Star Wars: Review: Tarkin

TarkinBy James Luceno

Century, out in paperback July 2nd

The irresistible rise of Wilhuff Tarkin…

James Luceno’s novel reads as part Star Wars shoot-’em-up adventure, part geopolitical treatise and part historical biography, but for the most part it’s a fascinating insight into one of the key figures in the original Star Wars movie. Coming to this as someone who hasn’t devoured every frame of The Clone Wars, and only dipped into the original (Expanded/Legends) Universe of original fiction, it sometimes comes across as a catalogue of facts and a list of planets that don’t seem relevant to the story but which I suspect are mentioned in order to “canonise” them in this new version of the universe. (The quotes round “canonise” are there to indicate my total cynicism about this official imprimatur – the moment one of the new film makers wants to ignore something in one of these books or comics, they will.)

The book charts Tarkin and Darth Vader’s pursuit of Tarkin’s stolen ship, and this provides ample opportunity for flashbacks to Tarkin’s youth, and the harsh lessons he learned on his home planet, all of which lead him to the man who uses fear as his primary weapon. Most of these anecdotes flow naturally, but the key one is relayed as a conversation between Tarkin and Vader, and it feels like a lecture. There’s one lovely flashback, though, to a meeting between Tarkin and Count Dooku – and you can easily hear Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee’s voices. The conversations between the Emperor, Tarkin and Vader also ring true in that respect, and Luceno gives us some insight into Palpatine’s motivations. The pursuit of the ship-stealers is the least successful part of the book, and seems to be there simply to put Vader and Tarkin together (as Tarkin himself suspects!)

Verdict: Ironically for a book so early in this reboot of the Expanded Universe, there are so many continuity references that a casual Star Wars fan may well feel alienated. For the avid fan, though, it’s sure to be more palatable. 7/10

Paul Simpson

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