One of the most dastardly villains in the Star Wars universe came and went with an all too early bang along with the Death Star: Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin in Episode IV, A New Hope. The then wasted opportunity to get to know this fascinated character is finally made available by this novel and readers will rejoice!
Star Wars: Tarkin
by James Luceno
read by Euan Morton
LucasBooks / Random House Audio
A leader with the guts to blow up a fully developed world deserved more than the quick death on the Death Star. We never learned who he was, how he got to where he was, how in charge he really was, and what could drive a man to that horrendous atrocity. But here we do. James Luceno takes the Star Wars universe in a slight historical detour to tell the story of Tarkin’s rise to power in the Empire. Without spoiling too much, he begins with his outer rim birth and how he was raised to how he overcame perceptions and earned the respect of those in power, specifically Darth Vader and the Emperor.
Luceno’s great accomplishment is how he has readers cheering for Tarkin’s success. We grow to like him and understand his decisions. (Obviously not those decisions in the movies, but the decisions prior to those that made up his character.) I don’t recall the last time I rooted for the bad guy. I’m not talking anti-hero here, but actual bad guy.
This story isn’t just back story on a single character though. We see scenes where Palpatine rules and makes decisions, further fleshing out that character as well. After all, we see so little of how he ruled in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. The one character we don’t learn as much about is Vader, but frankly we know quite a bit about him so that criticism is unfair.
Not everything is perfect though. The rebels tend to be rehashes of Star Wars cliché characters. The leader is Han with Leah’s moral compass; the others are tag-alongs you could see in nearly any book in the series. Indistinct is the best way to describe them. But they aren’t the focus. Tarkin is and when the story sticks to him it shines.
In my opinion, one of the best Star Wars books in recent years and one of my unexpected favorite reads of 2014.
A note about the audio version: Morton is excellent. His Tarkin reminds us of the film version. His Vader – thanks to audio editing and effects – works great. The Emperor is outstandingly close to the original. Very well done. Plus you get all the great radio drama sound effects we are accustomed to in Star Wars audio books.
@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of BookGateway.com. He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.
This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.