Star Wars: Tarkin

Continuing to make my merry way through the new Star Wars canon, I’m just done reading Tarkin by my old favourite, James Luceno. What a good book! It wasn’t what I was expecting, and it wasn’t what I wanted it to be, but my goodness, it was good all the same!

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70ish pages in, and I'm loving this book!! #StarWars

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First of all, this is essentially a biography of Grand Moff Tarkin, but principally told through flashbacks, as Tarkin remembers key moments from his upbringing that clearly inform his actions as an adult. I wasn’t really expecting or hoping for this, as I don’t honestly feel that we need to know that Tarkin’s childhood was a harsh one, with very primal lessons drilled into him as he was mentored by his great-uncle in the wilds of Eriadu. I know he’s the villain of A New Hope, and his ruthless, uncompromising nature led to such atrocities as the Death Star – and that’s fine, I don’t need to see why he is like this; it’s enough that he is. I think I was hoping for something that shows us the Grand Moff in his prime, not necessarily working on the Death Star project, though that is of course a big part of his story.

We do get some of this, as the main storyline involves Tarkin pursuing a group of dissidents who have stolen his ship. Vader is along for the ride, and there are some really great moments between the two that show why the Dark Lord was essentially willing to play lapdog to Tarkin during A New Hope. I actually found myself really liking the fact that Tarkin doesn’t truly know who Vader is, but has a strong suspicion that it is in fact Anakin Skywalker, with whom he worked briefly during the Clone Wars.

Vader is very much Vader, but we do get to see more of Emperor Palpatine, especially in Tarkin’s flashbacks as we see the Senator help him on his way. There were a couple of mentions of Palpatine’s master, and I feel like I would probably have gotten a lot more out of this book if I had also read Luceno’s Darth Plagueis. It’s still annoying to me that I haven’t gotten round to that one yet, but it’s increasingly in my sights, so expect a review once I’ve read it!

Perhaps most strongly tied to this book is Luceno’s earlier novel, Cloak of Deception. That book is one of my all-time favourites, and so I was really happy to see that they haven’t written it off entirely. While there are several bits and pieces scattered throughout this new continuity that make me feel like, “oh, that’ll mean x will be part of canon” or “y is out, then!”, there is much more than merely referencing the fact that Tarkin was a native of Eriadu and once held the post of Sector Governor; the majority of the book’s plot is discussed as historical fact within this novel, which makes me feel that Cloak of Deception can pretty much be the first old-canon novel that can be considered to be new canon, too. Of course, we may yet be proven wrong, but I hope not! On the subject of books that we can assume are definitely no longer canon, Admiral Daala is not mentioned at all in this book, so take from that what you will…

Luceno can be very verbose, and sometimes goes to great lengths to tie in bits of continuity that sometimes feel forced. This was particularly a problem for his first Star Wars novel, Hero’s Trial, but had been less and less of an issue, but it’s now back here, unfortunately. There was also a cute little meta-moment where Tarkin is being fitted for a uniform and remarks on the importance of boots that fit properly, recalling Peter Cushing’s experiences on the set of the film. That’s pretty much the only thing I can find to say that’s actually bad about it. Sure, I wish Tarkin had been treated much as Palpatine was in Cloak of Deception, and have him be the centre of attention without delving into his background like this, but aside from making Tarkin appear somewhat sentimental, it doesn’t really hamper the plot – indeed, it should probably be expected, with a title like Tarkin!

So overall, I liked it a lot!

This is also the 50th book I’ve read so far this year, counting all of the comics as well as the more traditional novels, so I thought that was impressive! I wonder if I’ll get another 50 read by the end of the year…

Star Wars: Clone Wars season three

Hey everybody,
Over the past month, I’ve watched my way through the twenty-two episodes of the third season of Clone Wars, the first one that’s “new” to me since I hadn’t gotten round to watching any of them despite owning the boxset for almost four years… In my round-up of the second season, I called that one a bit of a let down; season three has been just weird in comparison! Let me explain…

Star Wars Clone Wars

There are a lot of arcs in this season, to the extent that it actually feels like a more homogeneous whole for the first time. Seasons one and two have episodes that take place all over the timeline, and while three does have a similar feel to it, some of the stories and arcs do feel like they follow one another much more closely than in the earlier seasons.

