Star Wars: The Rise of the Empire – Tarkin

If you told me when I was a child that one day I’d read a novel about Grand Moff Tarkin, I would have thought you were nuts. First of all, who would write such a book? Secondly, who’d buy it? Then again, I have been wrong about a lot of Star Wars related stuff.

Over the years, I became more and more intrigued by Tarkin. That’s one of the great things about the Star Wars films: There are so many characters, and so much backstory, you could spend a lifetime thinking about it. And many of us have. The downside to all these new novels is that my head canon is now irrelevant.

“Tarkin” by James Luceno takes place five years after Revenge of the Sith; or about fifteen years prior to A New Hope–however you want to look at it. Governor Tarkin is overseeing the construction of the Death Star from Sentinal Base. A series of attacks by dissidents causes Emperor Palpatine to call Tarkin to Coruscant. Palpatine tells Tarkin and Vader to track down the rebels and get rid of them before the hit and run missions become a full scale revolt. That describes basic plot of “Tarkin,” but there’s more to the story.

While “Tarkin” is set in present day, there are flashbacks to Wilhuff Tarkin’s childhood on the planet Eriadu. In particular, Luceno writes about Wilhuff’s uncle Jova. Every summer, Jova would take Wilhuff into the wilderness–to a place called the Carrion–to teach him about nature and survival. In a way, the flashbacks reminded of the TV series Arrow, in that they would sometimes relate to the present day story. These trips to the Carrion shaped young Wilhuff into the Grand Moff Tarkin that we meet in Star Wars.

“Tarkin” was way more interesting than I would have ever thought it could be. Luceno creates a fascinating character backstory for the Grand Moff. For years, I saw him as a “regular Army” type like those in any number of war movies. I had come to the conclusion (rightly or wrongly) that Darth Vader saw Tarkin as a means to an end. By that I mean Vader (and the Emperor) were using Imperial forces to acheive the goal of ruling the galaxy.

In Star Wars, Tarkin was dismissive of the threat Obi-Wan posed, for he believed all the Jedi to be dead. At the time, I felt that Tarkin was also dismissive of the power of the Force, much in the same way Han Solo was. After reading “Tarkin” and watching the first season of Rebels, I have come to the conclusion that Tarkin was tolerant of Force users, as long as they were working toward the same goal. But I could be wrong.

Sometimes being the last one to the party can be a good thing. Instead of buying the hardcover version of “Tarkin,” I waited for the paperback. Del Rey published “Tarkin” and A New Hope in one volume called The Rise of The Empire. And as an extra added bonus, they included three short stories. Yay bonus content! For a MSRP of $15.00, it’s a bargain no Star Wars fan should pass up.

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