We have reached the final stop in our months-long journey through the Star Wars literary canon, both old and new. Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath is the latest novel in the Journey to The Force Awakens continuity, and the last one I read for this project. It’s been a wonderfully weird journey with a lot of ups and downs, and has given me many new authors to look up elsewhere. By the time you read this, I will have seen the new movie, but as a courtesy to everyone who hasn’t been holding onto their tickets for months like me, I won’t give away any spoilers.
Aftermath is the new in-between novel that takes place after Return of the Jedi, replacing Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy as the next adventure in the saga, and will fill the gap between the last movie and the next one. So the big question is this: How does it measure up? Is this an adventure worthy of Star Wars? And what does it mean for the future of the franchise?
The Death Star–version 2.0–has been destroyed, and the Rebel Alliance, now called the New Republic, has more or less won the war, but the struggle is far from over. One of the more disturbing aspects of this story is how morally ambiguous it is. The Rebel Alliance were unquestionably the good guys in the original film trilogy, and in most of the tie-in material up to this point. And the Empire–especially Emperor Palpatine–were unquestionably evil. But as far as the rest of the galaxy is concerned, things aren’t that simple. Two brothers in one family who supported opposite sides during the war now find themselves fighting because one of them has been proven “right” by history. One X-Wing pilot who was involved in the destruction of the second Death Star returns home to a son who barely knows her, and suffers from intense bouts of post-traumatic stress.
I’ve been reading a lot of fan reviews alongside my own reading for this project, both to see what the general consensus has been and to brace myself for lower expectations. This–along with Heir to the Jedi–got the most abysmal reviews of any single other Star Wars book I’ve read. I would understand mixed results, even wildly opposing opinions, but the hate and disappointment attached to this particular volume baffles me.
I’m not as passionately attached to the former EU as other fans, so my point of view on this might reflect that. However, this story doesn’t really tell you much about what’s going to happen next. As the title suggests, Wendig’s book focuses on the aftermath of a war we’ve seen unfolding for close to fifty fictional years now. It’s not a setup for the new movie, and shows us characters that have been sitting on the sidelines rather than the main heroes we already know and love. It’s also a darker, more realistic vision of the impact that war has on a society, even a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, and I wonder if this aspect is what has fans divided on how to feel about it.
It’s not perfect–there are several side-trips into the lives of characters we literally never see again, and a heavy overuse of spacey slang like “frag” and “rebel scum”–but it’s nowhere near as bad as the user reviews elsewhere led me to believe. I loved ace pilot Norra Wexley and her struggle to reconnect with her son versus staying in the fight for the New Republic. I loved Admiral Rae Sloane and her determination to hold onto the authority she’s fought so hard for in the Imperial fleet, and the way she starts to question the methods of the Empire even though she still believes in its principles. I loved former Imperial Loyalty Officer Sinjir Velus, and his penchant for hard-drinking and biting sarcasm in the face of danger.
If you go into this expecting a detailed introduction to the universe we’ll see in The Force Awakens, then yeah, you’ll probably come away disappointed. It’s also a bit slow to start. However, if you’re in the mood for an adventure with some great new characters, lots of action, and a sometimes gritty, but always intriguing plot, then go ahead and give this a chance. It might just surprise you.
Thanks for joining me on this journey! It’s been fun, eye-opening, and really did the trick to get me even more excited for the new movie.