Review by Anthony Tyson 5/2/15
After Disney announced their plans for official Star Wars canon, I knew I had to start reading again. The first one I read, Star Wars: A New Dawn, left a bit to be desired. While not entirely poor, it didn't quite grip me either. When Tarkin was the next book announced, I felt that this was going to be the book that was going to make me invested in the universe that Disney and Lucasfilm really wanted to make. Fortunately I can say that I was correct in my assumption, as James Luceno proved that he can duplicate the success from his last Star Wars novel: Darth Plageous.
Grand Moff Tarkin was first shown in the original Star Wars film back in '77. Introduced as a man that could talk back to Vader, he was an effective, but ultimately one-note villain. We didn't get any context into his inner mind or character by the time the film was over. He gets blown up in the Death Star, and that's the end of it.
Tarkin explores the inner psyche of the man, and brings out the reason why his character thinks and acts as he does. The governance of law and fear in order to keep people in line are introduced and explained spectacularly through flashbacks to his youth and upbringing. This is an amazing aspect of the book due to the fact that it shows Tarkin as a much more charismatic and compelling character.
The other thing that this book accomplished exceedingly well is that it provides a viewpoint into the inner workings of the early empire and the agenda of Vader and the Emperor. The emperor, while still periodically checking into day to day dealings, secluded himself in mastering the dark side of the force in his personal cheers built on the remnants of the old Jedi temple. This leaves most of the governance and enforcement of the empire to Vader, and the collection of Moffs to run the day to day affairs. After a mysterious attack on an 'installation' under Tarkin's control, Vader and Tarkin team up to unearth a dissident cell operating under the guidance of someone with great influence. Trusting none other than themselves, they partake in a journey together in which they begin to respect each other, furthering the connection they finally establish in the first Star Wars movie.
The success of this book is that it really deepens the existing lore, as well as providing a glimpse into the direction Lucasfilm and Disney want to move the franchise towards. It's the idea that no matter which side of opposing factions a character is on, good and evil is only in context of what actions individuals take to achieve a particular end, the idea that villains can be just as charismatic as the good ones. The idea that power is not just in those that have the ability to manipulate the force, but also in those that have intelligence and charisma as well. Tarkin is an excellent glimpse into the Star Wars universe, and sets an inspiring tone for (hopefully) the future of the franchise.
A must read at a used or new price.