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Literature / Star Wars: Tarkin

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Five standard years have passed since Darth Sidious proclaimed himself galactic Emperor. The brutal Clone Wars are a memory, and the Emperorís apprentice, Darth Vader, has succeeded in hunting down most of the Jedi who survived dreaded Order 66. On Coruscant a servile Senate applauds the Emperorís every decree, and the populations of the Core Worlds bask in a sense of renewed prosperity.

In the Outer Rim, meanwhile, the myriad species of former Separatist worlds find themselves no better off than they were before the civil war. Stripped of weaponry and resources, they have been left to fend for themselves in an Empire that has largely turned its back on them.

Where resentment has boiled over into acts of sedition, the Empire has been quick to mete out punishment. But as confident as he is in his own and Vaderís dark side powers, the Emperor understands that only a supreme military, overseen by a commander with the will to be as merciless as he is, can secure an Empire that will endure for a thousand generations ...

Tarkin is a Star Wars Expanded Universe novel by James Luceno which focuses on the life of Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin and shows the workings of the Imperial Court and Coruscant after the rise of the Galactic Empire.

It is the second novel released following the Continuity Reboot by Disney. With Luceno as the writer, many fans' expectations that the book would recanonize many aspects of the Legends EU were proved true, with Tarkin already getting his first name back among other things.

At a remote outpost in the Outer Rim, Governor Wilhuff Tarkin is lamenting the slow progress on the Death Star, still in its early stages. One day, the base is suddenly and expertly attacked in a suicidal strike. He quickly travels to Coruscant to consult with the Imperial Court and the military intelligence agencies, to find who attacked him and to keep them from slowing the project again.

It was released on November 4, 2014.

On October 6, 2015, Del Rey published The Rise of the Empire, a compilation of A New Dawn, Tarkin and three original short stories.

The novel contains the following tropes:

