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I like big books.

Kenobi: Star Wars

Kenobi - John Jackson Miller This was one of the most satisfying Star Wars novels I've read in a number of years. I'm leery of prequel stuff in general; not only were the movies bad, but a lot of the EU stuff from the prequel years has been really bad as well. I picked this one up off of pretty rave reviews on a bunch of different book blogs and hardened Star Wars fans who have similar tastes, and I have to agree with almost everything they've said. Kenobi tells (partially) the story of Obi-wan's exile on Tatooine, waiting for Luke to come of age and fills the gap between the close of Episode III and Ben's wizard-like appearance saving Luke from the Sand People in Episode IV.

Kenobi has a very "western" genre feel to it. Set amidst a moisture farming community near the Jundland Wastes, the novel describes Obi-wan's frustrating attempts to blend in and disappear in a small rural town where everyone knows everyone else and anyone new is the source of unending gossip. Structurally, it's a story we're familiar with and its alien environment only adds layers to it. The beauty is it's a simple story well-told. You don't have to be a Star Wars junky to enjoy this one at all. I'd even wager that if you're a fan of gunslinging westerns there's much to enjoy here for you as well. You have hostile natives whose ancestral lands and traditional way of life is being threatened by outsiders, the mysterious stranger who's good in a fight, the widowed store-owner trying to make ends meet for her kids in a rough world and a community of ranchers struggling to survive on the fringes of civilization.

There's no shitty re-used dialogue here with obligatory "I have a bad feeling about this." The characters are human, say real things and have relatable feelings and make relatable mistakes. Miller manages to set a story in the Star Wars universe and tell a human story without getting caught up in the set pieces. I especially liked the depth he gave to the Sand People and the "Settlers and Indians" dynamic he sets up between them. Not only is this a story about fate and small actions having galactic consequences, it's one of cultural misunderstandings and mediation. Obi-wan is fantastic in this story; guilt-ridden and coming to terms with massive personal tragedy, he's emotive and real rather than the wise sage and guru we're used to seeing in ghostly form. The novel also connects nicely to one of my other EU favorites, the Legacy graphic novel series centered around Cade Skywalker, which I also highly recommend.

For long time EU followers, this one is perhaps the best in the EU since the last Zahn book. For those of you new to the Expanded Universe, this is a great entry point. If you enjoy it, follow it up with Zahn's Heir to the Empire and you'll be hooked....at least until Abrams's new movie retcons everything and wipes away the EU as canon.