Alongside a couple of really important arcs for the overall Star Wars lore, we do get a lot of tangential episodes in this season. Bounty hunters and assassins still play an important part, and in fact the actual Clone Wars almost take a back seat. Cad Bane is back again, though unfortunately in an arc that sees him helping the annoying Ziro the Hutt – who apparently has a romantic interest with Sy Snootles. Now there’s an image I’m not sure we needed to ever see…

The subtitle for the season was “Secrets Revealed”, and there is a definite sense of delving more into the lore of the universe than merely showing white-armoured clones shooting at a variety of droids. Of course, we still get that, but there is a lot more side-track style episodes this time around.

Star Wars Clone Wars Baron Papanoida

Along with the weird, there are also some more left-field episodes, including one devoted to Baron Papanoida (George Lucas himself) that feels a lot like fan-service meets butt-kissing. We see that the character created by George in Revenge of the Sith is a badass warrior-type that feels more at odds with the guy standing outside the Coruscant Opera. The episode, Sphere of Influence, was kinda fun, though. I also really enjoyed Heroes on Both Sides, which shows Padme trying to negotiate an end to the war with her friend Mina Bonteri, who is now a high-ranking Separatist. It was an interesting look at the war and, if I’m honest, dealt with the politics of the galaxy in a lot better way than previous episodes have. Definitely worth watching, I have to say.

As with the last season, there are a couple of truly stand-out arcs that I want to single out here to talk about: the storyline involving Asajj Ventress, and the Force stuff that went down in the Mortis trilogy.

Star Wars Clone Wars Mother Talzin Savage Oppress

Asajj Ventress is one of the characters created for the Clone Wars multimedia crossover event that occurred between 2002 and 2005, telling the story of the war in effective real-time between the releases of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Her first appearance was in the comic Jedi: Mace Windu, which is now part of the Legends stuff, but over the course of the Republic series, and its various tie-ins, we grew to understand a lot of her history as an orphan from Rattatak who was trained by a Jedi who had been stranded there, Ky Narec, but gave in to her anger when her mentor was killed. Dooku found her and trained her to be his personal assassin and dark acolyte, though she was always one of many such tools employed by the Count. Most of this has been expunged from history by the episodes in season three, which tells us that Asajj is in fact one of the Nightsisters from Dathomir.

In this new history, we see Asajj abandoned by Dooku during a battle above Sullust, leading her to take revenge with the help of her Nightsister brethren. She and several assassins break into Dooku’s palace and, while he survives the assassination attempt, he is led to believe the Jedi were behind the attempt on his life, so requests a new bodyguard from the Nightsister matriarch Mother Talzin, who first gave him Asajj. The storyline then progresses to the male side of Dathomir, where we meet a young contender for the position, Savage Oppress. After a series of gruelling trials, Savage is deemed worthy to serve as the bodyguard, and goes through a mystical transformation that beefs him up for the role. However, in his first real test, Asajj and Savage go up against Dooku and fail, leading Savage to abandon his position as Dooku’s guard. Back on Dathomir, Talzin tells Savage he must go to the Outer Rim to find his brother…

Star Wars Clone Wars Darth Maul

This three-part story arc tramples over so much of the established Star Wars lore, hearing about it at the time sent me somewhat over the edge as regards to giving the show any kind of interest or respect. Maul has been established as a Zabrak from Iridonia, and that had been in place since 1999. Furthermore, Darth Maul was shown cut in half specifically to preclude his further appearance in the franchise following his death. Now, we learn that he’s actually the male version of a Nightsister, and somehow managed to survive being sliced in half and falling down a reactor shaft. Hm. It really annoyed me at the time, and still rankles a little now, if I’m honest, the way the story writers played fast and loose with what fans had come to understand as the history of the universe they were reading about and watching.

