#StarWars: TARKIN novel review – minimal spoilers

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Star Wars: Tarkin

Finally, I got around to give my fully undivided attention to this awesome Star Wars novel, TARKIN written by James Luceno.

If you are a Star Wars book fan and you love reading Star Wars books, then you know the masterful storytelling in the Star Wars universe by James Luceno.

This story is no different. It seems to be a well developed “worldbuild” or galaxy build with the intricacies set ~5 years after the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Empire.

Then the timeline retrogresses to years before Wilhuff Tarkin – the one we all know and “love” or love to hate – Mr. Foul Stench himself – to a time when only one place knew Tarkin and his ancestral home. Likened to the outback or the “Southern African” savannah, Tarkin history rises there. Moreover, they seem like “White hunters” – men and some women, taught to big game hunt that could be dangerous and lethal — in this story many Tarkins had died on the “hunt”.

Jump to future timelines and it shows Wilhuff Tarkin’s cunning single-handedness in catching and defeating planetary sector marauders and pirates.

Then to what was to become the  “Imperials” — once called “Judicials” — the military police force made up of men and women who did not have the Force under the Republic, Tarkin made great strides there, until an unknown Republic Senator named “Sheev Palpatine” paid him a visit.

That changed the course of his life.

This story is about Tarkin proving himself to be on the level of the Sith, Darth Sidious (Palpatine) and Darth Vader.

It is a lofty position and it is unknown if Tarkin realizes this, or not. The place where he grew up on planet, Eriadu called Carrion Spike, which were his hunting trials never indicated what happens at the top, that nature can topple it and a new leader rises. One individual never stays at the top. A group of individuals, top predators that use survival tactics can, but is is a constant daily battle.

What I liked about this story was the character development of Tarkin and most of his innermost thoughts. It also shows how one becomes an Imperial in Star Wars. Not the arrogance, but the tactical and strategic military minds of an Imperial. From this novel’s perspective, Tarkin was hardly arrogant until the end. He was not cocky and refuse to listen to others. The way he was written was as if he was open-minded to all inquiries, then he made his “judgement” which was final. It was at this point he did his minor gloat.

I liked the fact that the author wrote Tarkin devoid of much fear. He was startled, hesitant, and concerned, but fear was not a trait he harbored. Fear was a trait he delivered. He doles his fear by besting his opponent, severely. In some instances, Tarkin had cruelty, but it was not a part of a the story, but through an information dump.

What I could not grasp is Tarkin’s exact age. They gave his age when he left his home planet, and joined the special planetary forces. They gave his age when he joined the “Judicials”. Then after that, it got murky. We know he is old by the time he is in the Death Star, but in the TV Show, Star Wars The Clone Wars, he seems rather old then… His close relationship with Palpatine had not been solidified, until after that Clone Wars episode.

The other issue was why did everything think that Vader and Tarkin would be at each other’s throats? That was ironic. In some issues they agreed and perhaps, Vader could sense that Tarkin was about order from chaos and grew to like him. All other Imperials pissed Vader off and he wanted to kill them. Eventually, Vader learned to respect Tarkin by their experiences, together as outlined in the book.

What I disliked about the story was how Darth Vader sounded in the audiobook. The voice distinctions were difficult to tell. It was almost guttural with a cheek flapping to create the sound. The dialogue of Vader’s was plaintive from out the movie. It was as if the tone of Vader seems already filled with utter frustration. There was some cruelty in his statements, but not all the time. You had to “buy into believing” that he was menacing by the way he looks, not by what he did or said.

Emperor Palpatine’s assurances of Sith rule seemed questionable in his inability to sense the machinations of the dark side of the Force in a convenient Sith Shrine deep beneath the former Jedi Temple  from the Republic. Then he stood back and watched. He did little with his evil, and the entire plot of this book could have been determined by him in short order.

Questions remain:

  • Was this story the final trial of Tarkin?
  • Did the dark side of the Force manipulate Tarkin?
  • Why didn’t Tarkin have many quirks?

I would recommend this book to Star Wars fans who love James Luceno and fans who have read at least one Star Wars book, including the movie novelizations from the Prequel Trilogy to read this book. It is a great book to start to understand the new canon Imperials and how one of the top characters think, though Tarkin is impersonal he has very little self-interest and foibles. He is far from neurotic, but he is not an automaton – droid – robot. He is not subservient. He is an essential part of the Empire’s machine, he is the neck. If anything, if you are a top apex predator, the carotids are exposed in the neck…

 

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