Lit The JC Lit Reviews Special: KENOBI (spoilers)

Discussion in 'Literature' started by Havac, Aug 28, 2013.

  1. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Kenobi is here. No, not the guy, the book.

    Some rules: rate Kenobi on a scale of 1 to 10, supplementing your rating with a review, if you want to (It's not necessary but is highly encouraged). However, please do not rate or review the book until after you've read the whole thing. Thanks. :)

    Go for it.;)
  2. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

    VIP
    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1999
    star 6
  3. dp4m Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Nov 8, 2001
    star 9
    10/10

    I'll go into more details later, once the book has been out for longer, but it's a pantheon-level novel in the EU.
  4. Point Given Mod of Literature and Community

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Dec 12, 2006
    star 5
    What a fantastic book. It's a nice change of pace given the recent books where everything and their mother poses a threat to the entire galaxy, and civilization as a whole. Here we have a threat that's confined to a small oasis near the Jundland Wastes, and that affects a few dozen settlers.

    The most intriguing part of the book is not Obi-Wan himself, but rather one of the main two antagonists, A'Yark. JJM delves into the mind of a Tusken Raider and explains the culture and motivations naturally, yet thoroughly. And the twist with A'Yark is an interesting one that made me take a look at myself and how I pre-judge characters even on the outside.

    Obi-Wan is (rightly) a tragic character. He blames himself for what happened to Anakin, and is trying to make up for it by watching over Luke, even if Owen makes it difficult for him. (As an aside, JJM advances a plausible reason for Owen's longstanding dislike of Obi-Wan). Obi-Wan tries hard to cut himself off from everyone, but he can't stop himself from getting sucked into the Oasis's problems, or from stopping something important happening every time he shows up. Even though he keeps on telling Qui-Gon that it will be his last time interacting with the other settlers, he always shows up to save them in the nick of time, whether it be from a massive Sand People raid, a crazed dewback, a shakedown attempt by Jabba's thugs, or even a plain old settler conflict. He can't stop himself from doing good, and that is awesome


    The only nitpick I have is that I wish the krayt dragon encounter was longer, and that Orrin's kids had some good parts to their personalities but that's literally the only issue I have.

    10/10
    Last edited by Point Given, Aug 28, 2013
  5. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    JJM continues to impress. Kenobi is very good, taking a smaller-picture approach to Star Wars storytelling and dropping Obi-Wan into a small-scale Tatooine setting where he helps resolve small-scale Tatooine problems. It gives the novel a very cool vibe, and JJM is incredibly good at capturing the small-town feel of the setting and characters. It definitely draws from the Western genre, but there's also a sense of modern heartland small-town characterization that seeps in, because JJM rightly doesn't try to stretch the Western parallels too far. Annie and Orrin are the main characters from the settler side of things, and both are interesting and complex. They're both flawed parents, failing to control their children, both devoted to business, both incredibly close but with tension buried under the surface. Annie didn't land too well for me as a protagonist; she's interesting but I couldn't help but be kind of offput by the schoolgirlishness of her random crush on Obi-Wan. It's not really unrealistic, but it doesn't make Annie a particularly strong character, and her ineffective parenting, bemoaning their rebelliousness while failing to actually do anything, didn't help. She's interesting, a pretty well-developed character, but there was just enough that rubbed me wrong about her character to keep her from entirely clicking. Orrin I really liked in the early going -- he's pompous and blustery and a terrible parent, but there wasn't the same dissonance because that was definitely intended, and I enjoyed the small-businessman aspect of his character. It was nice having an entrepreneur and businessman who wasn't a villain. Then he turned out to be a villain. The twist wasn't bad -- a flawed guy descending into a petty sort of villainy step by step as desperation takes hold is realistic and intriguing, but I couldn't help feeling disappointed that he was taken to such extremes so quickly after being such an interesting protagonist character previously. I think his villainy was pushed just a little too far.

