At Last, A Book That Explains Why Obi-Wan Is Such A Dick

Karen Miller is one of my favorite fantasy writers, so I was thrilled to see she'd written a Star Wars novel. But she got stuck with an onerous task: explaining Obi-Wan's Clone Wars dickery. Spoilers!

Miller's Godspeaker trilogy may be the best high fantasy works I've read since Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series. (Seriously, if I don't write any book reviews on io9 for a week or so, it'll be because the third Godspeaker book just came out, and I'm dying to read it. Not sure yet if I'll be able to justify reviewing it on here.) Like the Kushiel books, the Godspeaker series takes place on an alternate Earth where the names are changed and the gods are involved in people's affairs. The first book, Empress, follows a slave named Hekat as she becomes first a soldier, then a queen, and finally a ruthless empress. The second book, The Riven Kingdom, follows a princess, Rhian, in a land where only men can reign, struggling to claim her throne. And it looks like the third book pits Hekat and Rhian against each other. Cannot wait.

At Last, A Book That Explains Why Obi-Wan Is Such A DickS

In any case, Miller's Star Wars book, Clone Wars: Wild Space, is much better than it has any right to be. Don't let the cover fool you: there are almost no clones in this book. Unlike the other Karen, Karen Traviss, Miller doesn't get to write gritty war stories about soldiers who only look interchangeable. Instead, Wild Space is very much about the Jedi and their interactions with Republic politics during wartime.

Like I said, it's a much better book than you'd expect, given that premise. Especially since Miller tries to build connections between the Clone Wars TV series and the prequel movies. So, for example, you have Anakin caught between training sessions with his padawan Ahsoka and his secret marriage to Padmé Amidala. (Anakin is a weird blend of Hayden Christensen's pouty entitlement and the cocky war hero of the cartoons.) The book actually references a couple of episodes of the TV series — while Obi-Wan is involved in the book's main adventure, Anakin is searching for his missing Artoo unit.

At Last, A Book That Explains Why Obi-Wan Is Such A Dick

The good news is, Anakin disappears from the book pretty early on, and painful reminders of the lake on Naboo are kept to a minimum. The book really is about Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Miller actually manages to make him into a compelling character. (I know.) People have been wondering for a while why prequel-era Obi-Wan is such a jerk, and Miller addresses this issue head on.

Throughout much of Wild Space, other people see Obi-Wan as a stuffy schoolmaster or an uptight prig. And then we catch glimpses of the world through Obi-Wan's eyes and discover quite how much of a balancing act he has to deal with.

A big part of it is that Obi-Wan is really a shy, retiring guy who'd rather just work in the shadows and not get noticed. But as a result of the war, he's been thrust into the spotlight as a "war hero," showcased on newsreels and propaganda pictures, and now he can't go anywhere without being recognized. (Everybody thinks Chancellor Palpatine is being a naive idiot for making the Jedi into rockstars, but of course it's all part of his plan to bring about their downfall.) Obi-Wan struggles with his own post-traumatic stress from the battle of Geonosis, but at the same time he has to be the poster-boy for the war and answer people's questions about it all the time.

Meanwhile, as much as Obi-Wan constantly lectures Anakin about the dangers of emotional attachment, he has attachments of his own. To his old master Qui-Gon, to Anakin, and even to Yoda.

The novel sets up a theme of the Jedi, especially Obi-Wan, getting pushed into having to deal with politics, the realm where they're least comfortable. And then Obi-Wan winds up going on a secret mission alone with a politician, Bail Organa. He and Organa don't really like or trust each other, and they keep butting heads as Organa asks questions a Jedi isn't supposed to answer.

Eventually, as you'd expect, the dynamic between Organa and Obi-Wan changes, as they learn to appreciate and rely on each other in the midst of a hellish trial. But first, Obi-Wan has to confront all of his past traumas, including an incident from his Jedi training, a massacre he encountered when he was a young Jedi, and all of his more recent disasters. The second half of the book really picks up steam, and is much better than the first half, thanks to its tight focus on Obi-Wan and Organa trying to survive a deadly planet full of Sith traps that are as much psychological as physical. All of the Obi-Wan development pays off by the end, as you actually root for him to regain his usual stuffy composure.

Like I said, it's a fun read, and much better than you could possibly expect a Jedi book that takes place during the prequels to be.