Tarkin is the second novel in the new publishing era where each novel is considered part of the canon of Star Wars history. Written by James Luceno, it is more than simply a book about the man we have come to know as Grand Moff Tarkin but is an exploration into an earlier time before the events in Star Wars IV: A New Hope. Whereas A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller was an exploration into the beginnings of the Rebellion and a lead-in to Star Wars Rebels, this book takes a look at the opposite side of the coin and goes in-depth from the Empire’s point-of-view.
Author: James Luceno
Cost: $28.00 (hardcover – but many booksellers have it on sale now)
Age: Anyone who loves Star Wars (but probably ages 12 and up)
Publisher: Del Rey
Genre: Star Wars, Science Fiction
To be sure, there is plenty of Rebel action in Tarkin, but the book focuses primarily on the relationship between Tarkin, Vader, and the Emperor. We find out more about the life Wilhuff Tarkin led prior to becoming the commander of the galaxy’s most fearsome weapon – the Death Star and actually more about the construction of the superweapon itself. We find out that Tarkin isn’t some obsequious follower of the Emperor but a brilliant if not ruthless tactician. He didn’t rise to his position by favoritism, but because of his talent and drive which was developed under harsh and vicious circumstances. And we witness as he transitions to Grand Moff Tarkin.
Lucerno also pays homage to Tarkin’s past as portrayed in the animated Clone Wars series when he mentions Tarkin’s involvement in the trial of Ahsoka Tano. He also quite frequently mentions Tarkin’s suspicion that Darth Vader IS Anakin Skywalker based on Tarkin’s encounters with Skywalker during the Clone Wars. I love how Lucerno also slips in little reminders of the characters we know and love from the movies. I couldn’t help but smile when Vader pilots the Predator and mutters to himself, “We have you now.”
What was most satisfying to me is really watching the development of all three of these major characters – Tarkin, Vader, and the Emperor. Lucerno reminds us that Vader despite his armor and breathing apparatus is still the talented pilot we remember from Episodes I – III. It’s easy to just think of Vader as the Dark Jedi with the red lightsaber, but he still is one of the best pilots in the galaxy. But I think what was most revelatory to me was the perspective that the Rebels were first seen as Separatist holdovers. Tarkin thinks to himself (p.218), “If he was right…they (the shipjackers) were not former Separatists nursing a grudge against the Empire, but rather former Republican loyalists with a vendetta.” Because we define Star Wars as the struggle of Empire vs. Rebellion, it was ingenious to see how that conflict developed and to appreciate the depth of the story.
If you’re a Star Wars fan and looking for a good read, you can’t go wrong picking up Tarkin by James Lucerno. For the Star Wars fan in your life, it would also make a great gift!