  • Adaptational Heroism: Barely. Like in Legends, Tarkin perpetuated an instance of mass deaths in the early days of the Empire. In Legends, this was the Ghorman Massacre, where he responded to a peaceful protest by landing his ship on them, killing hundreds out of sheer callous sadism. In this novel, he is instead responsible for the Antar Atrocity, where he descended on a world taken over by the Separatists and mass arrested and executed thousands, including many Republic loyalists and operatives, to make an example of what will happen to worlds that don't surrender their Separatist holdouts. Still cruel, still evil, but at least there was a purpose to it and it was done in pursuit of a goal rather than For the Evulz.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Faazah, at least where his family is concerned. It works. But only for his family. He, Vader kills.
  • Badass Longcoat: Tarkin wears one on Sentinel Base, due to the harsh climate.
  • Bad Boss: Who else but Vader? And of course, Tarkin himself, who demotes one of his men for the unforgivable crime of having a smudge on his boot (in actuality, he's able to determine from the mere presence of the smudge that the Ensign was using illicit drugs).
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The Tarkins are... not your average family, to put it lightly. No wonder Wilhuff grew up to be such a ruthless sociopath.
  • Broad Strokes: Palpatine's thoughts about his old master, Darth Plagueis, indicate that some of (if not all of) the events of the Darth Plagueis novel are canon. Then 11-4D, Plagueis's droid from same novel, makes an appearance, serving as even more important evidence to this train of thought. Luceno also references his earlier Prequel novels Cloak of Deception and Dark LordóThe Rise of Darth Vader, showing that these plots still happened, more or less.
  • Call-Forward: Near the end of the book, Teller warns Tarkin that the more he tries to coerce people who don't like Palpatine's ideas of peace, the more they will rebel, in a similar fashion to what Princess Leia Organa would say to Tarkin aboard the completed Death Star. Tarkin, of course, blows him off and bids him farewell.
  • Canon Immigrant: The book introduces a number of minor characters from the old Expanded Universe into the new canon.
    • Vice Admiral Screed, a character of the Legends continuity, is reintroduced back into the mainstream canon.
    • Sate Pestage is also brought back in, though (as of this book) he has taken a demotion. In Legends, he was the Grand Vizier, while now he's a senior advisor and Mas Amedda serves as Grand Vizier. Several other advisors on the Imperial Ruling Council, including Ars Dangor, Kren Blista-Vanee, and Janus Greejatus (who were named in material related to Return of the Jedi) also appear.
    • Armand Isard is reintroduced as well, as the director of COMPNOR.
    • Mention and use is made of Interdictor cruisersnote , vessels that the Empire uses to prevent ships from fleeing to hyperspace. In addition, Victory-class Star Destroyers make an appearance, along with other Star Destroyer classes that have been mentioned in Legends. The Escort Carrier from TIE Fighter is also brought back, via a rather detailed description that exactly matches the Legends version of the ship.
  • The Cameo: Rear Admirals Ozzel and Jerjerrod attend a meeting of the Imperial Joint Chiefs.
  • Casual Interstellar Travel: A new variant in the form of the Stellar Vista, a Mon Calamari Star Cruiser that serves as a Star Wars version of a luxury cruise liner. It quickly turns into a voyage from hell, however, when the ship is caught up in Tarkin's Interdictor trap.
  • Character Title: Similarly to Luceno's last Star Wars novel, this one is also titled after its main character.
  • Continuity Nod: To Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Tarkin notes where the trial of Ahsoka Tano was held.
  • Continuity Porn: As is to be expected from Luceno, even with the Continuity Reboot.
  • Cool Ship: The Carrion Spike, and, to a lesser extent, the Predator. The Predator in particular is so cool its owner Faazah refuses to part with it—until Vader takes his family hostage and forces him to (in a manner of speaking) fork over the keys.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The details of the Pirate Queen Q'anah and her crew's execution are very grisly. Instead of being instantly incinerated, they are slowly cooked to death in a drifting cargo container while their screams are broadcast across the sector. This is deliberately invoked by Tarkin to heavily deter future piracy in the Outlands Region.
  • A Day in the Limelight: For Tarkin, showing his rise through the Empire's ranks to become commander of the Death Star.
  • Decadent Court: The Imperial Court is shown to be one in full swing, as encouraged by the Emperor. The Imperial Ruling Council, Moffs, the military joint chiefs, and the heads of the various intelligence agencies all compete against each other for influence, power, and the Emperor's favor.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Vader's in top form as always.
