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A novel by Jude Watson (1999, Scholastic Paperbacks)
Book 2 of the Jedi Apprentice
44 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

Feuding mining companies put Obi-Wan and Gui-Gon's lives at risk as one prepares to take over the planet. 



2 stars

Read November 6th to 7th, 2001  
    This installment of the Jedi Apprentice series didn't do much for me, either way. There wasn't much story, and there wasn't much character development. The beginning was not as good as the first book in this series, but the ending was at least fairly exciting.

The plot follows Qui-Gon as he mediates between the two rival mining companies on the planet of Bandomeer. He is surprised when his former apprentice, Xanatos, shows up as the representative of Offworld, primarily a Hutt-run slave company. Xanatos and Qui-Gon separated on bad terms after Xanatos failed his last test before he was to become a Jedi. The young man had turned towards power when he saw what his father had accomplished with his control over the people of his native planet. After a brief civil war, Qui-Gon was forced to kill Xanatos' father, for which he was never forgiven.

Through the course of the story, Qui-Gon comes to terms with his failure as a teacher, his blindness towards Xanatos' failings, which Yoda saw right away. I was amazed at how Qui-Gon still turns to Yoda for advice and help. I never thought of Qui-Gon as the type to ask permission, or guidance such as he requires here. Interesting.

Xanatos, upon their first meeting, however, seems to have forgiven Qui-Gon and turned a corner in his life. He pledges to help the native mining company, his rival, do what is best for the ecologically damaged planet. When the Home mine explodes, he pays for restoration efforts, which restores the mine in absolutely no time at all (days, it seems).

Obi-Wan, meanwhile, is sent to the agricultural center, to help in the restoration of the planet's ecosystem. I don't know how long it took to get to that center, but it seems that he spends a single day there before he gets into trouble. This contrasts with the time it appears to take to evacuate and clear the damaged mine in Qui-Gon's city. Obi-Wan and Si Treemba, the Arconan from The Rising Force, scout out a hidden storage area, where Obi-Wan is quickly captured. Xanatos pretends to befriend him, but it is all for show, for some unknown reason, as the Offworld guards take him away. 

Xanatos expresses sympathy for Obi-Wan, telling him that Qui-Gon is not a worthy Master, that he will betray his young Padawan in time, because he is incapable of sharing his feelings and emotions. Obi-Wan wonders about this, as he is sent to Offworld's secret underwater mines to work as a slave for five years. It is stated that Obi-Wan was sent to the mines to lure Qui-Gon into a trap, but what trap?  Nothing indicated that Xanatos was waiting for his former master to get to the mine.

When Obi-Wan wakes up, he has a collar around his neck, which is impervious to even lightsaber blades! It reminds me of the Raha'Dan from Stone of Tears. It will explode if he leaves the off-shore mining complex. Obi-Wan makes a friend with a funny Phindian named Guerra. This leads them to get captured, in a very pedestrian scene where Guerra turns on Obi-Wan. The whole scene didn't make sense. First, why would Xanatos put explosives in his own mining complex? And if the guard let them into the storeroom (with Obi-Wan using the Force on his weak mind) then he should have deactivated the alarm, too. That is the way things work. If he said "we have to get into that room", and the room was locked, the guard would not just step aside, and wait for the next instruction ("unlock the door"). He would let them into the room, doing everything necessary to get them in there.

Qui-Gon, helped along by information from Si Treemba and a cool lightsaber battle with Xanatos, reaches the off-shore mining complex just as Obi-Wan is being thrown off. Guerra, however, saves him by holding out a net in extremely long arms to catch him. Qui-Gon deactivates the collar using the Force, and they escape.

Their first order of business is to destroy the transmitters on shore that control the explosive collars. Do they actually think that the three they capture are the only ones? They throw two off the dock into the water, but Obi-Wan keeps the third. Why? If his collar was deactivated, why would he need the transmitter? If they were worried about the collar being turned on again, then Guerra and the others wouldn't be free, either. Obi-Wan should have worried a little more about that, if that was the case. Perhaps they should have looked for a key to take the collar off in that warehouse... 

But that would have left Obi-Wan without his acceptance of death when it came time to blow himself up. Xanatos traps them in the lowest level of the Home mine, and plans to blow them up. In fact, he plans to blow up virtually the entire planet, using explosives planted everywhere. After another really cool lightsaber fight, the two Jedi are trapped, and Xanatos leaves. Obi-Wan offers the ultimate sacrifice, to use his collar to destroy the door, so that Qui-Gon can evacuate the mine. Qui-Gon find another solution, and as they are evacuating, they spy the master controller! 

What is contrived is that they actually find the master controller, and Qui-Gon assumes that if he can disarm this one, none of the explosives will go off. He also knows exactly how long it will take him to disarm the device. Right, sure.  Obi-Wan uses knowledge gained in the underwater mines to stop the timer clock (he was told that the "ionite" they were mining sometimes stopped electronics -sometimes, but it seems to work perfectly and immediately here), so that Qui-Gon can work. 

They save the day, reveal a traitor in the Home mine company, and Qui-Gon recognizes that he must take Obi-Wan as his Padawan. Xanatos has escaped, but I doubt this is the last we'll see of him...

Most of the new characters, including Xanatos, the main villain, were uninteresting, transparent, one-dimensional. Xanatos was characterized simply by his anger and hatred, but he was given no depth. The "you killed my father" plot has been done to death, and is not very interesting even in the Star Wars Universe. I've said it before, why can't we have a mother as a role model? Amidala was certainly a good warrior... and Mara's child should have two big warriors to look up to. 

We didn't even learn much about Obi-Wan here, though he did grow a bit. He brooded a lot, alternately annoyed and forgiving towards Qui-Gon. I did like his calm acceptance of death for the sake of others, though. When he was thrown off the platform, he accepted death, but even more in the mine, he knew that if the others were to have a chance at life, he had to give his up. He made an excellent argument out of it.

Qui-Gon also brooded, but his brooding was a little more interesting. He woke up to his destiny, realizing that he had to let go of his past failure and work at redeeming himself with Obi-Wan. I just wish we had learned more about the Jedi through him. 

It took half the book to set up this story. That is not necessarily a bad thing, except it took place mostly between new characters who were not very interesting. Qui-Gon was there as an observer, and Obi-Wan had a tour of his new facilities. The second half was more action-oriented, as things started to go wrong, Obi-Wan was taken as a slave, and Qui-Gon realized he had to save the boy and confront his old student. The lightsaber battles were well written, and were very exciting. Qui-Gon is truly a master of the sword, and has better control than any of his opponents. They just seemed too short for my tastes!

In the next book, we finally get an adventure with Obi-Wan as Qui-Gon's Padawan. I hope their relationship grows, and that we get to learn more about each one in the process. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan have some similar characteristics, and it will be interesting to see how they compliment or clash with each other. I just hope the author can make it a little more interesting, and give us some more insight into the Jedi, and into our heroes.

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