Spoiler Level: High
I originally started reading this novel when the paperback version was first released in 2001. I was really looking forward to the further adventures of young Obi-Wan and Anakin Skywalker, but I had a hard time getting into the book and only finished the first third of it before I got distracted by something else. Then I started reading New Jedi Order, and Zonama Sekot started sounding familiar, so I checked this book and low and behold, Zonama Sekot was the "Rogue Planet" in question.
In hindsight, that was the best possible way for me to read it. Vergere is only mentioned as the missing Jedi in the portion I had read, so I had totally forgotten the name when she showed up early on in New Jedi Order. As a result I had no idea what her story was which made her very mysterious, and I learned it in bits and pieces along with Jacen Solo. Had I finished this book at the time, I would have already known exactly who she was and what she was all about, which would have demystified her quite a bit. So I feel this book works best as a prequel to NJO, best when read after wards to fill in Vergere's (and Zonama Sekot's) back story.
Another reason this book worked better for me this time around is it's easier for me to picture the actors this time. When it first came out, Episode II was still a year away, and all I had to go on was Episode I's portrayal of Ewan McGregor's as a Padawan and Jake Lloyd as a 9-year-old Anakin. However, the characters are 3 years older in this book, and well on their way to being the characters we now know them as in Episode II; so now I can draw on Hayden Christensen's and Matt Lanter's performances, and McGregor's much more Alec Guiness-like Episode II portrayal, and picture the characters here as somewhere in the middle of those.
I have mixed feelings about the way Anakin's destiny is portrayed. Anakin keeps feeling brushes with his destiny in this book, and his capability to do dark things. Greg Bear says he wanted to show how the nice kid in Episode I could become Darth Vader later, and he does that well; I just take question with the concept that he was destined to become Darth Vader. The impression I got from George Lucas's comments is that Anakin truly was a good person, but his flaws --fear of losing his loved ones-- caused him to make the wrong choices. And to Greg Bear's credit, Anakin's fear of losing his loved ones is exactly the angle he works. However, here Greg Bear plays it more as if Anakin has this darkness inside that he's afraid to look at because he knows he won't be able to escape it, and hearing his future self give him advice that will lead him down that path. I feel that until that moment when Anakin intervened in the battle between Mace Windu and Palpatine, his life could have gone a different way. That Darth Vader wasn't his destiny; Darth Vader was the consequences of making the wrong decision.
(Of course, I also don't believe that Vergere was ever a Sith, so go figure. Sure, I believe she studied the Sith, but I don't buy her ever becoming an apprentice of Darth Sidious and that's why she had to run away. And who said that she did? Other Sith. Consider the source. But I digress.)
The portrayal of Zonama Sekot itself is wonderful, and it's easy to picture such a jungle paradise. The parts of the book where Anakin's new ship is being built is truly breathtaking. I also rather liked the use of Tarkin and Raith Sienar. Since Sienar was described as looking as if he could be Tarkin's brother, I imagined him as played by Wayne Pygram.
All in all, an enjoyable read, but I'm glad I didn't read it until now.