“The tyrant Palpatine is dead. But the fight isn’t over. The war goes on even as the Empire’s power diminishes. But we are here for you. Know that wherever you are, no matter how far out into the Outer Rim you dwell, the New Republic is coming to help.” — Leia Organa
Aftermath, by Chuck Wendig is a milestone in the new Star Wars canon, as it is now officially the first novel in the canon that takes place after Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi, and is part of a series that is meant to bridge the gap between that movie and the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. It is the first book of a new trilogy. This novel has been heavily promoted (at the expense of other Star Wars books that were released on the same day) and has generated a huge amount of excitement in a way that no other book of the new canon has until now. This book is a big deal, and I could not wait to get my hands on it and start reading it as soon as I could.
So, that’s what I did. Friday, September 4th was dubbed “Force Friday”, as it was the day that the first slew of merchandise for The Force Awakens went on sale, along with five other books that really didn’t have much to do with each other at all, apart from having “Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens” slapped across their covers. One of those books is Aftermath. I was actually completely unaware of this “Force Friday” stuff, but I did know that Aftermath was released that day, so I ran to the bookstore and grabbed myself a copy. It was the first time I had ever gone to the store to pick up a new Star Wars book on the day of its release. I was so excited to read this book. I was actually with my family when I bought it, and left them to go back to our car so I could start reading it immediately, while I was on vacation in California with them. Screw vacations, right? I had a new Star Wars book to read, and it was far more important!
So I opened it up, started reading the prologue, and it was awesome. The prologue sucked me right in. It literally started right where Return of the Jedi left off. Remember how in the new ending to the movie, it shows shots of celebrations happening on Bespin, Tatooine, Naboo, and Coruscant? Aftermath starts in the middle of that celebration on Coruscant. The weird thing is, you find out that the movie cut away from that shot right before it abruptly went from being a celebration of freedom to a battle between civilians and police, who were still loyal to the Empire. Just like that the celebration is over, and a riot breaks out. The Empire is not going to disappear as easily as we would like.
The prologue and various interludes scattered randomly throughout the entire novel take us away from the main story and bring us to different locations across the galaxy to show us little snapshots of what life is like in the aftermath of the destruction of the second Death Star and death of the Emperor. This is something I haven’t seen in any other Star Wars book to date, and it was an interesting idea. One of these interludes takes us to Jakku, a planet that has significance to the story of The Force Awakens. The interludes were honestly some of the most fascinating parts of the novel, but they all felt so out of place. They abruptly pull you out of the main story for a few pages, and then shove you right back in to the middle of the main plot. Although the events in the interludes were interesting, they were mostly irrelevant to the main plot, and they just felt like they were there to set up a whole bunch of other stories without developing any of them in this book. I found the interludes annoying in that respect. Honestly I’d rather read full novels about the contents of some of these interludes than read the main story we get in Aftermath.
By the way, this book is not about Luke, Leia, or Han. If you want a story about them, then this is not the book you’re looking for. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s continue…
In the actual first chapter, we’re now out in the middle of space, and Wedge Antilles is our new main character! This is not something I expected, and I was excited to get to follow a character I already like so much in a book that I was already so excited about! This is a Wedge Antilles story… or so I thought.
Things started going downhill pretty fast. Wedge disappears from the story after the first chapter, and only appears a few more times throughout the next 360 pages. Instead, we are introduced to a cast full of all new characters. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I have read Star Wars books starring completely unknown characters before, and I loved those stories. But for me it just didn’t work in this book. The first third of this book is a mess, introducing us to new character after new character, and jumping between characters every time we got to a new chapter, until eventually, finally, all the characters come together and the book stops having to jump around like that. It is hard to keep track of what is going on and who is who for the first third of the book, and it’s hard to tell which characters are going to be important or reoccurring, after already being tricked into thinking you were reading a book about Wedge in the first chapter. The interludes that happen every few chapters made it even worse by introducing us to even more new characters, and then never referencing them again.
The worst part is, I don’t even like the main characters we end up getting stuck with. Some of them seemed so promising too.
Take Norra Wexley for example. Norra was a Y-Wing pilot who flew through the Death Star with Lando Calrissian at the Battle of Endor. Taking a random character with a backstory like that has the potential to be amazingly interesting. But I think it fell flat. Norra is honestly quite boring.
