Book Review: Star Wars Aftermath
With Force Friday behind us and less than 100 days until the release of STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, Disney and Lucasfilm have begun the massive merchandising push towards J.J. Abrams' film. Included in that array of video games, toys, clothing, and that awesome BB-8 toy are the first novels in the new Expanded Universe. Fans were in an uproar to learn that the previous EU novels would be removed from the STAR WARS canon and rebranded as Legends. This reset of the fictional universe removed any continuity obstacles for the new films and allowed full creative freedom in exploring what happened after the events of RETURN OF THE JEDI. While the other books released as part of the new canon (Tarkin, Lords of the Sith, A New Dawn, Heir to the Jedi, and Battlefront: Twilight Company) are set between Episodes III and V, Aftermath tells the first stories that will tie into STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS.
Fans of the STAR WARS literary universe are likely going to be a bit underwhelmed by Chuck Wendig's novel, the first in a planned trilogy. The much beloved Thrawn trilogy of novels by Timothy Zahn helped create the Expanded Universe and introduced characters like Grand Admiral Thrawn and Mara Jade who would have major roles to play in the Star Wars mythos. It is tough to say whether or not the characters we meet in Aftermath will be as influential, but they do help usher in some details about the state of the Empire and the Rebellion that set the narrative in motion.
Aftermath focuses on several characters in the months following the Battle of Endor and the destruction of the second Death Star. The Rebellion has rebranded themselves the New Republic with Mon Mothma as their Chancellor. But, the deaths of Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader have not put an end to the Empire. While statues on Coruscant topple and Princess Leia sends out calls to arms to defeat the lingering Empire faithful, Star Destroyers circle the remote planet of Akiva where the scattered enemy plan to regroup against the rebels. Unlike Heir to the Empire, Aftermath puts the main characters of Luke, Leia, Han, Chewbacca, and Lando in the background. While characters like Mon Mothma and Admiral Ackbar have roles to play, the focus of this story is on Wedge Antilles and new creations like Nora Wexley, a rebel pilot and native to Akiva, along with her son, a former Imperial officer and a bounty hunter.
Wendig's novel reads like a STAR WARS story and in between chapters we get glimpses at other parts of the galaxy including Cloud City, Chandrila, Naboo, Corellia, Tatooine, and STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS' Jakku. We learn about a mission that Han Solo will be embarking on as well as a mysterious figure who could be Luke Skywalker after an event that strongly parallels Anakin's turn to the Dark Side in REVENGE OF THE SITH. But, what really makes Aftermath worth reading are the details, big and small, that help set up the new feature films.
***WARNING: HEAVY SPOILERS FOR STAR WARS: AFTERMATH TO FOLLOW. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!***
The core of the Empire may be scattered, but the Imperial leadership still exists and bands together to try and defeat the rebels. Admiral Sloane, a female Empire officer, must deal with Wedge Antilles aboard her Star Destroyer while coordinating the gathering of Moffs and other officers on the planet Akiva. While we do not get a formal introduction to Supreme Leader Snoke, the meeting of Empire officers teases a character who says they must continue Palpatine's quest to discover the source of the Force and the Dark Side. Palpatine has sent envoys outside the borders of the known galaxy where they have been transmitting back to the deceased leader. Whether the novels, or films, will venture to these borders is unknown, but it does seem like a cool direction to go.
We also learn that the Battle Droids are not completely gone. A retrofitted droid named Mr. Bones, who still says "Roger Roger", may be one of the coolest additions to the story. We also learn that some Jawas on Tatooine have a full set of Mandalorian armor, pitted as if by acid. Whether that means Boba Fett made it out of the Sarlacc, or this was just the excrement, is a mystery. On Coruscant, Dex's Diner is made as is the ominous level 1313. There is also a scene where a mysterious group calling themselves Acolytes of the Beyond buy what is supposedly Darth Vader's lightsaber. Whether this ends up being true or not is left ambiguous.
There is also the addition of a gay character to the new STAR WARS canon: Sinjir Rath Velus. Sinjir is not the first LGBT character in STAR WARS but his significance to the story is integral. As an Imperial officer who joins the rebels, his nature is still duplicitious. Wendig handles his sexuality less as a big marquee moment but rather a piece of character development embedded within the story itself. It never comes across as forced and works in the story as a whole.
In the end, Aftermath is a decent read with some good action sequences and a lot of easter eggs for those familiar with STAR WARS. It pales compared to the best novels in the Legends/EU world but it definitely is a worthwhile read for those looking to bone up on their Empire and Republic knowledge in advance of STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS. If you are looking for the further adventures of Luke, Leia, Han, and your other favorite main characters, you will likely be disappointed. The best comparison I can make is to the animated STAR WARS: REBELS series. You definitely feel like you are in the STAR WARS universe and seeing familiar faces or hearing about them in passing helps build the expansive fictional universe. I would have liked to have learned more about our main cast, but Wendig does a great job of building the downfall of the Empire and the rise of the New Republic.
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