Legends of the Hydian Way – Rogue Planet

When I started this project, I wasn’t expecting to have to keep asking all of you readers out there to do quite so much remembering and pin-sticking. Legends has so many call-forwards and retroactively written tie-ins to events that happen later in the timeline it can get a bit exhausting. Two weeks ago with Lockdown we had a very minor call-forward (more of an in-joke reference, really) to the New Jedi Order series with Maul’s boxing match against a Yuuzahn Vong. This week, the whole book is an NJO tie in!

Welcome to Legends of the Hydian Way, the chronicle of my attempt to read through and review all the novels that make up mainline Legends canon in chronological order. May the Force be with me.

To be fair, I should clarify that Rogue Planet by Greg Bear is a tie-in to New Jedi Order in the loosest sense. It explores some concepts and locations that will be relevant in NJO and sets a few plot hooks, but largely it remains its own story. I generally regard this as the best way to do a tie-in like this, so let’s dive in and see if it works.

Anakin Skywalker is missing again. Obi-Wan rushes through the Temple trying to figure out where his impossible apprentice has run off to this time. As it turns out, Anakin is about to take part in an illegal race at a garbage pit. This race essentially involves strapping himself into a set of jet propelled wings and diving into a pit, dodging huge canisters of garbage being fired into orbit.

Anakin considers why he seeks the thrill of victory and the distraction of speed and danger. He knows it’s a distraction and that he does it to avoid thinking about his past or his own feelings, but he can’t seem to shake his need for speed. In fact he’s so distracted that he doesn’t notice one fellow competitor, a Blood Carver (reptile/avian species) knows a bit too much about him for it to be a coincidence. It isn’t until the race is about to start and the Carver needles Anakin about being a slave that the boy figures out he’s no racer – he’s an assassin!

Obi-Wan arrives at the race, (apparently experience has taught him to keep a list of all illegal races he can learn about) in time to see Anakin and the assassin leap into the pit. Obi-Wan buys a secondhand pair of wings and follows, saving Anakin at the last second.

The two are hauled before the Jedi Council after the incident. Mace Winds seems ready to throw the book at Anakin but for the intervention of a Jedi named Thracia Cho Leem. Thracia is a wise and experienced woman who suggests that Anakin’s restlessness might be better solved by giving him a constructive outlet and suggests he and Obi-Wan undertake a mission to find her former apprentice, Vergere, who hasn’t reported in to the temple in some time.

And so the two are sent to follow Vergere’s footsteps to a world called Zonoma Sekot. The Council heard rumors that this world, situated outside the Republic, has been offering incredibly fast and agile spacecraft to select buyers. Rumors abound about these ships, but notably no other information is available and all clients are bound to the strictest secrecy. The Jedi dispatch Obi-Wan and Anakin with the same mission they gave Vergere: purchase one of these ships and see just what is so special about them. In addition, they are to find out where Vergere has gone.

The Jedis’ mission on Zonama Sekot is juxtaposed with an expedition dispatched by Wilhuff Tarkin, one day to be Grand Moff Tarkin and Raith Sienar, a wealthy ship designer who will go on to be the mind behind most of the Imperial Fleet. Tarkin sends Raith to Zonama Sekot with instructions to bring it into the Republic by any means necessary. Basically, Tarkin wishes to prove his worth to the Supreme Chancellor by delivering the galaxy’s finest shipbuilders, subjugated and ready.

Unaware of Tarkin’s plans, Obi-Wan and Anakin arrive on Zonama Sekot and begin the process of buying a ship. They quickly learn the planet’s inhabitants, largely humans, have something to hide. The shipbuilding process is shrouded in ritual and secrets and despite their best efforts they cannot hide signs that the planet was recently attacked.

Anakin is enthralled by the idea of owning the fastest ship in the galaxy. The Sekotans further his excitement when they reveal the ship will be grown, a living organism, rather than a constructed object. The Jedi must bond with small living beings, called seed-partners, since the Sekotan ships are literally connected via the Force to their pilots and owners.

Along the way, we learn much about the very symbiotic life the Sekotans live with their world and it’s biosphere. Almost everything is “shaped” from seed partners or other elements of Sekot’s ecosystem rather than build from inert material. While machines and cybernetics are present, much of it is seamlessly integrated into partially organic systems. Obi-Wan, however, is concerned when he hears the Sekotans mention their belief in the Potentium, an offshoot of Jedi philosophy which teaches the Force has only good within it and denies the Dark Side’s existence.