      Vader: [assessing a particularly shoddy Imperial transport] Are you certain this craft is capable of carrying us, squad leader? Or might we end up carrying it?
    • Not to be outdone, Tarkin has his moments as well.
  • Death World:
    • Tarkin's homeworld of Eriadu is very dangerous outside of the colonized regions, full of deadly animals and hazardous environments. The deadliest part of the world, the Carrion Plateau, is owned by the Tarkin family. Members of the Tarkin family go the Carrion Plateau to undergo a Rite of Passage that teaches them how to hunt, kill, and survive in the wild, and doubles as a philosophical lesson about the Tarkins' place in the universe and their ultimate goals, while also building an appreciation for modern technology by showing how harsh life would be without it.
    • Although not as bad, Sentinel Base near Geonosis is a horrific planet frequently hit by rock storms (!!!) that pelt the Imperial fortress with pebbles, rocks and shards for extremely long periods of time. Going out in one of these storms is essentially a death sentence.
    • Murkhana is no better, left a polluted hellhole following the end of the Clone Wars, it has an acidic atmosphere and boiling seas, with the beaches frequently plagued by Blob Monsters.
  • Defiant to the End: Both Teller and Rancit. Rancit in particular flat out tells Vader he won't beg for mercy. The Sith Lord simply responds that even if he didn't, it wouldn't change his fate.
  • Downer Ending: Teller's group has been captured, dissolved and executed by Tarkin, Teller's fate is left ambiguous, and Tarkin has become a Grand Moff.
  • Dramatic Irony: Having privately deduced Palpatine's a Sith, Tarkin correctly concludes the Jedi's 'attempted assassination' was to take out their ancestral enemy. However, Tarkin incorrectly believes it was less about taking control of the Republic and more because the Jedi couldn't abide the idea of a Sith emerging as the hero of the war the Order had failed to stop and win. Tarkin of course doesn't know that Palpatine was actually Playing Both Sides and orchestrated the entire conflict he 'won'.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Teller breaks out his old Imperial uniform for one part of the mission.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Mas Amedda really dislikes Vader's overuse of the Force-choke, even demanding, "Is there no one you're willing to pardon?"
  • Evil Is Petty: Vader Force-chokes Faazah because he made them wait too long to see them.
  • Evil Mentor: Jova Tarkin serves as one to any Tarkin who goes to the Carrion Plateau, putting them through Training from Hell while ingraining the Tarkin's unique views on life and instilling order.
  • Evil Power Vacuum: During the disastrous Eriadu Conference in which the Nebula Front failed to assassinate Chancellor Valorum, but murdered the entire directorate, which included several key Kuati executives, allowed the Neimoidians to take control of the company, starting with anointing Nute Gunray as Viceroy.
    • Evil is the wrong word, as he's talking about animals at the time (albeit chimp-level intelligent ones), but Tarkin's success during his Rite of Passage came through engineering one in the ferocious veermok troop; having correctly predicted that The Starscream would use the distraction Tarkin provided as an opportunity to launch a coup against the current alpha, Tarkin then promptly killed the new alpha just as he was being acknowledged by the troop. The sudden removal of any candidate for leadership thew the troop into such disarray that not only did they cease all attempts to attack Tarkin, they abandoned their territory entirely and were never seen again.
  • Floating Head Syndrome: Averted with Tarkin in the foreground of the front cover, but played straight with Vader's mask floating midair in the black background.
  • Forged Message: Used in an attempt to trick Tarkin into sending the Electrum to defend another Imperial base from being attacked, leaving Sentinel unprotected. He doesn't fall for it, and only pretends to send the Electrum away, laying a trap for the attackers when they arrive thinking Sentinel is unguarded.
  • Good is Not Nice: Teller insists that anyone willingly serving the Empire is a legitimate target, including civilians. In particular, he and his team rather callously kill the crew of the Carrion Spike when they swipe it.
    • This also applies to Tarkin himself during the Clone Wars. In a bit that overlaps with Obviously Evil more than anything else, he has several Separatist scientists tortured and orders the massacre of several people who were sympathetic to Count Dooku.
