Story: 12-year-old Jedi apprentice Anakin Skywalker steals away from the Jedi Temple on Coruscant long enough to participate in a dangerous and highly illegal race that makes pod racing look safe by comparison – but this time, an assassin tails him, an alien with a lust for the blood of a Jedi. Anakin’s master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, barely saves the boy, bringing him before the Jedi Council for a disciplinary hearing. Just when Anakin expects to be ejected from the order of the Jedi, a mission is assigned to Obi-Wan, who reluctantly takes the boy along. The two travel to the hidden world of Zonoma-Sekot, a planet on the edge of known space renowned for its organic ship-building technology. Another Jedi was sent there several months prior, and has never been heard from again. Obi-Wan and Anakin are to investigate the ship forges and try to locate the missing Jedi in the process. Unbeknownst to them, however, an unscrupulous Republic commander named Tarkin also wants a glimpse of Zonoma-Sekot…and then he wants to take it over, using the planet’s unique technology as a part of his own grand schemes of conquest.
Review: Holy cow! A Star Wars novel which doesn’t absolutely disappoint and annoy me? My friends, you have no idea how much of a miracle this is. I’ve been underwhelmed about the Star Wars books since Timothy Zahn originated the unique legacy of Star Wars authors getting it wrong in every important way back in 1991.
Set three years after The Phantom Menace, “Rogue Planet” shows us an Anakin who’s a little bit older, a little bit wiser, and now has three years of Jedi training under his belt – just enough to make him dangerous under precisely the wrong circumstances. The boy’s one saving grace is his devotion to his teacher. Many fans have complained about Obi-Wan Kenobi’s bland characterization in this book, and there is something to those complaints. The character is essentially the same man he was in Episode I, but there are a few flashes of insight into his new role as Anakin’s teacher and guardian.
“Rogue Planet” also introduces us to an avaricious young Republic military commander named Tarkin – yes, that Tarkin – who is climbing his way up the ladder in a shadowy sect of the Republic that wishes to put humans at the center of the universe, even at the expense of friendly alien allies. Tarkin’s opposite number is engineering genius Raith Seinar, who has dreams of his own ascendency. Tarkin feels that Seinar could be invaluable to his “new order,” and hopes to recruit him as a weapons designer. Seinar’s latest design – a huge, mobile artificial planetoid with a built-in superweapon – shows great promise to Tarkin…
While not a perfect book, “Rogue Planet” is eminently more readable than most fiction that’s printed with the Star Wars logo on the cover. Sadly, author Greg Bear has vowed that this will be his only venture into that universe – a damn shame since he’s the first one to get it right in a long time. Bear creates an interesting and fantastical universe worthy of Episode I‘s science-fantasy leanings, and though some things are explained out of necessity, Bear doesn’t try to bring everything down to a pseudoscientific “tech” level (something of which Timothy Zahn was frequently guilty). Bear also has a good handle on the limits and abilities of the characters, and has a refreshingly mysterious take on the Force, very much in line with the films. His handling of the emotional side of the story is also in character, and things take a dark turn when Anakin uses his prowess with the Force to kill in self-defense – a sensitively handled, but still scary, turn of events.
Author: Greg Bear
Publisher: Random House