From the first time I saw him in in Star Wars, as a kid, Obi-Wan Kenobi captured my imagination. For a kid growing up on a farm in the middle of nowhere Ohio, Obi-Wan represented just the sort of wished-for escape I too was seeking. I can remember long hours as a child, day dreaming about the day that some wizard, crazy or otherwise, would rescue me from my mundane life and whisk me away to a life of adventure, just like Obi-Wan did for Luke.
As the story of Star Wars grew, it became apparent that Obi-Wan had to deal with a lot of mundane life of his own after he took on the moniker, Ben. Life on Tatooine looks rough, worse even than that found on an Ohio farm in the 80s. What did he do for all those years hiding out in the Jundland Wastes of Tatooine, watching over Luke from infancy to manhood? As it turns out, according to John Jackson Miller’s book, Kenobi, he took part in a western.
That’s right, imagine Ben Kenobi as Marshall Matt Dillon. Though he is on Tatooine to hide, and more importantly to keep Luke hidden, he can’t seem to stay out of the affairs of the local settlers living in and around The Oasis. As a JedI, Kenobi has been solving other people’s problems and fighting other people’s battles for so long, it just isn’t in his nature to look the other way in the face of injustice.
In the role of Miss. Kitty Russell we have a local woman named Annileen Calwell. She runs Dannar’s Claim, named after her late husband, which is a sort of bar/flea market with a land speeder mechanic’s shop thrown in for good measure. She becomes infatuated with Ben and he reluctantly enjoys the attention, though his obligations seem to make any relationship beyond friendship impossible.
The Tusken Raiders play the roving band of outlaws that show up periodically to tear up the town or someone’s moisture farm. Their war leader, A’Yark, who is called Plug-Eye by the settlers, seems to be more cunning than any other Tusken, and a lot of the human characters. A’Yark also has a secret that may explain that wit and guile.
The corrupt local land owner is Orrin Gault. He runs a posse that answers “The Settler’s Call,” a co-op that protects the moisture farmers from the Tuskens — The ones who pay, anyway. He has offices in The Claim, and is an old family friend of the Calwells. Like a used land speeder salesman, he has a easygoing way with the locals that charms and wins them over, but that no reader is going to trust.
As far as the story itself goes it is pretty pedestrian stuff. If you’ve watched many Westerns, and I have (Farm, Ohio, remember), you’ve probably seen this all before. The hero rides a horses and not an eopie, and the bandits wear masks and not full head bandages, but in all other respects its very much the same. Still, it’s a really good story, which is why we tell it over and over again.
If I have any complaint it is that the beginning of the book was very slow. I can handle slow starts. I’m a Stephen King fan from way back. However, this one was almost painfully slow. With the exception of a bit in the prologue and few brief appearances in the Oasis, Kenobi was hardly a player for the first hundred pages. Not encouraging for a book that bears his name as the title.
However, when he does show up to stay it is worth the wait. In retrospect, with the realization I was reading a Western, the slow start makes more sense and fits genre. You have to set up the town and its dire circumstances before the lone rider emerges from the desert to save the day. Hopefully, knowing that you are reading a Western and not a traditional Star Wars book, will make that part of the reading more interesting.
In short, Kenobi is a good read once you know what you are reading. If you are expecting a traditional Star Wars Tale, you should probably look elsewhere. However, taken for what it is, you will find it to be enjoyable, witty and well written.
Star Wars: Kenobi, written by John Jackson Miller, was released by LucasBooks, August 27, 2013. There are 400 pages in this hardcover edition. USR $27.00