Monday, September 14, 2015

Quality Time Spent on Tatooine

Another entry in what has become a bit of a Star Wars book review website. In this case, I discuss the wonderful novel "Kenobi", written by John Jackson Miller (2013).

For some strange reason, this basically brand-new book detailing a low impact but nonetheless interesting story was re-branded "Legends". I understand the Disney canon wishes to 'clear the decks' for new stories past Return of the Jedi, hence the "Legends" label, but it seems a bit excessive to invalidate this tale, canon-wise. In is set just after Revenge of the Sith and forms a small portion of the very early setup for A New Hope.

At any rate, these are the sorts of well-crafted Star Wars tales I thoroughly enjoy. It is difficult for writers to work in a shared universe format, where the original source material is so beloved by fans. In my opinion, the best one can hope for is a tale like Kenobi: we get to see some of our old favorite characters (who speak and act as we'd expect), we go on a wild ride that purposely does not outshine the Original Trilogy in terms of danger to the galaxy or scope of conflict (i.e. don't make Death Star III or Suncrusher or anything like that), we gain some insight into non-hero life in the Star Wars universe (adding local color in terms of sayings and phrases, etc-- without using silly contrivances like "space diapers" or "By Palpatine's Robes" or similar), and there are (sometimes subtle) touchstones where we see how a given story fits seamlessly into the larger whole.

This low impact type of story telling in a shared universe is responsible for many of the backstories, so lovingly crafted, for each and every creature and character seen on the movie screen. Minor bit parts, played by extras with no speaking lines, get woven into something so much more in the Expanded Universe. And the Star Wars story more fully comes alive.

The best Star Wars roleplaying game adventures are also like this, in my opinion. The PCs work their way into important, even critical roles in the larger story; participating in the grand events without overtaking them. We're all fans, after all, and aspire to be as good a pilot as Han Solo or adept enough with a lighsaber to take out Darth Vader. But the low impact style of game will attempt to ensure that never happens. We can be important and worthwhile characters without eclipsing the stars of the show directly.

Back to the novel for a moment. I won't give anything away, spoiler-wise, but I will say that the story centers around Obi-wan's early days of self-imposed exile on Tatooine. He is learning how to make the difficult transition from a General in the Clone Wars, Jedi Master and man of action to a hermit in hiding. He can't save the day and remain anonymous at the same time.

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