Most of you probably know that, in general, I tend to eschew the EU. I'm only vaguely current with its canon, and in fact most of the time I pretend that aside from Leia and Han's marriage and the birth of their kids, the stuff that comes after RotJ did not actually occur. It may be that those books are well-written and their plots compelling and all the rest of it, but I have issues with the direction the EU has taken and its emphasis on depressing plots that really make you wonder why they fought so hard to defeat the Empire if things would just continue to go to hell in a handbasket afterwards. EU books that take place during the Prequel Trilogy are a little better, and there are some OT exceptions to my dislike - most notably The Courtship of Princess Leia, Tatooine Ghost and the novelizations, plus the little biographies that have been written about Obi-Wan and Anakin. I was okay with the TCW movie novelization, okay but not blown away.
Turns out the "blown away" label was being held in reserve for another book, a book I'd heard about but had no intention of reading, until today.
I had a couple gift certificates for Chapters burning a hole in my pocket, so Andrew and I went down there in the course of our normal Saturday errands. I checked out the Star Wars section and, on a whim, picked up Wild Space. I read a page. Hmm, seemed interesting. Read another page, and another, and before I knew it, I was hooked. As in, line and sinker.
I've never heard of this author before, but Karen Miller gets it. She DOES. She gets Anakin, she gets my Girlfriend, and she ESPECIALLY gets Obi-Wan. It's kind of like she's got a direct line into my mind in terms of his characterization, because there were so many points in my early reading when I found myself vehemently nodding and going, "Yes, yes, YES, exactly this." There's some lovely exposition at the beginning about everyone's emotions after the Battle of Geonosis, with a nice side dish of guilty!Obi-Wan. I say "nice" even though it's really not, because of course I hate to see him blaming himself for stuff that isn't his fault. But Miller delves into what I feel is the "human" side of Obi-Wan, the side that I most often try to bring out in my writing. So many writers, both fanfic and official, seem to regard him as so much the ultimate Jedi that they end up portraying him as an emotionless automaton. And I can see how one might fall into that trap, but it's a gross mischaracterization in my opinion.
Obi-Wan isn't emotionless; far from it. There are many instances in canon where he's let his emotions rule him and often, he suffers for it - and each time he suffers, that builds up more and more guilt that he draws on to knock himself down. As a teenager he helped lead a rebellion of young people on Melida/Daan, actually leaving the Jedi Order for a time in order to do so, and upon his return became obsessed with following rules and becoming the consummate Jedi because he regretted his decision so much and was attempting to make up for it. There's a brilliant line in Wild Space where Miller relates nearly all of Obi-Wan's important actions to emotional connections: the decision to train Anakin, because of the promise he made to Qui-Gon; his desire to be the perfect Jedi so that he can teach Anakin to the level Qui-Gon would have; the fact that he's determined to avoid attachments because of what almost transpired with Siri.
On that last subject, love, Obi-Wan is also often misinterpreted. I believe one of the reasons for this is that he's consistently compared to Anakin, who loves in a very different way. I'm not necessarily condemning Anakin's way of loving - although I do find it a little unhealthy at times - or saying that Obi-Wan is better because of the way he's able to love; far from it. It's not better or worse, just different. Anakin loves very possessively, very much with a sense of "I don't want to let you go," "I don't want things to change," "I can't live without you," etc. This is probably a function of his personality and his upbringing - he's seen from a very early age that nothing is permanent, that life can be extinguished in the blink of an eye, and so his natural inclination is to protect those he loves not only so that they won't suffer, but so that he won't experience pain from their loss. Obi-Wan, I imagine, would love no less passionately, but the difference is that he also loves selflessly. This too relates to how he was brought up: as a Jedi, learning to put others before oneself and one's own needs is a lesson that initiates start internalizing before they can walk. Therefore, Obi-Wan's natural inclination is to think of his partner's needs before his own and, if necessary, the needs of the galaxy at large. Selfless love also means being able to let go of your partner if they or if the Force require it. George Lucas himself has said that Anakin's main problem is that he has difficulty letting go of things, difficulty adapting to change, and you can easily see that throughout the movies. In the RotS novelization there's a scene where Obi-Wan and Anakin are discussing a dead star, and Anakin expresses shock that stars can die. Obi-Wan explains that all things die, death and change being the way of the universe and the way of the Force, and that for a Jedi to set themselves against those changes is to deny the will of the Force. The quote I remember most from that exchange is: "That is a path of misery; the Jedi do not walk it."
This is why, on a slightly more personal note, I believe so strongly that Obi-Wan/Padmé can work. It's not canon, of course, and I'd never stoop so low as to pretend it is (unlike some unfortunate shippers - *cough*Dormékin*cough*). But to say that Obidala won't work because Obi-Wan is the "ultimate Jedi who would never get involved in a romantic relationship" isn't looking at the big picture. If Obi-Wan is defined at least partially by the way he reacts emotionally to events - and the evidence suggests that this interpretation is not wrong - then love must naturally be included in his psyche. In canon that happened with Siri, and I think that there's enough between Obi-Wan and Padmé for the ship to be a plausible AU.
Anyhow, tangential discussion is tangential, but suffice it to say that I'm really glad to read an official (i.e. canon) author that I feel gets it right. The ideas about Obi-Wan's emotional reactions are ones I've had for a long while, and I've expended a great deal of effort in incorporating them, realistically, into my fics - especially To Ignite the Stars. And, of course, far be it from me to claim that my opinion is the only valid one - that's absolutely not the case! - but it does feel nice to have it confirmed to some extent by canon, and to read an author whom you sense was plucking thoughts right out of your head ad putting them into the book. There's even something in Wild Space that I could interpret as being equivalent to TIS's Force bonds, although I won't go quite that far. Heh. ;)
The book is also rich in opportunities for shippers. There's the standard canon ship of Anakin/Padmé, which I enjoy very much, including a really sweet scene where they're eating these berries and she pulls him down onto her bed and gets berry juice all over her chest, which Anakin proceeds to lick off. :D But of course, I'm a multishipper, so I also noticed that there's plenty of potential for Anakin/Obi-Wan, and fairly early on Obi-Wan and Padmé meet in her apartment. She also expresses concern for him when he gets injured later. I certainly saw enough fodder in those encounters for several fics, including some possibly set in the TIS universe. Hint, hint.
I haven't quite finished reading the whole book - I'm about 100 pages in as of this writing - so I expect I'll have a more coherent, book-ish review once I finish. Call these some ... very happy preliminary thoughts.
And go buy the book, or get it out of the library. DU EET. You know you want to! XD