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ARC Book Review – Tarkin (Star Wars) by James Luceno

Tarkin (Star Wars)

Tarkin (Star Wars) by James Luceno. November 4, 2014. Del Rey, 289p. $28.00 ISBN:9780345511522.

“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. . . .

Bestselling Star Wars veteran James Luceno gives Grand Moff Tarkin the Star Wars: Darth Plagueis treatment, bringing a legendary character from A New Hope to full, fascinating life.

He’s the scion of an honorable and revered family. A dedicated soldier and distinguished legislator. Loyal proponent of the Republic and trusted ally of the Jedi Order. Groomed by the ruthless politician and Sith Lord who would be Emperor, Governor Wilhuff Tarkin rises through the Imperial ranks, enforcing his authority ever more mercilessly . . . and zealously pursuing his destiny as the architect of absolute dominion.

Rule through the fear of force rather than force itself, he advises his Emperor. Under Tarkin’s guidance, an ultimate weapon of unparalleled destruction moves ever closer to becoming a terrifying reality. When the so-called Death Star is completed, Tarkin is confident that the galaxy’s lingering pockets of Separatist rebellion will be brought to heel—by intimidation . . . or annihilation.

Until then, however, insurgency remains a genuine threat. Escalating guerrilla attacks by resistance forces and newfound evidence of a growing Separatist conspiracy are an immediate danger the Empire must meet with swift and brutal action. And to bring down a band of elusive freedom fighters, the Emperor turns to his most formidable agents: Darth Vader, the fearsome new Sith enforcer as remorseless as he is mysterious; and Tarkin—whose tactical cunning and cold-blooded efficiency will pave the way for the Empire’s supremacy . . . and its enemies’ extinction.” — Publisher’s Description

Taking on one of the most intriguing characters in the Star Wars universe, James Luceno does an admirable job fleshing out the persona of Wilhuff Tarkin. Played perfectly by Peter Cushing in 1977, Tarkin has always been an enigma. How did this man become the commander of the Death Star and an equal to, or sometimes seemingly a superior of, Darth Vader himself? Luceno weaves a story filled with action surrounding a joint Tarkin-Vader mission for the Emperor and flashbacks to Tarkin’s childhood and adolescence.

Set five years after the events in Revenge of the Sith, we are treated to a triple threat here: the growth of Tarkin into the man we see in Star Wars: A New Hope, the continued development of Darth Vader as he grows in the Dark Side, and the seeds of the Rebellion that will reach its pinnacle 15 years into the future.

The action opens on the mysterious Sentinel Base where the newly promoted Moff Tarkin is overseeing a project of epic proportion for the Emperor.  The base is attacked by remnants of the Separatist Movement from the Clone Wars.  While he is able to deflect the ambush, Tarkin is recalled to Coruscant where he faces the Emperor and is tasked to lead a joint mission with Darth Vader to root out the Separatists and eliminate them completely.  While on this mission, the Moff’s cruiser, Carrion Spike, is hijacked and after being used by the Separatists to attack Imperial installations it is up to Tarkin and Vader to track the ship down before more damage can be done, all the while unraveling plots and conspiracies over two years in the making.

To say I had high hopes and expectations for thie book would be an understatement   As a life long Star Wars fan, I have always been intrigued by Grand Moff Tarkin ever since seeing him on the big screen.  What made this ruthless Imperial tick?  How did he get to such a prominent position in the Imperial pantheon, especially command of the Death Star?  When I saw that James Luceno was taking the reins and fleshing out this story, I was even more excited, and was not let down!

Tarkin reads more like an espionage thriller and psychological case study than a science fiction adventure, as with most other Star Wars Expanded Universe novels.  The pacing was deliberate and methodical, giving you a true sense not only of the way in which the main investigation in the story is handled, but also a look at the personality of Tarkin himself.  Luceno never lacks on the details, but the story does not get bogged down in them either.  By weaving in stories of Tarkin’s childhood and adolescence, as well as the trials he endured to shape him, we are treated to a wonderful character study that slowly reveals more complexity and layers to Wilhuff Tarkin than you would ever imagine existed.  Couple that with the asides and glimpses into characters such as Vader and the Emperor while interacting with Tarkin, and the entire triumvirate truly comes alive.

There are some points where the action seems to drag, but, much like Tarkin himself, the story is well metered, calculated, and focused on its desired end.  Readers looking for lots of action will be disappointed, but hopefully not for long as they get to know and understand the personality of one of the most calculating and fearless leaders of the Galactic Empire.

Many thanks to LucasBooksNetGalley, and James Luceno for the opportunity to read and review Tarkin early in exchange for an honest review.  The final version will be released on  November 4, 2014.

