This review is for an advanced copy/uncorrected proof
Ever since Peter Cushing entered the set of Star Wars “holding Vader’s leash” with his thin lipped sneer and Patrician angular features and manner, he has been a lynch pin in the imaginative universe of Star Wars. His “You may fire when ready” signalling the doom of Alderran is one of episodes IV’s most memorable moments.
Here we get a splendid slice of space opera that describes Tarkin’s early years and upbringing, his rise both in the Republic and Imperial militaries, and his political advance. Tarkin has learnt a Darwinian survival of the fittest code in the deadly jungles on his home world, having to survive a trial by ordeal surviving and hunting in the wild as an ultimate rite of passage. From there he learns his own brand of vicious ruthlessness, which he applies to defending his home world from pirates and criminal gangs. He sees that only the most brutal public executions will deter others from a similar course. It is rule be fear, which of course finds its ultimate apotheosis with the Death Star. He then joins the Republic military and fights in the Clone Wars, where he fights alongside one Anakin Skywalker. He meets Chancellor Palpatine who hints at political greatness for him. And following the events of Order 66 and the slaughter of the Jedi, he becomes rising star of the Empire.
With this backstory, that draws together the worlds of the classic Star Wars films, the prequels, and the Clone Wars cartoon series in a neat continuity fest, the novel also tells the tale of a hijacked Imperial Corvette and its band of rebel freedom fighter (a dynamic not unlike “Blake’s 7”), as they attack a string of Imperial targets whilst trying to avoid the tightening net of Tarkin and Darth Vader’s pursuit. The pairing of Tarkin of Vader plays a big part of the story, and their relationship is well done, bringing added depth and dimensions to the team the played in episode IV.
The Emperor and his Cabal also features strongly in the story, and the descriptions of him moulding and shaping events whilst sensing in the Force the beginning of the Rebellion are very well done.
The book is great fun, a fast paced space fantasy and adventure that works in its own right, and a logical connector between various points in the Star Wars universe. It is very far from the inconsequential filler between the main stories that I feared it may be.