    I did like the way he sort of switched placed with A'Yark as the presumed villain. That was a nicely executed shift. A'Yark was a compelling character, one who is shrugging off some of the superstitions and traditions of the Tuskens -- it's nice to see a character who isn't entirely bound by "X do Y, X think Z" broad-brush painting of fictional groups -- but still brutal and basically ignorant. Her struggle to preserve her people is sympathetic, but her methods aren't, and the book doesn't really try to soften her too much even as it makes her understandable and relatable. The fact that her connection is to Sharad Hett, not A'Sharad, is a nice surprise. I really did not expect this to turn out to be a loose sequel to Outlander, but it's not as surprising when you consider the project's roots as a comic, and it's a great, underappreciated source for JJM to draw from. The prophecy also sets up a nice little hint at how A'Sharad could draw followers without leaning too hard on it for people who don't know Legacy.

    The other major character you have to address is Obi-Wan. Ben. The meditations were great, insights into his mind and his burden of grief and guilt and the way he's trying to figure out his role. There are some great scenes around that, but the ability to get into Obi-Wan's head is somewhat limited by the choice to make it essentially a story about the little people of the Pika Oasis. It makes it a very cool small-scale story, but it also takes us away from the focus on Obi-Wan. He's sort of a cipher to these other people, and he's trying to conceal as much of himself as possible, and since we're seeing him through other people's eyes far more often than we're seeing things through his, in what's probably the only Ben Kenobi novel we're going to get, it feels like kind of a lost opportunity to explore his situation. What we get is good, but it feels like it's only scratching the surface of what could be told about his story. The choice to set the story around the Pika Oasis, rather than locations we're already familiar with and which have an existing relationship to Kenobi, like the Lars farm, its neighborhood, Anchorhead, and Mos Eisley, also adds to this sense of disconnection from the Obi-Wan-hides-on-Tatooine story. The fact that we never even really saw the Larses, or Obi-Wan really playing the role of Luke's guardian, at all, feels like an especially odd missed opportunity. Just one scene with Obi-Wan talking with Owen or Beru, or laying out on a dune watching the farm and thinking hard about his situation, would have gone a long way to making things feel more tied-together.

    Now, so far, I've dwelled a little more on the negatives. And they are negatives, but it's important to keep them in perspective. There were some characterization choices that didn't thrill me, and the (very good) story JJM wanted to tell kept it from fully delivering on its potential as a "Kenobi" novel. Those are fairly minor quibbles on what really was a very good story. It's fun, it's exciting, it makes great use of the setting, the plot is well-constructed, it captures the feel of Tatooine, it's uplifting, it's got some nifty and complex character work, it tells a small-scale story very well and proves that there's tons of potential in that kind of storytelling, it cares about the little people in the same way Obi-Wan does. It's a deeply humane novel, and one that really gets what Star Wars is, it's extremely well-crafted, and it feels of a piece with the rest of JJM's work. I loved it, and I really want to see more from JJM.

    9/10
  6. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Average score: 39/4 = 9.75
  7. AlyxDinas Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 12, 2010
    star 4
    I want to write something long and meaningful here but anything I try to muster up fails to really get across the sentiment. Reading this book was an absolute delight. It is so self assured in tone that the scale of what is occurring doesn't matter. There's a tendency, for many writers of the EU, to make everything big. But this might be the "smallest" that Star Wars has ever been.

    Kenobi is about one town (and it's barely large enough to call it that). Heck, the titular character sees large stretches of the book where he is absent. Instead, we are granted a very detailed, very real look at the life of settlers and Tuskens. The detail is wonderful and each character feels very much fully realized. And when Obi Wan is around, he's wonderful. JJM nails the character with such accuracy that each page with Ben is like spending time with an old friend. Add to that some of the most amazingly deft writing and you're looking at a book that represents some of the finest the EU has to offer.

