Racing in garbage chutes doesn’t sound like much fun to me!
Cover Art By: David Stevenson
Written By: Greg Bear
When I reviewed Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter I talked about having fond memories of the title. Rogue Planet is the opposite, I have nothing but terrible memories of this novel. I recalled very little about the story, but I did remember putting the book down after finishing it and thanking whatever fictional god I could summon that I was finally through with such a time waster. One of the interesting things about going back through all this Star Wars material is re-accessing my opinions on said material. With that in mind, does Rogue Planet remain a blight upon humanity or is it in some way worthy of its existence?
Some facets of Rogue Planet still bug me, but man, I was completely wrong about this novel all those years ago. It isn’t a blight at all, it’s actually a very well put together piece of fiction. What stunned me the most this time around was the descriptive prose of Greg Bear. How I missed this the first time around I don’t know, but he describes things in such vivid detail. He manages to be informative with his verbiage but at the same time his composition maintains an exotic touch that kept me interested throughout. In some ways I didn’t want the action or actual story to begin and would have been more than happy to simply read Bear describing item after item.
Outside of that Rogue Planet impressed me with its many little nods to the greater Star Wars world that I know and love. The character of Wilhuff Tarkin is one giant nod, but even moreso is his exploiting of Anakin Skywalker’s fascination with droids in an attempt to spy on the Jedi. Then there is the entire relationship of Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi, Bear gets their brotherly/father-son/rival type relationship down pat. Finally Bear tosses in the anti-alien leanings of the soon to be Galactic Empire. All are small things, yet all help to add up to one robust story.
One area where Rogue Planet managed to be a bit murky was in Anakin and the Force. At the onset it was like a revelation reading Bear put forth the idea of Anakin and his ability to attune with the Force unlike any other. But, sadly he couldn’t just leave it there. Instead he felt the need to go to the tired well of Anakin doing something dark and tapping into his darker nature. I get it, Anakin has the ability to be dark, he will one day be completely dark, that doesn’t mean I need every story about Anakin to be about the darkness within him. Rogue Planet was on its way to offering a fresh look at Anakin, a boy struggling with the immensity of his power and the Force. But, it went dark and felt like so much expanded universe retread.
A couple of meta thoughts before moving on to my final thoughts on Rogue Planet,
Thracia Cho Leem was a breath of fresh air. Too many of the Jedi are stuffy and extremely dogmatic in their views. Thracia was decidedly different and had an equally valid outlook on the Force and being a Jedi that worked within the basic Jedi ideals. I hope to see more from her throughout the expanded universe (this doesn’t seem likely however), or at the very least hear from some Jedi who think along the same lines as Thracia.
Here we go, are you ready? I love the Potentium, I am a loyal believer in the Potentium theory. There is no light or dark side, there is only the Force and what you put into it (and before anyone tries to deluge me with statements creators, like Geroge Lucas, have made about the Force, I don’t care. Every incarnation of Star Wars takes place in an interpretive art, what a creator says out of universe doesn’t affect how someone interprets the events in-universe, so you can bring on all the Lucas quotes if you want, but that will just mean you are someone I don’t feel the need to make time for). I love when the Potentium gets any page time, and Rogue Planet gives it some page time. It is annoying when inevitably the author goes against the Potentium and takes the side of the Jedi, but it’s only natural for people to go with the popular and fear the truth. I kid, I understand why they go with the Jedi view, I just happen to not agree with the Jedi’s view of the Force in any way. The Potentium is where it’s at people, don’t forget that (although to clarify, no view on the Force is fact, they are all theories, because no one in-universe or out of universe understands who or what the Force is).
The question of Rogue Planet becomes, is it a novel that can stand on its own two feet? Sadly, the answer is no, it presents a central drama with no payoff, unless you go on to read the New Jedi Order series of novels. Admittedly, not offering a massive payoff is common in franchise literature, but usually that is to the bigger picture of the entire franchise, not the central drama of said novel. Rogue Planet sets up the interesting idea of a living planet, of some group of mysterious Far Outsiders, and then offers no payoff at all. It’s hard to get excited about a novel that doesn’t offer any resolution at all to any of the ideas it puts forth.
Despite what I just wrote, Rogue Planet is an interesting and worthwhile read, much better than I remembered it. It isn’t completely fulfilling, and it does leave you a tad miffed at its lack of resolution. But, when all is said and done the prose has an exotic flare about it and it’s hard to not be interested in what is happening all the way to the very end. If you had a bad experience with Rogue Planet give it another shot, it’s not the greatest work ever published, but it’s much better than anyone ever gave it credit for.