Of course, in the post-Story Group world, I’m a bit mellower. Clone Wars is established canon, and none of the other stuff is real. So I’ve let a lot of that go, I think! Anyway…

Star Wars Clone Wars Ghosts of Mortis

The Mortis trilogy was something of an event back in the day, with an article published on starwars.com explaining how the storyline basically supported George Lucas’ vision for the Force from the very beginning. I wasn’t particularly convinced, but it’s a nice article that I can still recommend reading. The trilogy features Anakin, Obi-Wan and Ahsoka following a Jedi distress signal in the Chrelythiumn system out in Wild Space, where they come upon The Ones – three exceptionally powerful Force users called simply The Father, The Son and The Daughter. The Father has drawn them to the system to test if Anakin really is the Chosen One, as he seeks someone to keep the Balance of the Force between his Daughter, an exceptionally strong Light Side Force user, and his Son, extremely strong in the Dark Side. I thought it was really cool that we got both Sam Witwer and Adrienne Wilkinson as the Son and Daughter – actors who formerly worked on The Force Unleashed as the Secret Apprentice and Maris Brood, respectively. Really adds to that sense of importance, you know?

The trilogy is a bit trippy for the most part, as we see a lot of stuff that is primarily Force visions and the like. Obi-Wan meets the ghost of Qui-Gon Jinn, and Anakin once more sees his mother Shmi (both of the original actors of these roles returned to do the voice work, which was really cool and a mark of how important the episodes were seen). Ahsoka however sees herself as an adult, who warns her against following Anakin as her master will eventually corrupt her, also.

As it turns out, Ahsoka is corrupted by the planet, and Anakin is basically convinced by the Son to turn to the Dark Side in order to prevent the future from happening – a future in which Anakin becomes Darth Vader, no less. However, at a climactic confrontation, the Father wipes Anakin’s mind of this possible future, and seeing no end to his Son’s evil, kills himself, giving Anakin the time needed to kill the Son, who had already killed his sister. It’s an extremely weird and convoluted story arc, and actually ends with the three Jedi “waking up” in their ship, almost as if none of this had actually happened.

It’s weird, but there is a lot of important stuff about the Force, and the nature of the Jedi at this time, that kinda makes it something of a required viewing, really. There are some odd moments, and Ahsoka continues to annoy the bejeesus out of me, but yeah, worthwhile to give it a try once.

The other episodes of the season are a curious bunch, although most of them don’t seem to leave a lasting impression. We get a lot more of how Ahsoka is so brilliantly amazing for a ten-year-old (or whatever she is), she should basically be galactic queen right now, and there are some more embarrassing hijinks with Jar Jar on Toydaria, where he goes on a diplomatic mission with Bail Organa. I’m a huge supporter of getting more Bail Organa, but I think a cartoon aimed at kids is probably not the best outlet for that. We need a good political novel, like Cloak of Deception, that features all of the politicking on Coruscant and stuff!

Before I wrap this up (I know I’ve already rambled fairly extensively here), I just want to mention the final five episodes of the season, which starts with The Citadel three-parter, and ends with an awful Ahsoka-centric storyline that brings back yet another movie character. The Citadel is a prison designed to hold Jedi, and Anakin leads a rescue mission to recover Even Piell and his officers. One of these officers is none other than Captain (eventual Grand Moff) Tarkin!

