- Author: Greg Bear
- 330 Pages
- Published in 2000
- Placement in Timeline: Three years after The Phantom Menace
What It’s About:
Three years after The Phantom Menace, 12-year old Anakin Skywalker and his Jedi Master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, are sent on a mission to the far reaches of the Outer Rim, in search of a mysterious planet called Zonama Sekot. A Jedi Knight named Vergere, sent to Zonama Sekot on a mission years earlier, has not been heard from; Anakin and Obi-Wan are to learn what happened to her, if possible, while buying one of the mysterious, extraordinary Sekotan ships.
Meanwhile, Wilhuff Tarkin has enlisted the help of his old friend, Raith Sienar, on a military mission to subdue the strange jungle planet and wrest their shipbuilding secrets from them.
Anakin and Obi-Wan must penetrate the secrets of the Sekotan planet, find out what happened to Vergere, defend themselves against a Blood Carver Jedi assassin, fend off Tarkin and Sienar’s attack, and fight their own doubts and premonitions: Obi-Wan fears he cannot train Anakin adequately; and Anakin fears his own trial in the Force that comes to a head on Zonama Sekot.
I have to say, this was a weird little book. But also really fun, too. I wanted a story with Obi-Wan training a young Anakin Skywalker. I wanted to see their relationship when it was still fairly young and how they got on with each other. This book didn’t disappoint on that score.
There’s quite a few passages referencing both Master and Padawan on how they feel about each other, as well as their disagreements and misunderstandings.
Obi-Wan has come to love the boy, but has deep misgivings and insecurities about his abilities to train him. He’s nervous about leaving the Temple and going on this mission with Anakin, because it will be the first time he’s been completely alone with him, without the help of the other Jedi. He also feels Anakin’s power, and perhaps fears it a little bit. But his love shines through with passages like this one:
“Obi-Wan reached out, then hesitated. He felt a strong urge not to wake the boy, to let him sleep like this forever, to forever anticipate a great adventure, forever dream of personal triumph and joy. The feeling held too much sentiment and weakness to be allowed, but he allowed it nonetheless. This must be how a father feels, looking down on his son, worried about an uncertain future, Obi-Wan thought. I would hate to see him fail. But I would hate far more to lose this boy. I would almost rather freeze time here, and freeze myself with it, than face that.”
On the other hand, there are times he wishes he didn’t have the responsibility of Anakin:
” “Is adventure the same as danger?” [Anakin asks Obi-Wan]
“Yes,” Obi-Wan said, a little too sharply. “Adventure is lack of planning, failure of training.”
“Qui Gon didn’t think so. He said adventure is growth, surprise is the gift of awareness of limits.”
For an instant, Obi-Wan wanted to lash out at the boy, strike him across the face for his blasphemy. That would be the end of their relationship as Master and apprentice. He wanted it to end. He did not want the responsibility, or in truth to be near one so sensitive, so capable of blithely echoing what lay deepest inside him.
Qui Gon had once told Obi-Wan these very things, and he had since forgotten them. “
For Anakin’s part, he deeply loved his Master. Early on in the story, when he senses a foreboding concerning their mission, he rushes into Obi-Wan’s arms. Later, when he fears for Obi-Wan’s life, he “…could not imagine a universe without his master.” In fact, I was surprised at how many times Obi-Wan put an arm around Anakin, or took Anakin’s outstretched hand, or touched a shoulder or arm in understanding. This physicality seemed more reminiscent of a father comforting a son, rather than that of a teacher and a student.
Of course, Anakin often got frustrated at Obi-Wan’s frequent inability to understand what he meant. Three years in, and it was already a complicated relationship.
What I also found interesting was the little foreshadowings of Anakin’s fate. Anakin himself feels something menacing inside himself. At the beginning of the book, he’s taking part in an illegal garbage pit race, and when he’s flying through the air, he thinks:
“He would gladly live out the rest of his life in this kind of immediate peril if he could simply forget the past failures that haunted him at night, whenever he tried to sleep. The failures–and the terrifying sense of carrying something beyond his power to control.
The dark empty boots that trod the worst of his nightmares.”
Dark empty boots. I’m hearing the Imperial March in my head right now.
Also: “He needed to strip down to pure savagery, to that place below his name, his memory, his self, where ominous shadows dwelled, and where one could turn in an instant from the light side of the Force to the dark and hardly know they were different.”
Later, during a part of the process of making their ship with the Sekotans where they must burn “seed-pods” to make the living portion of their strange ship, Anakin hears a voice:
“This will happen to you….
This is your destiny, your fate…
There will be heat and death and resurrection. A seed will quicken. Will it burn or shine? Will it think and create or be ruled by fear and destroy?”
The planet itself is strong in the Force, something the settlers there called The Potentium.
The book makes references to several Legends characters and concepts, and I did a little research on them since I wasn’t very familiar with them. Vergere, the Jedi who went to Zonama Sekot and disappeared, had left with the “Far Outsiders”, a race of beings who had attacked the planet. These beings turn out to be the Yuuzhan Vong, an aggressive race from another galaxy, one that threatens the future of this galaxy in a series of Legends books called The New Jedi Order.
Characters referenced from Legends include: Vergere (who, I’ve come to understand, turns to the Dark Side and is quite involved in the Yuuzhan Vong War, as well as turning Jacen Solo to the Dark Side), Thracia Cho Leem (Vergere’s former Master), Raith Sienar (who ended up designing the original Tie-Fighter for the Empire), Ke Daiv the Blood Carver, and Charza Kwinn, a very strange but delightful alien that helps Obi-Wan and Anakin.
I could have gotten lost in all this Legends research, but as far as this book goes, I thought it was a neat little novel that attempted to bridge Legends with the new prequel movies coming out at the time. All of it’s non-canon now, but I nonetheless enjoyed it, for the insights into the Obi-Wan/Anakin relationship if not anything else.
Rating: Three out of five lightsabers