by James Luceno
If you’ve been living under a rock, Disney bought Star Wars and everything changed almost over night. All of those novels you’ve read over the years and all those great comics you remember fondly? Yeah, they’re now part of the “Legends” line of Star Wars stories. What does that mean? That means that everything that was once canon was tossed out in favor of new material; comics, novels, TV show and of course the upcoming set of movies. For some, this sucked and might have killed their love of the whole thing, but for others this was like someone finally opening a door you were too afraid to enter before. Suddenly, if you’ve seen all the movies—and the Clone Wars show, along with the newer Rebels show—you were caught up with everything canon in the Star Wars Universe because everything else, for lack of anything better to say, simply didn’t matter.
Set five years after Darth Sidious rose up and proclaimed himself Emperor, Tarkin takes a hard look at one of those characters that, for years, you can’t help but be interested by. Maybe it’s because he was portrayed by Peter Cushing and, let’s face it, Cushing was the only god damn man. Whatever it was, there was always a sense of wonder when it came to this hard-nosed, super serious character that seemingly took no crap from anybody. He had Darth Vader at his beckon call, or at least found a way to work with him and command him, and he was a leader amongst leaders. Grand Moff Tarkin, a higher rank than Admirals or Generals, was a supreme authority in the galaxy and quite possibly second only to the Emperor himself. So, where did this person come from? How and where was he raised? Tarkin covers all that and then some.
Writer James Luceno dives deep into not only what molded and shaped someone like Tarkin, but also the very early stages of the Empire and how the Emperor began to restructure the galaxy to fit his own needs and plans, including the beginning of production on a certain spherical battle station. Maybe this was mentioned, and someone who might remember smaller details like that probably already knew this, but the foresight that the Emperor had to begin something like that is amazing. To see how far he had planned ahead, whether that was with the help of the Dark Side of the Force or simply because he’s just a master planner, is astounding and a great little piece of information for the eventual original trilogy marathon that will happen prior to the release of Episode VII.
Not only does Luceno offer this look into the title character and the Emperor, even if it’s not to the same degree, he also manages to bring in everybody’s favorite man in black—okay, second to Johnny Cash—Darth Vader. Seeing Tarkin piece little things together about the man behind the expressionless mask really reinforced just how sharp Tarkin was. The dynamic between these two giants is fantastic as well. Disney could do an animated sitcom with these two and it’d have the potential to be one of the funniest things on television. It’s very much two different styles and methods trying to co-exist and achieve, essentially, the same goals. Obviously, Luceno wasn’t going for a Seinfeldian comedy here, but there was certainly potential gold between these two iconic Star Wars characters.
Considering Tarkin is only the second installment into the long, long list of already released and upcoming Star Wars canon novels, it’s pretty safe to say that it succeeds in adding another layer to the universe, the mythos and, of course, a handful of legendary characters. Tarkin might not be the book you were expecting, or even a book that you thought you wanted, but it’s more than worth the read. Disney has a grand plan when it comes to this universe and there’s no denying that in the last handful of years they’ve generally hit every nail on the head and then some. Now’s the time to jump into the new Star Wars canon; you won’t be overwhelmed or left behind and that new movie is quickly approaching so you might as well jump in with both feet. It’s Star Wars, man. You just can’t go wrong.