Star Wars Clone Wars Tarkin

I’ve never been a fan of gratuitous appearances like this, but as it turns out, Tarkin does have a part to play in the Clone Wars, so I’m actually perfectly okay with this. Possibly because I’m writing this blog while in the middle of reading James Luceno’s novel, but that’s a subject for another time. Tarkin and Piell both have one half each of some vital information that needs to find its way to the Republic, so they both need to make it out. During the course of the escape, the party is split, and Even Piell is killed. With his dying breath, he tells Ahsoka his half of the information (oh yeah, Ahsoka is along for the ride, because Ahsoka). I feel like this is a really important turning point in the series as, while Even Piell is hardly what you’d think of as a front-line Jedi, he was on the Jedi Council in both Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, so there is something to be said for that.

Along the way, Tarkin criticises the Jedi involvement in the war, and has quite a bit to say about having the child padawan leading clone troopers on the front lines. Thank you, Wilhuff! He tells Anakin he doesn’t think warrior monks who refuse to do what is necessary to win the war should be leading the troops, and Anakin is in total agreement – though more because he thinks the Jedi should do more, not because he thinks they shouldn’t be there at all. While a lot of media tends to browbeat the idea of Tarkin as a “might means right” kinda guy, I still thought this was a nice touch, and can’t pass up the opportunity to see more of the guy.

The last two episodes of the season follow Ahsoka as she once again shows just how much of a loose cannon she is on the battlefield. There’s a couple of remarks made how Anakin criticises her for not following orders, yet Anakin himself often disobeys direct orders too. The difference of course, is that Anakin is often fairly effective, but Ahsoka just isn’t. But there is a definite case to be made that Anakin is just a bad teacher in this respect. At any rate, Ahsoka gets herself kidnapped by a group of Trandoshans, who release her into the wilds of a hunting reserve. Along the way, she eventually meets up with other captives on the reserve, one of whom is none other than Chewbacca, and of course Ahsoka can perfectly understand Shyriiwook. Chewbacca manages to salvage enough parts to send a signal to his homeworld, and eventually a bunch of Wookiees shows up to save them.

There is so much that annoys me about this, but I think the fact that Chewbacca is pretty much the preeminent Wookiee in the galaxy is getting annoying now. I had some hopes after meeting the whole planet in Revenge of the Sith, but time and again it seems we’re only allowed to meet the one. Bah!

Given all of this, it’s been fairly difficult to pick my top three episodes from this season! But here goes:
1. Citadel Rescue
2. Overlords
3. Heroes on Both Sides

There you have it, folks! Stay tuned for a look at season four, just as soon as I get round to watching it!

Tarkin, and other thoughts

Time for another blog – where would your Saturday be without it, right? It’s been a fairly uneventful week, partially because I’ve already been posting about other stuff I’ve been getting up to. I went to Beeston Castle, I finished reading Heir to the Empire, and I had a very exciting delivery in the mail! Things are kinda slowing down right now, though, as I’m preparing to make a short trip that will no doubt make it to this platform soon enough!

Something that really needs to be mentioned, though, is Yoo Ninja. I discovered this game the other day in the Play Store while looking for interesting free stuff, and I’ve been playing it a lot since! Maybe not as much as Flying Squirrel, which is still my go-to android game for wasting time with, but still – there’s something about Ninja platform games that appeals to me, and while I’m not particularly good at it (I can’t begin to tell you how many groans of anger and dismay have come from me this past week), I find it difficult to stop!

https://plus.google.com/u/0/105905796756477877617/posts/g1n5XvG1rep

I’ve seen some interesting stuff this week on twitter and G+ about the upcoming new Star Wars books, particularly Tarkin, and I’ve gotta say, I’m kinda mixed about this. It’s got James Luceno writing it, so it’s doubtful that it’ll be bad, but at the same time…I dunno…

I guess I just feel uneasy about it all because of what’s happened to the EU. Whereas before there would have been a certain security in being able to perhaps imagine particular familiar faces cropping up (Daala, anyone?), now we’re a bit at sea. I suppose we’ll see what November brings, anyway.

 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’ve also been playing some board games. But that’ll be for another time…