  • Hurl It into the Sun: Tarkin deals with notorious pirate Q'anah, who's been his Worthy Opponent for some time early in his career in the Outlands Region Security Force, by putting her and her entire crew in a cargo container and setting them on course for a star so that they slowly roast to death while their death screams and pleas for mercy are broadcast throughout the sector. It has the added effect of deterring future piracy in his sector because in a nice example of cruel but Pragmatic Villainy, since Tarkin remains in the area the whole time it takes them to die and whenever more of the pirates' comrades come to rescue them, the Outlands' ships destroy them. Rinse and repeat, until eventually the surviving pirates get the idea and stop coming into Tarkin's territory.
  • Hyperspeed Escape: Combined with No Warping Zone. Tarkin sets up a prototype Interdictor cruiser in the Obroa-Skai system to capture the Carrion Spike that pulls ships out of hyperspace and prevents them from jumping into it. However, the ship experiences a Failsafe Failure and multiple ships get yanked back into reality, one of them a Mon Calamari Star Cruiser luxury liner that winds up colliding with the Interdictor and killing over a thousand people on-board. And to add insult to injury, the Carrion Spike wasn't among the captured ships.
  • In-Joke:
    • Tarkin doesn't like his Imperial military boots because they're uncomfortable. Peter Cushing had the same problem while filming A New Hope, so he wore carpet slippers instead whenever his feet were out of the shot.
    • Tarkin shares a few scenes with Mas Amedda. Both characters were voiced by Stephen Stanton in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
    • Tarkin has a flashback to his final meeting with Count Dooku, who's described as an old friend. In the films, they were played by Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, who were very close friends in real life.
  • It Amused Me: Mas Amedda leaves out that Tarkin's recall order came from the Emperor himself just to mess with him, and gives this as his reason. Tarkin is very much not amused, although Vader thought it was pretty funny.
  • Knight Templar: Tarkin is mostly this. The other part of him based on Ambition Is Evil.
  • Lean and Mean: The narration notes that Tarkin's shoulders remain narrow and bony all his life (fitting the physique Peter Cushing had during his portrayal), though the wilderness-survival skills clearly show that he is not lacking in physical strength and resilience. This serves to contrast him physically with Vader, whose towering height and great bulk are repeatedly mentioned.
  • Leave Behind a Pistol: At the end of the novel, Tarkin returns to Eriadu and the Carrion Plateau. There, Teller manages to follow him, but falls into one of Tarkin's animal traps, twisting his ankle. Tarkin leaves Teller's blaster at the mouth of the trap, and says he'll leave his speeder at the edge of the plateau. If Teller is able to reach it, he'll be free to go. Afterwards, Tarkin and Uncle Jova laugh about how unlikely it is he'll survive, although Tarkin is somewhat hopeful that he will so that he can have something to keep him on his toes and to look forward to.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Despite being one of Palpatine's closest allies, Tarkin still doesn't officially know the Emperor is a Sith. However, between Vader's own Force abilities (and ties to Palpatine) and questions about the Jedi arrest attempt during Revenge which have never been satisfactorily answered, Tarkin has still pretty much figured it out on his own.
    • Likewise, Tarkin is also not among those in the Empire who're officially aware of Vader's true identity. However, as with Palpatine's Sith abilities, there's enough circumstantial evidence (the timing of Vader's debut, his personal dislike of the Moff) for Tarkin to pretty much guess who's wearing the armor.
  • Monument of Humiliation and Defeat: Early in the book, Tarkin arrives at the Emperor's new palace on Coruscant. He's very familiar with it, as it was formerly the temple of the Jedi Order. It still has the five spires, but much has changed and it is now draped in Imperial banners.
  • The Mole: Vice Admiral Rancit, although not for any altruistic reasons. He's just peeved he got passed over for promotion.
  • Mook Lieutenant: Two of note appear. Tarkin has Imperial officer Commander Cassel on Sentinel Base, and later, Vader has Stormtrooper Sergeant Crest. Crest later becomes an actual Mook Lieutenant when Vader promotes him to lieutenant following his successful capture of Faazah's warehouse.
  • Mysterious Past:
    • At this point for the galaxy-at-large, Darth Vader has this. No one knows where he came from, with some believing he was an experiment created by the Emperor as a trump card at the end of the Clone Wars; some even believe there are ten back-up Vaders in a lab somewhere. Tarkin, however, strongly believes that Darth Vader and Anakin Skywalker are the same person.
    • Teller himself has one, at least insofar as the reader is concerned. It's eventually revealed in a big Info Dump near the end.
  • Mythology Gag: Star Wars Infinities once depicted Palpatine turning the Jedi temple into his residence.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast:
    • The Carrion Plateau, where Tarkin undergoes his Rite of Passage as a kid, as well as his personal cruiser, the really evil-sounding Carrion Spike.