Four out of five stars.

Tarkin (Star Wars) on Amazon

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Tarkin (Star Wars) on Goodreads

Tarkin (Star Wars) on LibraryThing

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Posted by on November 2, 2014 in Reviews

 

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ARC Review — White Death by Robbie Morrison & Charlie Adlard

White Death

White Death written by Robbie Morrison with art by Charlie Adlard. September, 2014. Image Comics, 104 p. $14.99 ISBN:9781632151421.

“For four years, The Great War, World War One, raged across the planet. Millions were sent to their deaths in pointless battles. The Italian Front stretched along the borders of Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empires, in treacherous mountain regions. In the last months of 1916, a private in the Italian Bersaglieri returns to his childhood home in the Trentino mountain range to find it no longer a place of adventure and wonder as it was in his youth, but a place of death and despair. Amongst the weapons of both armies, none is more feared than the White Death: thundering avalanches deliberately caused by cannon fire… which, like war itself, consume everything in their path...” — Publisher’s Description

This is one of those rare times when I am a little lost for words about a book.  Honestly, I’ve been sitting here for a while thinking about how I wanted to approach this review.  White Death was a wonderfully drawn book, with an intriguing story, but I feel that there was something missing — something more I needed, but I cannot put my finger on it.

White Death was written by Robbie Morrison after the discovery of two bodies in the Italian Alps that were identified as young Austro-Hungarian soldiers from the First World War.  This is one of the few graphic novels that I know of that deal with World War I, and to my knowledge very few books at all cover this theater of the conflict.  In 1915-1916, over the course of five grueling battles, approximately 60,000-100,000 soldiers were killed in the Italian Alps by avalanches caused by enemy shells — The White Death. This is the story of those battles.

Morrison vividly brings to life the despair, heartbreak, and tragedy of war — using the avalanche itself as a metaphor in the sense that it is a terrifying force that consumes everything in front of it without mercy.  The raw storytelling, both in the trenches and in the towns and hospitals behind the lines remind us that war, no matter where or when is indeed hell.  There is a brother against brother element that you do not generally associate with World War I, but in retrospect, I see how this is true of any war.  Also very poignant is the way in which PTSD, or as it was then called – “Shell Shock” was dealt with.  Quite terrifying.

What really stood out to me, however, about White Death was the artwork of Charlie Adlard.  I am relatively new to graphic novels so this is my first time seeing Adlard’s work, even though I have a huge compendium of The Walking Dead waiting on my bookshelf!  As a result I came in unbiased to what he describes in his introduction as nothing less than a landmark book in his career.  The artwork was stunning and masterfully done in a way that was able to capture the intensity and horror of war that Morrison put into words.  The “charcoal and chalk dust” Adlard mentions in the same introduction to White Death seemed to jump off the pages, even through my e-reader, to make you feel dirty, cold, and sweaty with the troops all at the same time.  No other graphic novel has had that effect on me.

My only real criticisms of White Death, and those parts that seemed to have me wanting more were in the fact that I was having difficulty about half way through the book keeping some characters straight in my head, and therefore fully understanding the action and motivations and feelings being expressed.  This could be from my own lack of experience with the genre, but I feel that more detail in the story and the art was needed here.  Also, there seems to be so much potential to have provided more build up and more continuation of the story. I feel as though we were dropped right into the middle of an epic novel and  pulled back out before it was over.  This comes from my not knowing anything about this aspect of World War I, and because of White Death wanting to know so much more!  In a way then, I suppose it served a purpose.

All in all this was an excellent book, and one that makes it easy to see why it has been listed on a few “essential” graphic novel lists.  I highly recommend it to mature young adult and adult readers for the intense story, graphic nature or the art, and the brief nudity and adult themes in a few scenes and panels.

Four out of five stars.

Many thanks to Image ComicsNetGalley, and Robbie Morrison & Charlie Adlard for the opportunity to read White Death in exchange for an honest review.

White Death on Amazon

White Death  on Barnes and Noble

White Death  on Goodreads

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Posted by on September 29, 2014 in Reviews

 

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ARC Book Review – Crucible (Star Wars) by Troy Denning

Crucible (Star Wars)

Crucible (Star Wars) by Troy Denning. July 2013. LucasBooks, 336 p. $27.00 ISBN:9780345511423.

“When Han and Leia Solo arrive at Lando Calrissian’s Outer Rim mining operation to help him thwart a hostile takeover, their aim is just to even up the odds and lay down the law. Then monstrous aliens arrive with a message, and mere threats escalate into violent sabotage with mass fatalities. When the dust settles, what began as corporate warfare becomes a battle with much higher stakes—and far deadlier consequences.