Her son, Temmin, is equally boring. He is upset at his mother for leaving him to go fight with the rebels, after he had already lost his father, and he clashes with his mother for most of the book. Temmin owns an old battle droid (ugh, why?) named Mr. Bones who drives me crazy. One thing I always hated about The Clone Wars TV series was the idiocy of the battle droids. They drove me up the wall. I couldn’t handle how infuriatingly annoying and stupid they were all the time, and how they were used as cringe-worthy comic relief. Well, Mr. Bones is just like those droids, but takes it to another level. He makes stupid comments all the time, and sings and hums to himself, while dancing around. A dancing, singing battle droid. Why? Why?! He is an excellent fighter however, and has some pretty awesome fight scenes (some of the better scenes of the book, honestly) but when he wasn’t protecting his master he was essentially the Jar Jar Binks of battle droids.
There is a Bounty Hunter named Jas Emari, a blue-skinned Zabrak who was on Endor when the Death Star exploded. There isn’t much to her either, except that she is a bounty hunter, and she takes jobs that pay her well. She’s not necessarily a “good guy.” She just works for whoever’s willing to pay her better.
Then there’s Sinjir Velus, the one character I actually really liked in this story. Sinjir was an Imperial who deserted after the destruction of the second Death Star. The Empire assumed he died in the battle, but really he just decided to lay low and spend his time getting drunk at bars. It’s hard to tell exactly where his loyalties lie for a good chunk of this story. He seems content being away from the Empire, but at the same time you don’t know if he’s still loyal to it or not. Even towards the end of the book, you’re still doubting where his allegiance lies. To me, this made him by far the most interesting character in the story. If I end up reading any more canon Star War novels after this one, I would like to see more of him.
Along with all those protagonists, we’re also introduced to an equally annoyingly-large cast of new bad guys. The only one worth mentioning is Admiral Rae Sloane, who actually isn’t a new character, as she was first introduced in the canon novel A New Dawn. She’s desperately trying to bring order back to an Empire that has fallen into chaos since the death of the Emperor. The Empire is shriveling, while the “New Republic” is gaining power throughout the galaxy.
The main plot of the story revolves around Rae Sloane trying to hold a secret meeting with some of the higher-ups from the old Empire on the planet Akiva, so that they can discuss the future of the Empire and start getting reorganized and taking back the power they have lost. Wedge Antilles accidentally comes across their Star Destroyers and is abducted. The good guys find out about the meeting and decide that they have to put an end to it and save Wedge, which is much easier said than done (by the way, this is the extremely abbreviated version of the story).
Sadly, I just found this book boring. It wasn’t until the last 100 pages or so that things started to get interesting, and that’s a problem, because I had to read through 250 pages of boring to get to that point. Even when it did start getting more interesting, it still wasn’t that interesting. The story is overall insignificant, and clearly this book is just trying to set up for future books. Another minor complaint is that I fail to see how this book is preparing me for The Force Awakens. Isn’t that the point of this “Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens” series? It was a pretty self-contained story that really doesn’t seem like it will affect anything else in the long run. Hopefully the sequels will, but those aren’t part of the “Journey” series. This one is, so this one should have had more to do with Episode 7.
This book is not all bad, but it’s just not good. There were a few subtle nods and references to The Clone Wars and Rebels TV series that made me smile. One was a very brief reference to Cut, a clone trooper deserter from one of my favorite episodes of The Clone Wars. Another was the revelation that Wedge Antilles was recruited to join the Rebel Alliance by “Fulcrum”. There were a few fun cameo appearances from characters I love during some of the interludes. One of the characters in this book mentions that Palpatine used to send people “beyond known space” in an attempt to learn about or gain more power. I couldn’t help but think of the Timothy Zahn’s old Expanded Universe stories, as some of them explore this idea further.
I really, really wanted to like this book. I wanted to like it so badly. But I just didn’t. I would not recommend this book to others, unless somehow the second book in the trilogy ends up being amazing, and it is important to understand what happened in the first book to appreciate that one. Honestly though, I’m not sure I would even want to read the next book, whenever it comes out.
Aftermath was a huge letdown for me. Enough of a letdown to leave me questioning whether or not I even want to continue reading the new canon novels after Episode 7 comes out. I might just stick to the old Expanded Universe instead.