    • Ditto Sugi crime boss Faazah's personal ship, the Parsec Predator.
    • "Thank you, Sheev..."
  • Nobody Poops:
    • Subverted. One of Tarkin's theories about Vader's meditation chamber (which he keeps to himself) is that it contains a personal toilet for the Sith Lord.
    • Also subverted when the Carrion Spike takes battle damage—the toilets are among the non-functioning systems.
  • Only One Name: Averted - while A New Hope and The Clone Wars only referred to Tarkin by his last name, this story follows the tradition set forth by Legends and reinstates his first name, Wilhuff. The book also reveals the Emperor's full name: Sheev Palpatine.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Hask points out that Teller's outrage regarding Tarkin's tactics of targeting civilians forced to help pirates in the Seswenna Sector sounds a lot like his tactics of targeting civilians working for the Empire. Teller protests that it is different, but nobody else in the group buys it.
    Teller: Yeah, Hask, except for one thing—
    Anora: We're the good guys.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Vader, interestingly. While on Murkhana, he prevents a Stormtrooper from shooting someone who threw stuff at the Imperial transport, saying it would start a riot, something they can't afford to deal with. When another Stormtrooper complains that the people on Murkhana don't like them, Vader simply replies: "No one asked them to like to you."
  • Protagonist Title: The novel shares its name with its central character, Tarkin.
  • Purple Prose: Tarkin's speech to Vader about the climax of his Rite of Passage that prompted him to name his ship the Carrion Spike is much more detailed and in more flowery language than his usual clipped and concise manner of speaking. Presumably this is because it's so unusual for him to have a chance to talk with pride about this formative event in his life to somebody who's genuinely interested (he notes that what he can see of Vader's body language indicates that he is giving Tarkin his full attention for the whole speech, and how unusual this is) so he indulges himself a bit. Alternatively, unlike the other events of Tarkin's life that are mentioned in the book, this one is being spoken aloud by Tarkin himself rather than described by the narrator in Tarkin's memories, and Luceno thought such an important moment deserved more poetry than Tarkin would normally give it.
  • Rank Up:
    • Stormtrooper Sergeant Crest, who's one of the original clones who fought in Vader's 501st Legion. He commits a flub early in the mission, nearly invoking the wrath of the Sith Lord, but he's able to redeem himself and ends the story as a lieutenant.
    • Tarkin himself, beginning the story as a moff, is named a grand moff at the end as a reward for helping foil Teller and Rancit's rebellious conspiracy.
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: This is one of the Tarkins' many personal mottos, though not in so many words. When Wilhuff makes a vest as a child, Uncle Jova comments that it'll look good with blood on it, and not long afterward forces the boy to disembowel an animal they kill on a hunt.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Played with. For the rest of the Empire, it seemed baffling that Tarkin is sent to what amounts to the ass-end of nowhere. Of course, this is meant to obscure the fact that he's overseeing the development of the Death Star.
  • The Remnant: Early in the story, Tarkin has to deal with a droid attack from Separatists who seemingly didn't get the memo that the Clone Wars were over.
  • Rebel Leader: Berch Teller, although his focus on indiscriminate killing and seeing even Imperial non-combatants as legitimate targets for attacks makes him not terribly good at his job. His crew call him on this.
  • Rite of Passage: Tarkin underwent one as a boy of eleven. Every dry season for five years, he would accompany his grand-uncle Jova Tarkin and other family members to the dreaded Carrion Plateau, where he was forced to live off the land or die. It was designed to both impart mercilessness and survival skills, as well as teach how much modern technology should be valued, by removing it and forcing the boy to live off of the land, making him appreciate it more when his ordeal was over. This is why, as an adult, Tarkin is so technology-obsessed.
  • Secret Test of Character: Several times in the lead up to The Clone Wars, Dooku visited then planetary governor Tarkin, trying to recruit him into the Sepratist fold. Each time, Tarkin resisted, maintaining loyalty to Chancellor Palpatine, never knowing that Palpatine himself had directed Dooku to make the offers to test his loyalty.
  • Sherlock Scan: Tarkin does this to one of his subordinates, Ensign Baz, to determine that he's a spice user.
