and it even has the Sand People stand in for the Native Americans. Plot-wise, it uses some similar tropes as well, though I can’t really discuss all that without giving too much away. The book feels so much like a western, in fact, that as I was reading the book, I often forgot that I was reading a Star Wars book.

It also works remarkably well, mostly because of what Martin mentioned in Dreamsongs: this is a good story, regardless of which genre it belongs to. It has good characters, a ripping story, and keeps the reader engaged. I was hooked enough to finish the last half of the book in one sitting, which is something I can’t even say about Karen Traviss’ books, and I still think she’s my favorite writer of the bunch so far.

My only complaint is that the book leads you to believe that the book will be about Obi-Wan Kenobi, when he’s really just a secondary character in the book. Sure, he’s important to how the story plays out, but he’s not the main character, and what revelations we do get about his character aren’t revelations at all, since they’ve already been revealed in other books. As I’ve noted with other books in the EU, though, the best stories seem to be the ones about characters not mentioned in the movies.

This printing includes a short story titled “Incognito”, which is a brief look at the seeds of the rebellion against the Empire, mere hours after the Empire was born. It’s not so much a story as it is a glimpse into history, and it was a nice lagniappe that tied in well with the main story.

I’m not sure I’d put this at the top of a “Must Read” list of books in the EU, but I would put it near the top of a “Most Enjoyable” list. Miller does a great job with the story, which was a surprise, since I marginally enjoyed Knight Errant, and didn’t think much at all about Lost Tribes of the SithKenobi, though, would make an excellent beach read, not just because it’s set on Tatooine.

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