    9/10, if only because there is no such thing as perfection.
  8. Gorefiend Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 23, 2004
    star 5
    10 of 10 because this is one of the best Western I have ever read. No it really is ;), it might be SW but it does the Frontier Town and Lonesome Stranger so well do to the way it is told that it works perfectly on what it set out to do. More books like it pls.
  9. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Average score: 58/6 = 9.67
  10. Nobody145 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Feb 9, 2007
    star 5
    10/10

    Another excellent novel from John Jackson Miller. The details, the plot developments, the characterization, the references, explanations for various things (crazy old, weathered Ben Kenobi) were all so awesome. I especially appreciate the humor- humor in Star Wars is almost a vanishingly rare thing in Star Wars these days, outside of a few comics. This is basically the perfect Star Wars western.

    Its not just because its a standalone, but also a bit of a character study for Obi-wan in those early days on Tatooine. We've had a few more stories from that time period, but I loved the small-town focus, where basically the biggest concern is Obi-wan keeping his identity quiet and a low profile. Sadly the low profile goes out the window after how something big happens every time he visits the oasis. Obi-wan isn't really quite the main character, despite his name being the title, but his characterization is excellent. He's almost like Superman, in that he can survive any fights on Tatooine but he can't let anyone see his abilities. I'm don't think he's ever in any real danger throughout the book- he only uses his lightsaber three times I think, but rather he has to make sure no one notices floating items or wonder who took on a room full of Sand People. And outside of one eavesdropper he's almost never caught by surprise. Not to mention all his introspection after all he's loss and how much more longer he has to wait. Those were probably some of my favorite parts- Obi-wan struggling to come to terms with everything that's happened, to himself, to the Jedi, the Republic, to Anakin and what is still to come.

    The other three major protagonists are all interesting, although they mostly fit western archetypes. Annileen is the small-town business owner, Orrin's basically the local bigshot. A'Yark as a Tusken war leader is particularly interesting, especially that twist. Annileen falls for Obi-wan a bit quickly, but fortunately its one-sided and Obi-wan correctly knows its not so much Obi-wan (though his heroics help a lot) but her own problems with life- doesn't help her two kids are trouble, but at least by the end they've settled down. Orrin I wasn't too sure about for a while. His family in the prologue bar brawl gave a really bad impression of what kind of family they are, but Orrin seemed likable and charismatic enough. Even up to when they slaughtered the Tuskens mid-way through the book, its hard to tell if he's just pompous or could be really dangerous. I was half-expecting him to turn out bad, and he was, but it took a sudden confrontation to show how bad he was- not to mention his fate. A'Yark is barely an ally, but she's never too nice to Obi-wan but definitely an interestingly different perspective from the rest of the cast.

    And I was pleasantly surprised at all the references. Tatooine, despite supposedly being far from the bright center of the universe, has had a lot of stories take place there and a good deal of history and much of it was referenced or foreshadowed. Such as Annileen willing to accept Republic credits compared to Watto, but most of them hadn't even heard of the Empire yet. Obi-wan settling in, Sharad Hett, Anakin wiping out that Tusken tribe in AotC, they all play a role, but never in too contrived a manner, its all just part of Tatooine history that affects everyone living there- and Obi-wan will be there for quite some time to come. A few references to Obi-wan's past help too, its only once, but both Siri and Satine are mentioned, so Obi-wan's not some dense hero blind to romance, and thankfully not another girlfriend is added. And for a small town, plenty of different species- never expected to see a Mon Cal living on Tatooine. Even minor details like a Geonosian worrying about flash floods is appreciated.

