My Review of Star Wars: Tarkin, by James Luceno

25 Jan

January 25, 2019

In Star Wars, Grand Moff Tarkin was played by Peter Cushing. He’s easily my favorite character, more villainous in the film than Darth Vader. He’s also played by one of my favorite actors, so when this book came out I went against my better judgement and read a Star Wars novel. I’m glad I did.

I give Tarkin 5 stars, but bear in mind, this 5 star rating is not the same 5 stars I give Flowers for Algernon. This is 5 stars as far as Star Wars books go, a totally different scale. Flowers for Algernon is a triumph of literature. This is a good read.

I generally dislike Star Wars novels. This one, though, breaks the mold. It is more sci-fi than fantasy, ignoring all the Jedi mumbo-jumbo nonsense that other books get bogged down in. In fact, being from the bad guy’s point of view, this has a nicely negative view of the Jedi. It reads more like the old Alan Dean Foster novels, like Splinter of the Mind’s Eye or the original Han Solo novels. It bridges the gap to the New Hope era, disposing of The Clone Wars and entering the better era of Star Wars. If  you need a movie reference point, consider this as happening just before Rogue One.

Peter Cushing

Some reviewers don’t care for the plot, which they dismiss as Tarkin and Vader chasing around some random disposable rebels. They miss the point. This book is all about the backstory. You learn a lot about Tarkin and what molded and motivates him. You also learn a bit about The Emperor and Vader too. The main plot is really just the skeleton that the meat of the backstory hangs on. This is a character study / biography of Grand Moff Tarkin, and as such it works. The novel also explores the relationship between Tarkin and Vader, and for all those who wonder why Vader would take orders from anyone besides the Emperor, let alone someone who isn’t even a force user, this book explains.

The writing is also well done. In fact, just compare it to the two excerpts of novels by other authors that follow it in the paperback edition. Not only is neither the least bit interesting or original, but their writing is clearly not as good. James Luceno may be the only Star Wars writer today worth reading.


6 Responses to “My Review of Star Wars: Tarkin, by James Luceno”

  1. Matt Cowan January 25, 2019 at 8:23 pm #

    Great review! I always thought Tarkin was cool, even before I knew how awesome the actor playing him was.


    • bmj2k January 25, 2019 at 9:13 pm #

      Thanks! I’ve been a Peter Cushing since I first saw him as Van Helsing in Horror of Dracula. Then in every other film he was in, no matter how poor the film, his acting was always top-notch. He put his craft to good use, often finding little props on the set he could use to aid his character. He was very often doing unscripted bits with his hands that added reality to his role.

      Liked by 1 person

      • T E Stazyk January 26, 2019 at 12:39 am #

        Totally concur and every time I think if Peter Cushing I think of Horror of Dracula (Tarkin kills Saruman!!). That end scene was so cool because Christopher Lee was such a perfectly evil Dracula and just when Cushing was on the ropes he grabbed the candlesticks and nailed him.


        • bmj2k January 26, 2019 at 5:37 am #

          I read something the other day and I have no idea if it is true since I never read it before, but it stated that Christopher Lee was offered the role of Tarkin. He turned it down but recommended Cushing. It’s believable because not only would Lee have nailed the part, maybe with more dripping evil than the coolly calculating Cushing, but also because Lee and Cushing had become very close friends and he absolutely would have recommended his friend.


          • T E Stazyk January 26, 2019 at 2:57 pm #

            I’m picturing that–it would have been good but totally different.


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