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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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Posted by on November 2, 2014 in Reviews

 

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Review – William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher. July 2013. Quirk Books, 174p. $14.95 ISBN:1594746370.

“Inspired by one of the greatest creative minds in the English language—and William Shakespeare—here is an officially licensed retelling of George Lucas’s epic Star Wars in the style of the immortal Bard of Avon. The saga of a wise (Jedi) knight and an evil (Sith) lord, of a beautiful princess held captive and a young hero coming of age, Star Wars abounds with all the valor and villainy of Shakespeare’s greatest plays. ’Tis a tale told by fretful droids, full of faithful Wookiees and fearsome Stormtroopers, signifying…pretty much everything.

Reimagined in glorious iambic pentameter—and complete with twenty gorgeous Elizabethan illustrations—William Shakespeare’s Star Wars will astound and edify Rebels and Imperials alike. Zounds! This is the book you’re looking for.” — Publisher’s Description

For starters, I was almost literally born and raised on Star Wars — I’m only one year older than the franchise.  That brings with it certain biases, including the fact that I hold the original trilogy in my heart with a special reverence for all the happy memories, both as a child, and as an adult, that it brings me.  I also know all three movies in their original forms by heart (and yes, Han will always have shot first!).  Seeing that this unique take on the series had me very excited, and I was far from disappointed.

I admit, that when I first got the book, I was skeptical at how it would play out.  It was either going to be a truly groundbreaking new approach to popular literature and film, or it was going to be an absolute joke.  Fortunately, I think Shakespeare himself would be proud of the results.  Staying true to the original script, Doescher places a very bard-like spin to it that allows anyone even remotely familiar with the film and the story to follow along with no difficulty.  When you have lines like: “But unto Tosche Station would I go, And there obtain some pow’r converters. Fie!“, I think you know where we are in the film!  And I agree, Luke sounds whiny here too!

The writing style is exactly as you would expect from a William Shakespeare five act play.  In fact, it is written as a script, only lacking some stage direction, but containing all the description and scene setting you would expect from any script.  Inner dialogues are spoken aloud, and actions explained in the same way.  While we can see these on screen, simple gestures and actions are either written in as direction, or described by the players.  As it reads, there would be no doubt that any acting company could easily put on a production of this work.

Granted, there is a little bit of cheek, and some subtle nods to both Shakespeare and Star Wars fans alike, but they are hidden almost like Easter eggs throughout the text.  For example, this couplet, a favorite tool of the Bard’s, gives a tip of the hat to the “Han shot first” fans:  “I pray thee, sir, forgive me for the mess/And whether I shot first, I’ll not confess.- Han Solo”.  There are even points in the book where we see action or have a look at some inner dialogues that we don’t see in the film, for instance a Hamlet-like soliloquy by Luke, lamenting the death of the Stormtrooper whose uniform he has stolen on the Death Star: “[Luke, holding stormtrooper helmet.] Alas, poor stormtrooper, I knew ye not, Yet have I ta’en both uniform and life From thee. What manner of a man wert thou?”   Even something as simple as “Once more unto the trench, dear friends, once more!” during the penultimate battle gives a little grin when you get both references.

I simply cannot sing the praises of William Shakespeare’s Star Wars enough.  Perfect for fans of both Star Wars and Shakespeare, it will have you coming back again and again, just like the original.  I personally have recommended this to patrons who enjoy the films, but have poo-pooed plays and Shakespeare both.  Everyone has loved it so far!  I just can’t wait to see the stage production!

If you enjoy William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, fear not, the rest of the trilogy has also been given a similar treatment and you will want to find William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back, and William Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return

Five of Five Stars

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope on Amazon

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hopeon Barnes and Noble

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Posted by on September 25, 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

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Posted by on June 19, 2013 in Reviews

 

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