Now Han, Leia, and Luke team up once again in a quest to defeat a dangerous adversary bent on galaxy-wide domination. Only this time, the Empire is not the enemy. It is a  pair of ruthless geniuses with a lethal ally and a lifelong vendetta against Han Solo. And when the murderous duo gets the drop on Han, he finds himself outgunned in the fight of his life. To save him, and the galaxy, Luke and Leia must brave a gauntlet of treachery, terrorism, and the untold power of an enigmatic artifact capable of bending space, time, and even the Force itself into an apocalyptic nightmare.” — Publisher’s Description

Crucible is the latest in the long line of Expanded Universe Star Wars novels.  For those unfamiliar with the concept of the Expanded Universe, these are the stories that fall outside of the canon of the six Star Wars feature films.  The events in this universe remain very true to themselves and range from times thousands of years before the first Star Wars film (called BBY – Before the Battle of Yavin) to forty-five years After the Battle of Yavin (ABY) which is when Crucible is set. We are treated to a much older cast of characters than I was used to in Crucible, and obviously much has happened to these characters in the time between last seeing them on screen and this novel.

I was only familiar with some of the events in the Expanded Universe, having read a few novels set immediately after the events of Return of the Jedi, but to fast forward 40 years was a little intimidating.  Fortunately, it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of this novel as Denning provides ample background to understand characters’ motivations and enough back story to keep the reader informed without having to read the entire EU backlog.  If anything, it’s intrigued me to delve deeper into some of the series that I have missed over the years.

The story itself in Crucible is an enjoyable space adventure.  The action is fast paced, with a few intermittent moments where is slows, but stops just short of becoming dull in those moments.  Even those not wholly familiar or invested in Star Wars or its Expanded Universe may enjoy this novel, but it’s not recommended.  The audience for this will end up being those who have seen at least the original trilogy of movies and/or have read most of the EU books or won’t mind the research.

That said, it was great seeing characters we were familiar with including Princess Leia, Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, R2-D2, C-3PO, and even Lando Calrissian.  On the downside, from the first sentence it seems like we’re constantly being reminded that this is a Star Wars novel.  Constant references to the films and some of those obscure at best (how much mileage has the phrase “nerf-herder” gotten over the years, I wonder) became tiring after a while.  Add to this continual reminders that the Jedi deal all the time with the Force — we have Force lightning, Luke feels something in the Force, Leia reaches out with the Force, objects are moved with the Force — We get it by now, the Force is ever-present and used by Jedi for a great many things, so the phrase “with the Force” became tiresome after a while.

Aside from these minor points, the feel of the novel was definitely Star Wars for me, however.  Interesting villains on many levels with different stages of adventure, wit, and humor with a sprinkle of spirituality keeps the novel moving at fast clip and kept me engaged throughout.  Even with missing many of the previous EU novels, it was pretty obvious that Crucible is going to serve as a bridge between previous stories and a new series of adventures.  As such, it makes for a great one off adventure for those looking at trying a new Star Wars adventure without feeling the need to commit to a five to six novel series.

Many thanks to LucasBooksNetGalley, and Troy Denning for the opportunity to read and review Crucible.  The final version will be released on  July 9, 2013.

Four out of five stars.

Crucible (Star Wars) on Amazon

Crucible (Star Wars) on Barnes and Noble

Crucible (Star Wars) on Goodreads

Crucible (Star Wars) on LibraryThing

Crucible (Star Wars) on Shelfari

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2013 in Reviews

 

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ARC Review: The Far Time Incident by Neve Maslakovic

My review of a fantastic Science Fiction Adventure/Mystery!!

NJBiblio Reads

The Far-Time Incident

The Far Time Incident by Neve Maslakovic. 2013. 47North, 342 p. $14.95 ISBN: 9781611099096.

When a professor’s time-travel lab is the scene of a deadly accident, the academic world and the future of St. Sunniva University get thrown into upheaval. As assistant to the dean of science, Julia Olsen is assigned to help Campus Security Chief Nate Kirkland examine this rare mishap…then make it quietly go away!

But when the investigation points toward murder, Julia and Chief Kirkland find themselves caught in a deadly cover-up, one that strands them in ancient Pompeii on the eve of the eruption of the world’s most infamous volcano. With the help of their companions—a Shakespearean scholar and two grad students—Julia and the chief must outwit history itself and expose the school’s saboteur before it’s too late.” — Publisher’s Description

The Far Time Incident is one of those books that…

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Posted by on June 7, 2013 in Reviews

 

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