TARKIN (STAR WARS) by JAMES LUCENO

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

star wars

EPISODE III (and then some)

It is a dark time for the Empire.
Although the Clone Wars have ended,
most of the vile Jedi been destroyed, and
the Enlightened Emperor enthroned,
still there are those who subvert the peace.

Moff Tarkin was a valiant defender
of the Republic until the betrayal
of the Jedi Council. Since then he has
sworn allegiance to the Empire and
diligently enforced its edict to
maintain its perfect order.

Now, with rebellion rearing its ugly
head again, Moff Tarkin finds himself
living in secrecy, overseeing the construction
of a weapon that will ensure the peace
of the Empire is never broken again.
But with this deterrent to war not yet complete,
Tarkin finds that even he can be
drawn back into the front lines of the conflict.

tarkin

Tarkin is a novel that spotlights this Grand Moff of the Empire, who is the commander of the Death Star and the “handler” of Darth Vader in Episode IV “A New Hope.” And while James Luceno crafts a decent story fleshing out Tarkin as a person and highlighting the formation of the Empire’s dark triumvirate (The Emperor, Vader, and Tarkin), what he fails to do is make the ultimate Imperial officer exciting or sympathetic in any way; Wilhuff Tarkin remaining, at his core, a sci-fi Nazi, whose does not have any redeeming qualities, something that makes him very forgettable.

The story begins in a galaxy far, far away where Moff Tarkin is stuck in the Outer Rim at Sentinel Base, overseeing the tedious construction of the Emperor’s ultimate weapon of peace. Quickly, though, the boredom ends as the secret installation finds itself the target of a cunning, vicious attack by individuals that Tarkin suspects are former Clone War Separatists. When the Emperor demands that these rebels be brought to heel, the investigation leads Tarkin out of the shadows into the Coruscant chambers of the Emperor and then onward to the Outer Rim worlds with Lord Vader in tow, where he cements his worth to sit within the inner circle of the Sith.

Interspersed into this narrative of the now, Mr. Lucero inserts numerous flashbacks to Tarkin’s early life, beginning with his childhood, showing a reader how this ultimate Imperial officer developed into the man everyone seems to both fear and despise.

Born the heir of a rich, powerful family from the Outer Rim world of Eridau, Wilhuff’s early life is filled with pomp and privilege – until his parents send him into the wild, brutal landscape with his uncle. Once there, Tarkin’s adventures become an endless lesson on harshness and brutality, designed to completely destroy any childish notions of right and wrong or protection of the weak and powerless. Quickly he is taught that he should “[n]ever try to live decently, . . . – not unless you’re willing to open your life to tragedy and sadness. Live like a beast, and no event, no matter how harrowing, will ever be able to move you.” And his kindness toward those of lesser classes is utter foolishness, because “[His] task is to teach them the meaning of law and order . . . Then to punish them so that they remember the lesson. In the end, [he must] drive the fear of [himself] so deeply into them that fear alone will have them cowering at [his] feet.” While doing this, Wilhuff must always use the most brutal force possible because “[It] is the only real and unanswerable power. Oftentimes, beings who haven’t been duly punished cannot be reasoned with or edified.” For Tarkin must always recall that at the end of his long, illustrious life “Only glory can follow a man to his grave,” and his only purpose in life is to attain more glory for himself and his family name.

And it is these basic philosophies on life that bring the young Wilhuff to the attention of another ruthless and devious man – Senator Palpatine, who immediately begins cultivating him as a future ally. This relationship helping (like it did with a young Jedi named Anakin Skywalker) to propel the young, gifted Tarkin through the Republic ranks, serving in succession as a distinguished soldier, a powerful legislator, and as a dedicated covert officer for the Republic during the Clone Wars. Groomed by the future Emperor, trained in utter ruthlessness by his family, Tarkin sees his star burn even brighter after the end of the Clone Wars, as his devotion to the will of the new Empire and his dedication to enforcing its edicts turns him into an ever more ruthless and vicious man until even the Dark Lord Vader grudgingly respect him.

With all this being said, I found Tarkin to be a decent Star Wars novel. It tells an engaging story about a shadowy figure in SW lore, allows readers a peak inside the head of the Emperor and Vader, and keeps them entertained with a detective story as well as a snapshot look at the Empire’s growing problems immediately after the Clone Wars. What it did not do was give me any characters to care about. Sure, there are some “rebels” thrown into the narrative as a counter point to our dark triumvirate, but these guys are little more than names with a bit of background to flesh out their motives, nothing more than that. And, quite honestly, Tarkin is, at best, a boring guy, being one-dimensional all the time, because he is 100% evil with no doubts and no redeeming qualities.

To sum it all up for you, if you really dig evil dudes who are devious and think they are smarter than they probably are, then Tarkin might be just what you are looking for. If that doesn’t sound like your preferred male lead, you might need to skip this one.

Netgalley and the publisher provided this book to me for free in return for an honest review. The review above was not paid for or influenced in any way by any person, entity or organization, but is my own personal opinions.

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4 Responses to TARKIN (STAR WARS) by JAMES LUCENO

  1. Pingback: Book Reviews |

  2. Great review. These days if a Star Wars novel is “decent”, that sounds good enough in my books. I totally do dig evil dudes (which is why I enjoyed the author’s Darth Plagueis) so I’m looking forward to this one.

    Like

  3. As an author, it’s a question I struggle with. My personal preference is for tragic antiheroes, not evil ones. However, I do realize the appeal of a truly black & white morality in our characters.

    Like

  4. I felt likewise with Luceno’s treatment of “Dark Lord.” It didn’t really breed any attachment or sympathy for Vader.

    We should be made to feel indecisive about villains… be made to love them, even.

    Liked by 1 person

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