Monday, October 27, 2014

Tarkin - A Star Wars Novel by James Luceno

In the original Star Wars movie it isn't a menacing Emperor or the Dark Lord of the Sith giving the commands rather it is a character named Governor Tarkin who embodies the evil control of the Empire in the film.  Tarkin had the power to command Darth Vader, authorize the execution of Princess Leia and order the destruction of a planet by the Death Star. While Governor Tarkin, played by famed horror actor Peter Cushing, doesn't have a lot of screen time in the movie the scenes featuring this menacing skeletal looking figure provide the oppressive tone to the film that really defines the evil nature of the Empire.  The most background we are provided of this central character though is when Princess Leia is brought before him after being captured and she remarks "Governor Tarkin, I should have expected to find you holding Vader's leash.  I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board."

So who was Wilhuff Tarkin?  He played a pivotal role in the 1977 space opera but then after being blown to smithereens during the destruction of the Death Star by Luke Skywalker isn't referenced again in the sequel or prequels (except for a brief cameo at the very end of Star Wars Episode III overseeing the initial construction of the battle station with the Emperor and Darth Vader).  For such a powerful character not be more developed in Star Wars canon is a shame.

James Luceno has rectified the exclusion of Wilhuff Tarkin from Star Wars lore with his new novel TARKIN which is being released on November 4, 2014.  Luceno provides an excellent story that combines telling the back story of Wilhuff Tarkin with an adventurous tale set in the very early days of the Empire.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book and devoured it in one weekend of reading because I couldn't put it down.

Pay attention to the name "Carrion Spike" which is both the name of Tarkin's customized space ship while he supervises the construction of the Death Star and the trials he must complete to be considered a man on the out of the way planet where he grows up during his youth.  This is a central theme that the author niftily utilizes to tie together Tarkin's background with the novel's main storyline.  While the book stays true to the character as portrayed by Peter Cushing in Star Wars it also provides some depth to Grand Moff Governor Wilhuff Tarkin.  Being raised as a youth in an environment where pirates, rogues and scoundrels will scourge good people unless overcome with brutal force this attitude impacts Tarkin's future political and military career with the Empire.  Having witnessed brutality and destruction during the Clone Wars, Tarkin is determined to keep order in the galaxy...and from his past experience the only way to ensure peace is through fear and might.  You begin to picture Wilhuff Tarkin as a complex figure who may be doing bad things with good intentions.  While the Emperor and Darth Vader are evil characters, Tarkin is painted more as a bureaucrat who has led a life filled with conflict and is prepared to ensure peace in the Empire through any means necessary.  Essentially Tarkin is a villain but in his own mind he is a hero which creates a great dynamic in this book.

TARKIN explores the early development of the Empire as it transforms from the Republic at the conclusion of Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith and provides an insightful look into the character's rise to power through his relationships with the Emperor and Darth Vader.  The book ties in quite a bit to the Clone Wars animated television series episodes that featured Admiral Wilhuff Tarkin to develop his relationship to Darth Vader.  Tarkin doesn't know that Vader is Anakin Skywalker in this book...but he suspects it!  We also gain some interesting tidbits on the Emperor including his first name...Sheev...Sheev Palpatine.

The story also answers a few questions that I had wondered over the years?  Tarkin is called both Governor and Grand Moff?  What is a Grand Moff?  Aren't governors supposed to be governing a defined area so why does he have so much power?  These questions are answered in this novel.  Thank you James Luceno!

TARKIN does a nice job of tying together the Prequel Movies/Clone Wars, Dark Times/Star Wars: Rebels, and the Original Trilogy in this novel.  If you are a Star Wars fan who appreciates a focus on character development than this is a must read book for you as it really establishes the identity of Wilhuff Tarkin in the canon of Star Wars.

STAR WARS: TARKIN get A GEEK DADDY nod of approval.  For more information on Star Wars books visit:

DISCLAIMER:  I received limited access to an advance digital copy of TARKIN for this review. The views and opinions in this review are my own.  I was not required to post a positive review for access to this book.

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