Audiobook short: Tarkin (a new Star Wars canon novel)

To hear me read this review, check out episode 499 of the Spiritblade Underground Podcast, go to timestamp 13:50.

A little while ago I took some very tentative steps into the Star Wars Expanded Universe, starting with the Darth Plagueis audiobook. Tentatively, because I didn’t want to commit, since the Lucasfilm Story Group banished the entire EU, once official canon lore, to the realm of what they now call Legends.

Of course I lost that not-very-hard-fought battle and am now swimming neck-deep in the entire original EU (now: Legends), so audiobooks, novels, comics and even game plot summaries.

However, I did want to try the new canonical continuity and tried two of the new novels in audiobook format. The first one is Tarkin, written by James Luceno and read by Euan Morton. Length: 9 hrs, 27 min.

Publisher’s summary

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Best-selling Star Wars veteran James Luceno gives Grand Moff Tarkin the Star Wars: Darth Plagueis treatment, bringing a legendary character from A New Hopeto full, fascinating life.

He’s the scion of an honorable and revered family. A dedicated soldier and distinguished legislator. Loyal proponent of the Republic and trusted ally of the Jedi Order. Groomed by the ruthless politician and Sith Lord who would be Emperor, Governor Wilhuff Tarkin rises through the Imperial ranks, enforcing his authority ever more mercilessly….and zealously pursuing his destiny as the architect of absolute dominion.

Rule through the fear of force rather than force itself, he advises his Emperor. Under Tarkin’s guidance, an ultimate weapon of unparalleled destruction moves ever closer to becoming a terrifying reality. When the so-called Death Star is completed, Tarkin is confident that the galaxy’s lingering pockets of Separatist rebellion will be brought to heel – by intimidation…or annihilation.

Until then, however, insurgency remains a genuine threat. Escalating guerrilla attacks by resistance forces and newfound evidence of a growing Separatist conspiracy are an immediate danger the Empire must meet with swift and brutal action. And to bring down a band of elusive freedom fighters, the Emperor turns to his most formidable agents: Darth Vader, the fearsome new Sith enforcer as remorseless as he is mysterious; and Tarkin – whose tactical cunning and cold-blooded efficiency will pave the way for the Empire’s supremacy…and its enemies’ extinction.

©2014 James Luceno (P)2014 Random House Audio

My thoughts: “Not enough action, too little suspense”

Although well-read by Morton, this is definitely not my favorite Star Wars novel. I was curious what nuggets of new SW lore this novel would offer, but for me it fell flat. The story built too slowly, there was hardly any suspense and in my opinion it could have been at least 30% shorter.
And most importantly, it did not succeed in making me care for any of its characters, nor the main plot line, the problem that needs solving by Tarkin. Except, of course for Darth Vader and the Emperor – who are not nearly enough in it. Narrator Morton does a great Vader by the way, very well done considering nobody can really come close to James Earl Jones.

I’m a big fan of Luceno’s Darth Plagueis, which I highly, highly recommend to any SW fan, so I had hoped for a bit of that same quality of storytelling that kept me glued to my couch even though it was an audiobook, but alas. Perhaps Luceno had to make the most of a pre-outlined plot, or perhaps he just doesn’t ‘feel’ the new SW universe anymore, like he did so well with Darth Plagueis.

There are of course the usual SW audio effects, which I like. For instance, when Vader’s in a scene, we hear him breathing through his apparatus.

All in all a disappointment. I finished this audiobook anyway, out of a sense of completism for the new Star Wars universe. Which is about the only reason you should buy it.

Also follow my reviews on Audible.com! (where I am Katarina – if you’re an Audible listener, simply bookmark my Listerner page once you’ve found me)

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