Star Wars: Rogue Planet
An Entire Planet Gone Rogue
Star Wars: Rogue Planet is another, like The Courtship of Princess Leia, that pleasantly surprised me. It was written in 2000 by Greg Bear and follows Obi-Wan Kenobi and 12-year-old Anakin Skywalker. I was prepared for a bit of a stinker in terms of narrative, theme, writing style, etc. And while Rogue Planet isn’t exactly Hemingway, or Plath, or whoever your favorite novelist is, it does give us crucial insight into Anakin’s character as a tween. At least—as usual—according to the now-defunct Expanded Universe.
“You’ve seen the movie The Phantom Menace. You’ve read the #1 New York Times bestselling book based on George Lucas’s masterpiece. Now, before the eagerly awaited release of Episode II, comes a stunning new Star Wars novel from one of science fiction’s greatest talents…The result is pure adrenaline—an unforgettable journey stretching from the farthest reaches of known space to the battlefield of a young boy’s heart, where a secret struggle is being waged that will decide the fate of billions.
“That boy is twelve-year-old Anakin Skywalker. The Force is strong in Anakin…so strong that the Jedi Council, despite misgivings, entrusted the young Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi with the mission of training him to become a Jedi Knight. Obi-Wan—like his slain Master, Qui-Gon—believes Anakin may be the chosen one, the Jedi destined to bring balance to the Force. Bur first Obi-Wan must help his undisciplined, idealistic apprentice, who still bears the scars of slavery, find his own balance.
“Dispatched to the mysterious planet of Zonama Sekot, source of the fastest ships in the galaxy, Obi-Wan and Anakin are swept up in a swirl of deadly intrigue and betrayal. For there are others who covet the power such superfast ships could bring. Raith Sienar, a brilliant but unscrupulous weapons and ship designer, has the brains to decipher the Zonama Sekot ship design. Commander Wilhuff Tarkin has at his disposal the forces of the mighty Trade Federation with which to extract the secret. Together, they make a formidable foe, one a small and undeveloped planet can hardly hope to stand against.
“But as Tarkin’s fleet strikes with all its brutal power, Obi-Wan and Anakin sense a disturbance in the Force unlike any they have encountered before. It seems there are more secrets on Zonama Sekot than meet the eye. The search for those secrets will threaten the bond between Obi-Wan and Anakin…and bring the troubled young apprentice face-to-face with his deepest fears—and his darkest destiny.”
Dealing with Anakin as a 12-year-old fills in so many gaps that we get with the prequels. In Rogue Planet we get a look into Anakin’s youth that George Lucas never gave us; we learn more about his inner struggle, the imbalance in his psyche that leads him to the dark side. If I may be so bold, Rogue Planet did more to further Anakin’s character than Attack of the Clones or Revenge of the Sith.
Slotting this book right into canon, we get a sense that Anakin has been struggling with the dark side for a long time; but at the same time, we also get to see the years we missed between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. We get to witness Anakin in his youth, being a kid, taking risks and still chasing the exhilaration from the Boonta Eve Podrace. He’s silly, and he plays pranks on Obi-Wan; but he already struggles with the dark side, his anger, pain, and nightmares. For what it’s worth, for a time period that we have no other record of in the Star Wars canon, Greg Bear wrote Anakin extremely well.
Here’s a part of Obi-Wan that we’ve never seen before, just like with Anakin; he’s been a Jedi Master for three years at this point, and he’s still struggling. What we get with this characterization is Obi-Wan as a stressed-out new parent. He’s not sure he’s doing the right thing with Anakin; he constantly doubts himself while pretending he knows exactly what he’s doing; he orders his life into neat rows and has forgotten what it’s like to be a padawan, to be young. Obi-Wan constantly looks for answers from Qui-Gon Jinn, eventually coming to the conclusion that his master is dead; he’s still young enough that he harnesses that anger in the Force, that simmering anger at Qui-Gon’s death. Training Anakin not only tests Obi-Wan’s limits, but it also reminds him what it’s like to be young.
Rogue Planet gives us a little surprise in a young Tarkin, Commander of the Republic Outland Regions Security Force. He’s everything you’d think he’d be at thirty years old: exactly as he is in A New Hope, but with more enthusiasm and youthful energy. He meets with an old school chum, Raith Sienar, to discuss an interesting business opportunity: obtain a ship from the mysterious planet Zonama Sekot. What’s interesting about the relationship between these two characters is that Sienar actually introduces the plans for the Death Star to Tarkin. Apparently, it’s Sienar’s pet project and Tarkin takes an interest.
A Good Look at Politics
This book fits well into Star Wars canon, as it was written specifically as a filler between Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. Rogue Planet explores the time during the dissolution of the Trade Federation and the rise of the Republic. Admittedly, it’s an interesting in-between time: Palpatine is still biding his time in the Senate; around this time Padme is nearing the end of her time as queen; Mace Windu and Yoda are just starting to sense that something could threaten the Jedi.
As mentioned above, in this book we get a good look at Anakin as a tween; not only is this interesting from a narrative standpoint, it also explores his ever-present internal struggle. Rogue Planet makes it clear that Anakin is constantly fighting the dark side and that he struggles to reconcile his childhood as a slave. These are character aspects that we know of singularly because of Attack of the Clones, where we meet Anakin again as a young adult. But if we look at Anakin in the context of Rogue Planet, his struggles in Attack of the Clones are much more intense, as we now know he’s been suffering since he left Tatooine.
Specifically, Anakin feels that he has a trial awaiting him. Now, that refers to his trial on the planet Sekot in the book; there he comes face to face with his simmering dark side powers, but now that the movies have been out forever and we know Anakin’s fate, there’s something much more ominous and sinister about Anakin’s feeling, about the Force telling him he has a great trial awaiting him.
Early Master Obi-Wan
This might be reiterating Obi-Wan’s characterization, but it’s so great to see him as a young Jedi Master. We only see him after he embraces his role in Anakin’s life and not when he’s troubled and unsure. Obi-Wan was promoted to Master fairly quickly after Qui-Gon’s death because someone had to train Anakin; and so, we get an Obi-Wan who’s trying to be what he thinks Qui-Gon wanted. He’s still reconciling his life as an apprentice to his new role as Master. Obi-Wan presents an interesting symmetry with Anakin in this book; they’re both unsure of their place in the world and are struggling to deal with jarring shifts in their realities: Anakin going from a slave to a Padawan, Obi-Wan going suddenly from apprentice to Jedi Master.
They Spent a Lot of Time Building the Ship
I liked the idea of a living ship. Except, the book explored every process of building the ship in excruciating detail. The final product was worth it—a ship that Anakin, as pilot, could tap into with his Force powers and read on a molecular level—but the process to get there was almost painstaking to read through. I could’ve done with a little less building and a bit more flying.
Kind of Forgot Why They Were On Sekot
They spend so much time building this ship, and the real reason they’re on Sekot was mentioned so briefly at the beginning, that I almost forgot what they were really there for. Apparently, Anakin and Obi-Wan are on Sekot to build a ship, find out where fellow Jedi Vergere went, and that’s it. Not that hard to remember, but somehow I still forgot.
All in all, I didn’t have a lot of cons for this book. A bit too much ship-building slowed the pace for me a little bit; but at the end of the day, Star Wars: Rogue Planet is an interesting look into a Star Wars narrative we usually don’t see. We know Anakin as an adult, as Darth Vader, but who was he as a teenager? Rogue Planet—no matter that it’s Extended Universe and essentially doesn’t count anymore—answers that question for us.