    Excellent novel in all aspects- the plot moves along at a good pace, nothing incredibly stupid ever happens, the antagonists pay for their crimes, everybody acts in an intelligent manner or are at least in-character and a happy ending. This is a perfect example of how to write a novel with someone who can't die (Obi-wan), as while he's never in danger of dying, he's always looking out for everyone involved, trying to save as many lives as possible, even if he does draw attention by doing so. I notice the structure and conclusion are reminiscent of JJM's other stories, but as I like most of his work, I don't mind at all. Definitely one of the great, great Star Wars novels, its so nice to see a happy story again.
  11. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Average score: 68/7 = 9.71
  12. MistrX Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 20, 2006
    star 4
    Wow. The EU has often been at its best when we get these novels that focus tightly on one major, well known movie character. Shatterpoint for Mace, Dark Lord for Vader (at least I thought so), Revenge of the Sith largely for its examination of Anakin, and the widely loved Darth Plagueis even though my opinion of that novel was a little more muted than most. And I'll admit, though I love much of John Jackson Miller's work, he doesn't always do it for me. I thought KOTOR lost much of its focus after Vindication and had little enthusiasm for War. I didn't really get into Knight Errant until his fantastic novel helped make that particular comic one of my favorite titles. I was lukewarm toward Lost Tribe of the Sith for a while, before I ended up really liking it, even more so after I read it in its Collected Stories format. When Miller hits his high points, they are high points, in my opinion the best the EU has to offer, rivaled only by the likes of Stover, Ostrander/Duursema, Stradley, and Zahn.

    I'm happy to say that Kenobi is one of those high points, perhaps the high point for JJM's Star Wars work thus far. There is so much going for this book, not least of which is the focus on one of the saga's most beloved characters in a vital part of his life that thus far has seen little told (unless Last of the Jedi has covered much of it. Having not read those, I can't say). Miller gets Ben, letting us see at once his capability as a seasoned Jedi Master, his quiet humor, his watchfulness, his post-ROTS loathing and regret, and what I think is most remarkable is that he does most of it through the eyes of other characters. Outside of the Meditations, Ben's direct addresses to Qui-Gon, he gets no POV scenes. Everything we get of him is through the perspectives of others and, of course, our own knowledge of him and his background when those characters can't fill in the blanks themselves.

    That's something else I love about this book. It does something different. It uses the format and tweaks it a little, letting us see a familiar character through the eyes of those who don't know him or what he is. After reading Into the Void and Crucible, both solid but conventional stories, particularly the latter, a story in this slightly different format is so refreshing. It's subtle, not really drawing attention to itself unless you're thinking about it.

    It wouldn't even work if the characters Miller creates for this tale weren't so convincing, so deep and varied and interesting. JJM has a way of creating personalities who are immediately likable, captivating, and complex, characters who are never completely black or white and experience distinct arcs that are a joy to behold. There was never a scene where we changed from one POV to another and I was disappointed because I wanted to stay with the last storyline. Each perspective and storyline has its journey, for good and for bad, and each is affected by Ben in a unique way, whether for its benefit or detriment. Every twist and surprise are just that, developments I didn't see coming until the reader is meant to know them and each one made me smile with the revelation. JJM makes me care about each and every character to some extent, whether positively or negatively. One character, for example, has no lines, does almost nothing in the book, is just described. At one point, though, when it seemed like that character's story was done, I was sad. I was shocked, a little angry. I had wanted to know about this character, or at the very least wanted them to make it through the story all right. And this was a character that literally does nothing throughout the entire book except sit there. That is the extent to which JJM pulled me into this story and its inhabitants.

    Giving this story a Western theme, with many of its familiar tropes, was brilliant as well. There's the hardscrabble settlers trying to eke out a living and stick together in the frontier setting. There's the charismatic leader, rallying the community and gathering the posse when he needs them. There's the settlers vs. native conflict. There's the saloon, and the tough-as-nails but vulnerable widow who runs it. And our title character, the stranger to appears one day in this community and changes things forever. Heck, there's even a town doc (I pictured the Mon Cal with a bowler hat. It was fun.) It fits this setting, probably Star Wars' most famous planet, so incredibly well. It's the perfect genre choice.

    Even the small snippets we get with Ben strictly from his viewpoint are perfect. We see the wisdom, the regret, the conflict, the fear, the caution, the duty. I loved actually addressing the Ben vs. Obi-Wan turmoil he feels, pulled between his duty to be a hermit and his desire and duty to do good as a Jedi. Plus, that extra knowledge of who he was led to many little winks to his past life. I think my favorite was nearly quoting Yoda to a Tusken Raider. I nearly spat my drink at that one.

