Author: Chuck Wendig
Genre: Science-Fiction, Science-Fiction & Fantasy, Star Wars Canon, Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Read… on the couch, cuddled up next to the boyfriend while… the boyfriend read Bloodline
Music I listened to while reading this book: Star Wars Soundtracks (playlist available on Spotify)
Title: Star Wars: Aftermath
Publisher: Del Rey
Publication Date: September 4, 2015
Purchase your copy here.
Review: 3 out of 5 Dogwoods:
Summary (from Goodreads): Journey to The Force Awakens.
The second Death Star is destroyed. The Emperor and his powerful enforcer, Darth Vader, are rumored to be dead. The Galactic Empire is in chaos.
Across the galaxy, some systems celebrate, while in others Imperial factions tighten their grip. Optimism and fear reign side by side.
And while the Rebel Alliance engages the fractured forces of the Empire, a lone Rebel scout uncovers a secret Imperial meeting…
Aftermath is a glimpse behind the curtain of the new post-Return of the Jedi continuity. Intrigue, espionage, shoot-outs, and space battles surrounding a secret imperial summit on the backwater world of Akiva set up a compelling introduction to the birth of the New Republic. However, the story of that meeting and its disruption by a hastily-assembled group of local rebels unfolds into an action-driven mess that gives us a glimpse into the state of the galaxy after the Battle of Endor without any real character development or attachment.
Like many Star Wars novels before it, Aftermath attempts to mingle popular movie characters with original heroes and villains. Sadly, the new cast of protagonists mostly fall flat. Sinjir, an Imperial loyalty officer turned accidental Rebel, has some promise, but he rarely gets the chance to shine. Bounty hunter sniper Jas begins the tale as a satisfyingly imposing adventurer but ultimately disappoints. Former Y-Wing pilot Norra has an interesting back story, but I could never bring myself to care about her attempts to heal the rift with her child Temmin. And patched together droid-warrior Mr. Bones (yes, that’s his name) is just stupid; cringe-worthy, Jar-Jar Binks-level stupid.
Of all the new cast, I found Sinjir, Imperial loyalty officer turned accidental Rebel, most interesting. I particularly enjoyed the time spent inside his head as he dealt with his evolving self-doubts and new found allegiance to the Rebellion and the New Republic in the face of crisis. But there is just not enough revealed of his personality or back-story to make him a particularly memorable or sympathetic character.
When more familiar faces like Wedge Antilles, Mon Mothma, and Admiral Ackbar show up, they are largely wasted. Hotshot pilot Wedge Antilles spends most of the novel injured and on the ground. Mon Mothma spouts political rhetoric and comes and goes in short spurts throughout the novel. Admiral Ackbar just spends time feeling tired, being cautious, and making boring decisions. And in the one surprise instance a couple of truly beloved major movie characters appearing for a few pages, they immediately set off on a mission to do something exciting and cool, but we never see a moment of their actual adventure. I suspect this adventure is explored in further detail in one of the new Marvel Comics or other Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens publications, but I could do without the blatant product placement in the middle of a novel.
I think the best way to explain the frustration I feel with Chuck Wendig’s novel is to compare it to Claudia Gray’s Bloodline and Lost Stars. Both Bloodline and Lost Stars are character driven novels; we get introduced to such well-developed characters that we immediately fall in love with them and invest in watching their story unfold in the greater context of the Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens canon. Aftermath lacks the same compelling character development; Chuck Wendig’s novel is driven by action, a great deal of action, with very little character development. It is the lack of compelling character development that highlights a larger problem with Aftermath: even though the plot is full of non-stop action, everything that is happening feels small compared to the more interesting story you feel might be taking place somewhere off-camera because you never get fully invested in these characters.
Aftermath is interspersed with frequent cut-away interludes; flashes to events in other corners of the galaxy. We catch glimpses of a stirring rebellion on Coruscant, a backroom Tatooine deal over an iconic suit of battle armor (is Boba Fett alive in this new canon?), and a cultic group attempting to purchase a Sith lightsaber in a seedy tenement. Some of these moments really do grab you for a second…where did that red-bladed saber come from? Who are these Vader-worshiping acolytes? But most of the interludes lead nowhere. Like the main narrative, they reveal little about the people and events defining a new era of the galaxy, too often alluding to more exciting or interesting moments that we never see materialize. They are stale clues without the promise of a greater mystery revealed, and they add to the general sense of incompleteness that plagues the book. Again, I suspect these adventures are explored in further detail in one of the new Marvel Comics or other Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens publications, but again, I could do without the blatant product placement in the middle of a novel.
Aftermath often feels like a tease. I might have been able to embrace the microcosmic approach to Akiva’s intrigues and battles had they provided a satisfying and engaging story. But there is a haphazard quality to the whole thing, a sense that this is only the first part of a larger work, a leg of a tripod unable to stand on its own. I hope that the newly introduced characters in this work are further developed and explored in the next two novels of this trilogy. Chuck Wendig cleverly utilizes tense changes and flashes between events to create a well-woven descriptive tapestry that paired with a stronger narrative could have been truly compelling. But his hands feel tied, and I walked away with the sense there just was not a lot of freedom granted to inhabit the blank slate of the post-Endor universe with compelling people or events.
Star Wars: Aftermath is a well-written but ultimately disappointing first look into the post-Endor galaxy. Do I recommend others read it? Yes, yes I do. Even though it did not live up to its hype and was a bit disappointing, especially after reading Claudia Gray’s Bloodline, it is an easy read and part of the new canon. Will I read the other two books in this trilogy? Yes, yes I will, especially since Rogue One is coming out in about fifty days!
If you want more Star Wars, then check out The Cantina, my local watering hole where you will find up-to-date information about forthcoming Star Wars films and my reviews of other Star Wars books!