With Disney’s purchase of LucasFilm and its subsequent re-categorization of its canon I thought now would be as good a time as any to read my first Star Wars novel. I started with the first book of the new canon (the rest of the Expanded Universe now relegated to Legends status), A New Dawn released last Fall, and was thoroughly underwhelmed (2/5). The second book is Tarkin and I can confidently say it is an improvement in every sense of the word but only moderately. First, let me clarify my fandom: Huge fan of the original trilogy, hated the prequel trilogy. Never got into The Clone Wars cartoon series but have been watching the recent Rebels cartoon which is also canon and is actually quite good. And as previously stated I had never read any of the prior novelizations/comics up until this new canon. As for the upcoming new films I am very excited yet cautiously optimistic. Now for Tarkin.
The concept of Tarkin as a novel is awesome. He, along with Kenobi, are my favorite characters from the first movie. How could you not love a guy that can put Darth Vader in his place!?! Luceno does a great job of putting this to paper. The way he describes his dress, mannerisms, speech, gait is spectacular. The picture he painted with words is exactly how I would imagine Tarkin to be, stern yet fair with a harsh aesthetic. The best parts of the book are when he interacts with two other major Star Wars characters, Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader. It was so great to get inside the minds of these three villains and learn new things about them and their motivations. Palpatine sends the two on a mission together and allows them to figure out the power dynamic between them as the story unfolds. Along the way Vader becomes slightly more humanized and Tarkin more of a bad ass. You also learn some very cool nuggets about each persons history.
The problems come along with the story. My god is it BORING! I damn near quit half way through. Parts of it can be equated with the prequel trilogies i.e. talking about trade embargoes, separatists doing things that have no bearing on the story and so many characters it is hard to keep them straight. It seems like what development he gave to the three bad guys he took away from the good guys. Having read the book I still am not sure what happened. Basically some shit goes down in the outer rim, Palpatine sends Tarkin and Vader to take care of it, you get some predictable twists and turns and ultimately an unsatisfying ending. That being said the story does get better as the book goes along but almost seems so inconsequential in the grand scheme of things so as not to matter. The rebels causing the problems are so nondescript and boring that you just do not care what happens to them.
All in all I would recommend this book for moderate to hardcore Star wars fans. Its high points soar and its low points really sink but it is worth to get to know the Emperor, Vader and Tarkin a bit better. If only the story they were placed in could match.