    With a story that was captivating and fitting, characters deep and well drawn that I would love to see again, an understanding of the genre and the setting, this book reaches EU perfection. Let me put it this way: I never buy Star Wars books. There are so many of them, and I'm patient enough that the free temptation of the library is always worth it. I bought this book for my Kindle the day it was released. It was beyond worth it. So much so, that I'm going to buy the novel itself, largely because of that beautiful cover art. Everyone should.

    10/10
  13. DarthStymi Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 10, 2002
    star 3
    This was so good, I don't even know where to start. A vast improvement over Knight Errant, which had some excellent parts but was not the ultimate in awesomeness as many seemed to consider it to be (and make no mistake, I am a JJM fan).

    This development--that JJM's novels are getting better--is a good thing. Novels are still a pretty new medium for him.

    After the disappointment of Crucible, which I was looking forward to, this book not only met my expectations (which were high), but also exceeded them. Love when that happens.

    I almost want to say the book sort of raised the bar for how good Star Wars books can be...similar to how Batman Begins raised the bar for superhero genre movies.

    I agree with some of the comments of a tight focus on single character (although, JJM did have a vast cast and multiple story-lines that converged in amazing and organic ways at the end). I also am now totally on board with a couple comments I read about JJM continuing or at least finishing the RC/IC story. I have no doubt he would do an amazing job with that.

    9.75/10
    Gorefiend and ILNP like this.
  14. GrandAdmiralJello Moderator Communitatis Litterarumque

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Nov 28, 2000
    star 10
    10/10 because refusing to give a ten on the notion that no book is perfect defeats the point of a bounded rating system and only evinces a needlessly stinting viewpoint. 10 means the best an EU novel can realistically be, and this novel hits those right notes.

    I'll give a full review when I'm on a computer but I have read it and it is a definite 10.
    Last edited by GrandAdmiralJello, Sep 1, 2013
  15. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Average score: 97.75/10 = 9.78
  16. Normal_Nerds Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 21, 2013
    star 1
    10/10

    So much has already been covered, but I wanted to mention that I thought the way JJM pushed his characters through their own arcs and slowly revealed facts about them that were already there was masterful. Example; the trouble that Orrin gets into is shown at the beginning, but we don't pick up on it until later, when things start to go downhill for him.

    The mirroring of Anakin's fall in the events surrounding Ben work really well to move him to a place where he an begin to accept what has happened and his part in the rise of the Empire. The book is really about accepting responsibility and recognising when you've done all that you can.

    I also liked that the book only took place over a matter of weeks- plenty of room for follow ups.

    As mentioned above, I've been a fan of JJM's work for a while (KotOR) and he's also done some stuff that I didn't gel with (Knight Errant), but this is his best work to date and he really has set a high standard for future stand-alone books.
  17. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Average score: 107.75/11 = 9.80
  18. HedecGa Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 19, 2006
    star 4
    10/10

    This was like a Great American Novel--only set in Star Wars. The characters were so rich and complicated and Ben was awesome. A true hero and so expressive, even though we only got inside his thoughts during the meditations. Flawless integration of past sources and some clever retcons, as well. Insightful, powerful, and hard to put down.
  19. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Average score: 117.75/12 = 9.81
    BoromirsFan likes this.
  20. Bib Fartuna Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 4, 2012
    star 4
    I have had to quickly scroll through this thread, without reading the reviews, just checking the 'numbers', as my book has yet to be delivered.

    Very encouraged so far, by the review scores! :)
    son_of_skywalker03 likes this.
  21. HWK-290 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 29, 2013
    star 2
    We've all been through it. You go out and buy a Star Wars book, you sit down to The Big Three or Wedge Antilles or whoever happens to be the hero this time around, you follow them to the latest planet, if you're lucky there'll be a new species or two, the Big Bad will come onto the scene with the latest Threat, the Good Guys blow something up, save the day, everyone goes home, galaxy is left more or less as it was, characters left more or less as they were. Been there, done that, same ol', going-through-the-motions story.

