When Star Wars: The Force Awakens was announced, I remember a friend of mine who was big into the Star Wars Expanded Universe was quite upset. I didn’t understand why, but he told me it was because the new movies would completely erase the importance of the EU books published over the decades. And while it’s true that the EU books now operate on a different, alternate path for our favorite Star Wars characters (sort of like that alternate universe in Fringe where Walter’s evil and scowls all the time), I like to think that the EU books still matter. Even if they’re not canon (not sure if they ever were, technically), there’s still some great adventures in the EU and the storytellers deserve credit for keeping the universe alive.
Along with the rebooted timeline that came with the new movies we’re also getting new books that figure into the new vision of the post-Return of the Jedi universe. Right now dubbed Journey to The Force Awakens, these books help explain how the Empire never really died after the Emperor got thrown down that shaft, and also serve as a way of making Disney MORE MONEY.
Chuck Wendig’s Star Wars: Aftermath was the book I was most interested in, mostly because I love the guy’s website and I dig his style. The book follows a Rebel pilot named Norra, who has returned to her little-known planet Akiva to collect her son who she’d abandoned when she went off to war. The Empire has been dealt a blow after the destruction of the Death Star and the loss of Palpatine and Vader, but the Empire hopes to reclaim its glory in a counterattack. Unfortunately for Norra and her son, the Empire has chosen Akiva to be the place where the Empire’s remaining leaders meet to discuss their next course of action. Norra and her allies must alert the Rebel Alliance (now known as the New Republic), before the Empire claims Akiva and begins to retake this part of the galaxy.
Spread out among the pages are occasional Interludes to action and drama taking place across the galaxy. At first I didn’t take to this method of storytelling—it’s almost like short stories intercut throughout the novel to give the story more scope—but I came to enjoy and look forward to these sections. It’s here that Aftermath becomes a more mature Star Wars story, really detailing the aftermath of the war, the workings of the Empire, and the suffering of the people who now taste freedom after so long. Aftermath is a more political Star Wars story and actually brings the universe closer to a dystopian sort of vision, while still keeping the basic spirit intact. It’s cool.
The book is told in present tense style. Compared to Wendig’s other books, the prose can be a bit jerky at times here. I mostly enjoyed myself anyway, but there were some lines where I had to read twice, which took me out of the story. More on taking me out of the story: Wendig uses too many similes based around SW fantasy stuff and often times I didn’t know what he was referencing. Maybe a bigger Star Wars fan would know all this stuff by heart, but I had to hit up Google and search for some things to better understand the meaning of the line.
When I picked up Aftermath, I expected to learn some things about The Force Awakens and the new characters featured in the film. ‘Journey to the Force Awakens’ seems to suggest as much. FYI: going in with those expectations could lead to disappointment. Instead of being a Prologue to The Force Awakens, Aftermath is more of an extended Epilogue to Return of the Jedi. There’s no Kylo Ren, Rey, or Finn to be found here (though there is the planet Jakku!). Also, returning fan favorites are kept to supporting roles. Wedge Antilles and Admiral Ackbar get the most to do, Han and Chewie get a cameo that seems to set up the next book, and most other heroes/villains just get mentioned from time to time. Aftermath is a side-story, a thriller built around new characters that are left in the rubble of the conflict from Return of the Jedi. It does serve to help build up the new universe that leads to The Force Awakens but it’s not exactly a teaser of things to come.
I liked Aftermath. It’s not what I expected and the prose occasionally lacks polish, but I had a good deal of fun reading the book. The added scope provided in the Interludes was a nice surprise. The characters are complex and memorable—and as a plus, none of them are instantly comparable to other existing Star Wars characters. These are original characters, part Wendig-part SW, and I enjoyed spending the book with them. I’ll definitely be checking out Aftermath’s 2016 sequel, Life Debt.
This review has been cross-posted to Goodreads.
Writer of horror, science fiction, and dark fantasy. Lover of fiction and film. Lifelong Godzilla fan. Reluctant blogger.
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