Raith Sienar’s fleet arrives and hides itself in the edges of the system. It’s clear his relationship with Tarkin is one of mutual distrust and one-upmanship. Sienar convinces Tarkin’s spy on his ship, the same Blood Carver Tarkin had sent after Anakin (named Ke Daiv) that Tarkin is a racist only in it for humans and that Ke Daiv should instead help Sienar aquire his own Sekotan ship through subtlety.

As Anakin and Obi-Wan near completion of their ship, they discover that no one has seen the Magister, ruler of the Sekotans, in months. In addition, a Force message left by Vergere in the seed-partner’s minds reveals she left the planet when another unknown species threatened it. To avert war, she agreed to go with the newcomers and teach them of the Jedi.

Obi-Wan and Anakin barely have time to process this as the whirlwind of ship construction comes to an end, just in time for Ke Daiv to attack and take Anakin hostage with the new vessel. Obi-Wan pursues, but the new ship is too fast and they’re forced to guess where it will go for fuel. Ke Daiv forces Anakin to fly to the Magister’s Palace to get enough fuel for the trip into orbit.

Upon arrival, however, they discover the Magister is dead and his palace was destroyed months ago. Anakin, who has been struggling to contain his emotions finally loses control when Ke Daiv threatens the Magister’s daughter and kills the Blood Carver with the Force. Anakin is mortified with what he’s done, but before he can reflect too much upon it he’s contacted by a being taking the image of Vergere.

It’s here, as Tarkin hears of Raith’s deception and re-commandeers his fleet for a full invasion, that we learn Zonama Sekot’s biggest secret. The planet is sentient. Sekot isn’t entirely sure what it is, but it knows that it came into being as a collective mind for the biosphere of the planet, and that it cares deeply for the people who live upon it. The Magister thought it was The Potentium, but Sekot knows it’s just the planet’s conciousness.

Sekot explains that the Magister died months ago when a species it calls the Far Outsiders discovered the planet and wanted its secrets for themselves. They attacked, and it was only through Vergere’s sacrifice as a captive and her offer of Jedi secrets that the world was saved. Out of gratitude to the Jedi, Sekot warns Anakin that it’s going to have to fight, and that it has prepared a way of escape.

Anakin doesn’t fully understand, but Tarkin arrives and takes him and his ship captive. Only through Obi-Wan’s timely intervention is he rescued, but the ship is mortally wounded in their escape. They prepare to jump to hyperspace, but before they leave they learn one more of Sekot’s secrets. Huge, mountain sized engines are uncovered and the entire planet uses them to jump to hyperspace and into the Unknown.

The Jedi escape, and Anakin bids farewell to his dying ship, naming it after the Magister’s daughter before it dies. Anakin matures a lot over the course of the adventure, but killing Ke Daiv leaves him shaken to his core, and Obi-Wan isn’t sure how to help him, but resolves to be there for his apprentice in whatever way he can.

There’s much more to learn about Zonama Sekot and the Far Outsiders, but these elements will not be followed up on until New Jedi Order. I can’t exactly do the fascinating world of Zonama Sekot justice in a short text recap, but to Greg Bear’s credit the mystery is revealed masterfully. Bit by bit, we piece together the secrets of the world until the big reveal. Even more amazing is that he really sells the idea of a sentient planetary biosphere without it coming across as hammy or ridiculous.

Despite its strengths, I will say it sometimes feels like Rogue Planet doesnt really have it’s own ending. It sets up the Vergere and Sekot plotlines, but those won’t be resolved for a very long time. It sets up Tarkin but his plotline is resolved in a coda just explaining he spun off his failures as a success to Palpatine. Anakin is tested and learns a lot about himself. But ultimately his story is left open ended as well. It isn’t a big detractor given how good the rest of the book is, but if I didn’t know it was a tie-in I think I would feel unsatisfied with the conclusion.

I loved Rogue Planet, and in particular the way it handles Anakin Skywalker. It always bothered me that Anakin is supposed to have a massive Force presence and then by the Clone Wars period of time he’s treated as just another Jedi and his huge potential is essentially forgotten about.

Not so in Rogue Planet. The Force burns like a furnace inside Anakin, amplifying everything he feels and bursting out at the first opportunity. He struggles to control his emotions but for the first time it seems less like a whiny character flaw and more like he’s got this enormous power inside him that wants to be let loose. It’s never depicted as anything possessing him or having its own intelligence. It just finally makes sense that Anakin struggles to control his power because there is so much more to hold back. It makes it a lot easier to sympathize with him.

We’ll continue next week with more of Anakin and Obi-Wan as we reach the sequel series to Jedi Apprentice. May the Force be with me, my friends.

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