    Kenobi is not such a story. Kenobi is a character study. Kenobi is, oddly enough, a novel that manages to be about Obi-Wan by not being about Obi-Wan. Kenobi is, aptly enough, a book about point-of-view.

    I'm not going to get into how we see Ben mostly through the eyes of others, or how the closest we get to a proper point-of-view from him are his attempted communes with Qui-Gon. Suffice to say that others have covered that extensively. What I want to get into is this:

    Obi-Wan Kenobi's mission is to protect Luke Skywalker.
    There is no greater threat to Luke Skywalker's safety than Obi-Wan himself.
    To draw attention to himself, a Jedi Knight, is to alert the Empire.
    To alert the Empire is to doom Luke Skywalker.
    To save Luke Skywalker from himself, he must become Ben.
    To become Ben, he must put Obi-Wan to rest for a long time, and, in doing so, turn his back on all that his master stood for and all that the Living Force stands for.

    Therein lies the tragedy: this is not Man vs. Man or Man vs. World, this is Man vs. Self. The exuberant and romantic McGregor must give way to the cool, grandfatherly Guinness who has sacrificed everything for the sake of his friend's, his brother's, son... but to do so takes a titanic effort. Is he a Jedi Knight, cool and calculating, or is he just a man, buried beneath guilt and regrets and anguish? Can he be an island unto himself? Even if he can be, can he stand by and watch, stand by and do nothing, as his neighbors suffer? Or will he risk hope incarnate for the sake of what's right?

    Who is Obi-Wan Kenobi? Who is Old Ben?

    This may not be a perfect book. There is no point-of-view from Owen or Beru, a conspicuous lack given their status as the only two people on the planet to know who and what Ben Kenobi truly is. Annileen borders on a little too close to childishly enamoured with her newest neighbor. A certain moisture farmer gets a little too irrational and desperate towards the climax.

    I was going to give this a 9 out of 10. Few sci-fi books I've read are worth more than that. But Jello has a point: as far as SW EU material goes, this stands on the pinnacle with the greats.

    This may not be a perfect book... but it is a beautiful one.

    10/10





    As an aside, this novel is an exemplar for cribbing lines from the saga in the least obstrusive manner possible.
    Last edited by HWK-290, Sep 3, 2013
  22. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Average score: 127.75/13 = 9.83
    BoromirsFan likes this.
  23. JediMatteus Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2008
    star 5
    wow, people are so overrating this. It is a good book, but not great. There are stretches where i was bored, trying to get through it. I did Like most of the end, though. It just is not as wonderful as everyone made it out to be. Lots of times we could have had even more in-depth journaling from Kenobi. Right when it could have gotten interesting he decides to shut his mouth so not to ramble. But i wanted the rambling. I kind of also wanted Qui Gon to show up and for Annie to truly know who Ben is and was and what he went though and none of it happened.

    Liked the Sand People characterizations, but wanted Obi Wan to come to the full realization of what happened with Anakin at the Tusken camp. Least we get some of this in the Kenobi bio. It was a good novel, with some depth and a good story, so i will not fully trash it.

    7.5 /10
    Vialco likes this.
  24. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2004
    star 6
    But... continuity...

    I'm too lazy to write a full review and I think everyone covered it, so...

    10/10
    Last edited by DigitalMessiah, Sep 4, 2013
  25. JediMatteus Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2008
    star 5
    yeah, i will give it props for that, and the fact that Kenobi is well in character. I wish they would do this for Luke more often. You mention continuity. I will probably sound like a fool here, but i was confused on the timeline of things here. I thought The Tusken Jedi, whats his name?? Hett?? I thought from previous Kenobi novels like "Last of the Jedi", or was it from the Kenobi bio that he and Hett fought soon after he first got there, yet Hett is dead already. So when did Kenobi and Hett fight??? It is right before he and Hett dueled that Kenobi found out about what Anakin did? But how doe sthis owrk in this novel?? He is dead already!! Can someone piece this together for me?? Is there more than one Hett??