  • Shown Their Work: The Galactic Empire has always been modelled after Nazi Germany, but this book goes into a surprisingly faithful amount of depth by showing the Empire's functioning to be very faithful to Nazi Germany's. One example is the chronic Interservice Rivalry and Right Hand Versus Left Hand, done by Palpatine to keep his subordinates fighting amongst themselves and never powerful enough to usurp him, which is exactly how Nazi Germany operated.
  • Spotting the Thread: Tarkin reflecting on Palpatine's scarred appearance during Revenge of the Sith. The official story he gave to the Senate 5 years earlier remains unchanged — that it was a Jedi "assassination attempt" and a ferocious duel ensued in his office. However, as Tarkin privately notes, the story doesn't hold up to in-depth scrutiny. For instance, it doesn't explain how the Jedi Masters were actually killed, or how exactly Palpatine was scarred. So with those holes in the story, Tarkin's nursed his own private suspicions of what actually happened (and has correctly deduced Palpatine's a Sith).
  • Start of Darkness: Thanks to a harsh upbringing by his Big, Screwed-Up Family, it's little wonder Tarkin turned out the way he did.
  • State Sec: Amongst other things the book makes canon again is COMPNOR, the Commission for the Preservation of the New Order, which is in charge of internal security via the Imperial Security Bureau, intelligence operations via the Ubiqtorate, along with propaganda and social engineering via the Coalition of Progress.
  • Torture Always Works: Vader tends to get results this way. It is subverted in one case, however, when it causes a Sy Myrthian navigator on a suspected rebel ship to suffer heart failure.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: Vader does this to Rancit, having his Stormtroopers load him into an escape pod and shoot him into outer space. He further decrees that Rancit himself will give the order to fire on his pod as his final act.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Our first glimpse of a young Tarkin has him say he would serve food to the Tarkins' non-human servant. His parents swiftly quash that notion and begin instilling the "virtues" of the Tarkin family into him.
  • Villain Protagonist: Tarkin, obviously.
  • Villainous Cheekbones: Tarkin has them, as displayed prominently on the cover.
  • Villainous Fashion Sense:
    • Invoked in the scene where Tarkin and his protocol droid are designing the now iconic Imperial officers' uniforms.
    • When Teller disguises himself as an Imperial officer, Anora Fair jokingly suggests he "turn 'round" so the crew can admire him in his outfit from different angles. He declines.
  • Villain Respect: Sidious has been trying to invoke this between Tarkin and Vader and is irritated it's stuck in a holding pattern. The two men finally develop it by the novel's end.
  • We Have Reserves: Darth Vader makes it a point to remind a treacherous officer (Vice Admiral Rancit) of this as he's relieved of duty: everyone in the Imperial military is expendable.
  • Wham Line:
    • Meta one. When 11-4D shows up, it reveals that some (if not all) of the events of the Darth Plagueis novel are canon.
    • "Thank you, Sheev...". We finally learn Palpatine's first name.
  • Wicked Cultured:
    • Two high-ranking Imperials, Ruling Council member Kren Blista-Vanee and Vice Admiral Rancit, are both well-known for their fondness of opera.
    • The Emperor is as well, though this has understandably been established in prior media.
  • Worthy Opponent: Q'anah is this to Tarkin, as least as far as he's concerned, during his time in Outland. Later on, he comes to view Berch Teller in this light, up to and including giving the guy a chance to survive so their battle of wits can continue.
  • You Have Failed Me:
    • Said verbatim by Vader to Sergeant Crest, a particularly bumbling Stormtrooper. Despite it emphatically being "for the last time," Vader allows him to continue breathing, which seems slightly out of character for the usually failure-intolerant Dark Lord. In fact, Crest ends up getting promoted to lieutenant over the course of the story. Perhaps Lord Vader was feeling somewhat sentimental?
      • Crest apparently manages to avoid execution by successfully capturing Sugi crime lord Faazah's warehouse, which not only makes Vader spare his life, but promote him. So we'll call what occurs to Crest a last-second reprieve. For the remainder of the book, Lieutenant Crest never fails Vader again and thus it really was "the last time."
      • Crest having served as clone trooper in specifically the 501st legion, otherwise known as Anakin Skywalker's legion, throughout the clone wars may also have had something to do with the sparing too.
    • Done far more traditionally with Phoca Soot, a Twi'Lek official who disappoints Vader and gets the standard Force-choke treatment.
  • You Said You Would Let Them Go: Averted. Tarkin and Vader "persuade" Faazah to give them his personal ship, the Predator, by holding his wife and children hostage. After Faazah complies, he demands reassurance that his family will be spared. He's told they will - but he won't, and is promptly killed.

Alternative Title(s): Tarkin