Remember how strange it was in Ocean’s Twelve when it was revealed that Danny and the boys had won because they had outsmarted the bad guys off-screen? Yeah, pretty much what you have here. We begin Tarkin, by James Luceno, with an attack on a station Moff Tarkin is familiar with, so Palpatine (now the Emperor as the book is set not long after Episode 3) sends Tarkin and Vader to go check out what happened. BUT! It turns out it was a ploy to get Tarkin out there, as Rebels steal his badass stealth ship to go rampaging. It’s up to Tarkin and Vader to get it back.
Unfortunately, ‘getting it back’ mostly involves Tarkin being outsmarted at every turn, and Vader mostly being there as a threatening presence. How many of you buy a book about the bad guys on the threat that Vader might force-choke a dude? Tarkin spends most of the book getting outsmarted and relaying to Vader barely-related stories from his childhood, until the end when it’s revealed that no, I meant to lose all along. He and Palpatine had a plan to ferret out some traitors in their midst and deal a blow to the barely-formed Rebel Alliance. But we are really only told about this as an after-the-fact taunt.
Tarkin is really hard to justify. Grand Moff Tarkin was a great villain in part because of the mystery. We have the amazing Peter Cushing on screen for a few minutes, he orders a Princess tortured, snarks at Lord Vader, and blows up a whole damn planet because it makes a good example. If you are removing the air of mystery surrounding a character like that, you would do well to make them a heck of a lot more interesting than this. As always, thanks to NetGalley for the chance to check this out.
Amazon link: Tarkin: Star Wars