by Greg Bear
Published by Del Ray
Helen's Rating: 2.5 out of 4
Paula's Rating: 3 out of 4
Scott's Rating: 3 out of 4
Obi-Wan Kenobi and his 12-year-old Padawan, Anakin Skywalker, embark on an unexpected adventure when they find themselves in a strange world full of mystery and power. But evil ship designer Raith Seinar has his own greedy uses for the planet they are visiting, and they must rescue the world or have untold lives on their hands--if they survive at all. Obi-Wan and Anakin have been uncertain allies until now--when they must forge a true working relationship that can carry them into the future!
Right from the start of this novel, it was obvious that a lot of care and thought had gone into its writing. There was a clear effort at establishing who these characters were; a necessary undertaking as Rogue Planet is the first novel to feature Obi-Wan, Anakin, and the Galaxy Far, Far Away in the Prequel Era. In addition, I rather liked the inclusion of Tarkin. We can glimpse this villian on his way up, and his later actions in A New Hope are demonstrated as the ultimate manifestation of a truly evil man. Tarkin felt "right" in every respect.
Deserving of special note in Rogue Planet is the use of intricate sub-plots and details. Weaving secondary plot points throughout a novel can be a hit or miss proposition, often either being too heavy-handed and obvious or not given enough prominence that hints of something more are missed all together. This was not the case in Rogue Planet. Examples of how this succeeds in Rogue Planet are the suggestions throughout Rogue Planet that there is an unknown danger beyond what the Jedi are aware of and the culmination of that in the epilogue. Bringing together several of the loose threads of the novel, in a very subtle way the epilogue struck the right note in leaving the reader knowing that there is more to come, while simultaneously allowing the reader to bring something of their own to the imagining of what might lie ahead in the overall saga.
Personally speaking, the appropriate and creative use of sub-plots and details can be one of my favorite aspects of literature, not just Star Wars. Throughout the novel, Rogue Planet is full of events that could give one pause and reason to wonder about the future films and upcoming novels - in short, this is one novel that will leave the reader wondering whether or not they read the whole story. For me, this is the whole point of literature - what do the ideas do once they are inside your head.
Wow! Some big-time revelations occur in this book that I never expected to see come out before the next film(s). LucasBooks has given Mr. Bear some wide latitude in his story. It should be interesting to see how much of what he writes is kept as canon in the next two films. Even those fans who don't normally read the books would enjoy this story, if only for the shadows of what is to come.
Mr. Bear paints wonderfully imaginative scenes. It is very easy to put yourself into whatever scene he is describing; even those that are totally alien. And speaking of aliens, these are some of the most alien aliens I have seen in a while from a Star Wars book. It recalls the wonder of the Cantina scene the first time you saw "A New Hope." They aren't just human
personalities in alien bodies. They have whole cultures that are revealed in their behaviors. And since they aren't all as ruthless as the Vong, it's easy to be fascinated by them.
This book has plenty of excitement and drama for any fan's taste. Also, the insight into the inner workings of Anakin is what's going to keep fans talking for a long time. Bring on Episode Two!
First up, I thought Bear nailed the relationship between Obi-Wan and Anakin. Kind of a father/son, brother, master/student, rival thing going. It seems that all aspects of their bonds were explored as hinted at in Episode I and A New Hope.
Anakin was great. He's definitely in that transition state between a boy and a Jedi. He misses his mother while still mastering becoming a Jedi Knight. Most intriguing of all is getting to see the first hints of Darth Vader emerging in his mind. It was also interesting to see how the Jedi Council treated him after their rather cold reception in Episode I.
Bear also did a great job with some of the new aliens. They are definitely strange and otherworldly, as you'd hope for. They also play upon the "symbiosis" themes that George Lucas loves so much.
As you know, Tarkin is one of the major bad guys in this book. It was truly a treat to finally see him in action outside of A New Hope. I've always wanted to know more about Tarkin, and Bear delivers. He's cold, ruthless, and overconfident just as Peter Cusing portrayed him.
Finally, I loved the fact that this novel ties the Prequel Era, A New Hope era, and the Post-Return of the Jedi Era all together. There's a subtle tie in with the New Jedi Order series that will suprise you.
Overall a very enjoyable story.
The pacing of this novel was thrown off by the decision to switch chapters with a switch of the point of view or protagonist. While the novel opens with a standard size chapter, all the ones that follow are quite short, some as short as a few paragraphs. At times, this interfered with my ability to follow the story and become invested in it. It seemed that the chapters could have been condensed and combined in order to allow the reader to become immersed in the scene being related. Due to this, I was unable to give the novel a higher rating. It simply made the novel difficult to read.
Perhaps as a result of this, it was not until late in the novel that I found myself caring about Obi-Wan and Anakin, while finding myself drawn more to the villians and their machinations throughout the novel. With the stage set in such a way, I found it difficult to sympathize with Obi-Wan and Anakin until they were in dire circumstances (the events of the first chapter didn't seem all that dangerous). Yes, by the end of the novel I had the sense that there was a deep affection between Obi-Wan and Anakin, yet as the main protagonists of the novel, they could have been more compelling along the way.
The mystery of the planet was too veiled for my taste. I always seemed to miss the clues about what was wrong with the place and never quite connected with it until it started revealing itself. Perhaps that was Mr. Bear's intention, but it detracted from the book for me.
And as an admitted Obi-Wan fan, I was disappointed that we didn't get more insight into what he was going through. This is the first chance we have had to "see" him since Episode One. Even though this is blatantly Anakin's story, I would have liked to have seen some time taken to catch us up on what he has been going through.
Just to show you can't please everyone, I had a different opinion than Paula. I thought the mystery of the planet was TOO predictable. I had it guessed early on, thus leaving little to anticipate for the rest of the book. It's a plot that has been done in several other stories, including the questionable Galaxy of Fear books.
On the other hand, the whole business with growing the ships was a bit confusing to me. It seemed a little too weird for me to visualize, much less follow. I know it was intended to be "alien" and out of the ordinary, but the whole setup of it had me saying, "Huh?" It was kind of the same with the race at the beginning of the book. I still am not entirely sure how the heck the race works. Shooting garbage into space? Giant worms? Flying through shields? I was a bit lost.
Finally, the story seemed to lack a grand epic scale that I had hoped for. It just kind of fizzled toward the end. Don't getta me wrongo, I liked it a lot. But I guess my expectations were greater than could be delivered on. That is why I rated it a 3 out of 4.
The first chapter of this novel failed to engage me. Like the first scene of a movie, the first chapter of a novel should grab the reader and not let go. By opening the novel with Anakin in danger, there was an attempt to do this, but I felt like Anakin was just being a bratty kid, running off from his protectors because he didn't feel like doing his homework.
Sienar bugged me. He seemed inconsistent throughout the book. At the beginning I found it hard to connect with him. He seemed to be a shallow bad guy with nothing behind him; in there only as a foil to Tarkin. He finds some interest about halfway through when you see him struggle with what he wants and his real lust for power. But then he falls apart at the end, again; becoming a leech in the more powerful villain's shadow. I want a villain I can at least connect with.
And the cover...if you can't get the actual actor in for a new picture, then go with a painted cover, please!
If I had to label anything ugly, it would be Anakin's first kill. Oy, what a way to go.