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 LucasBooks, NetGalley, 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.
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