Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig
|Book Name:||Star Wars: Aftermath|
|Publisher(s):||Century (UK) Del Ray (USA)|
|Formatt:||Hardback / Ebook|
|Genre(s):||Fantasy / Sci-Fi / Star Wars|
|Release Date:||10th September 2015|
The Canon of Star Wars is in a state of confusion right now and long-time fans of the franchise are, rightly, angry. Since 1978, people all around the world have been investing their time into reading, watching and playing within the Expanded Universe. Hundreds, if not thousands, of hours have gone into this pursuit and Star Wars fans around the world have been able to discuss not just characters from the movies, but events spanning from the era of The Old Republic, where Jedi were numerous and ruled the Galaxy, through to distant futures where the Dark Side is potentially breeding a Sith Lord more powerful than Darth Vader or even Emperor Palpatine. To see a group of well read, well played, well watched Star Wars fans debate characters and events past or future based on the Expanded Universe was truly amazing – it was as if these were historians debating real-life events. This, however, all came crashing down in 2014 when Disney purchased Lucasfilm. At this point, Mickey Mouse walked into the home of every Star Wars fan, found every single book, DVD and game that had been published beyond the first six movies and scribbled upon the cover a note that read: ‘You can read/watch/play this if you like… HOWEVER, please be aware that it is speculative, fictional nonsense that plays no part in the new, true Star Wars Canon. Thanks!’
Of course, Mickey (on behalf of Disney) wasn’t writing off ever going beyond the films. They were, in fact, saying: ‘going forwards we want to be in charge of Star Wars and all this previous stuff complicates things.’ They didn’t like the idea of having to make sure that anything they published fit in with everything that came before or, indeed, was set after. The quick solution then was to launch a new version of the Expanded Universe, one that was there own, and would simply be called the ‘New Canon’ (note: the former Expanded Universe has now been relabelled ‘Legends’).
All of this said, Disney certainly aren’t skimping on the extraneous material. Between the time of their Lucasfilm acquisition and the release of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens they would have published around 20 books ranging from Young Adult books revisiting events in the first three movies through to novels that explore Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker’s characters outside of the movies, books that introduce new characters and events between the original six movies and, as in the book I am reviewing today, events that take place between the end of movie VI and movie VII. There is also new television series, numerous comic series and a new game or two due out as well.
So, finally, onto my review of Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig. Essentially, it does what it says on the tin… Star Wars: Aftermath tells the story of the aftermath of the Battle of Endor when we saw the Rebel Alliance take out Darth Vader and the second Death Star. The end of that sixth movie was full of smiles and applause and even the biggest, baddest dude on the planet had called it a day and decided to head back towards the light a few minutes before his death. All was good. All was fine. And they all lived happily after… Right?
Well, apparently not. Star Wars: Aftermath opens with the people of Coruscant pulling down a statue of Emperor Palpatine. The symbolism here is obvious: the Empire has fallen, we, the people, have overthrown them and are no longer subject to their rule. No sooner has the statue fallen though, the crowd who pulled it down are fired upon by Imperial Police in airspeeders. Without any kind of direction, the Imperials are now operating as you would expect an infantryman to act who has been separated from his unit. They remember the mission, they pursue it and they still fire upon their enemies.
Despite this, one thing that Star Wars: Aftermath does well very early on is make it clear that the majority of Imperials (the guys in the Storm Trooper suits, etc) are “just like” the majority of Rebels (now named the New Republic) – meaning they are just ‘people’ looking for a way to live an easy life. In reality, very few of them want to spend so much time away from their families, risking their lives fighting on a daily basis. They only did it (and continue to do it), because they are told that the defeat of these ‘Rebels’ will allow them to live an easier, warless life. At the same time, there are those within the Rebel ranks who are getting greedy with power and starting to feel as though they should use their power to lock the galaxy down and put it under their control – which would leave them operating just as the Empire did.
Though I’ve focused on the shape of the galaxy so far, the focus of the book is on the capture of a pilot known as Wedge Antilles. Wedge noticed a number of Star Destroyers gathering around the remote planet Akiva and presumes (correctly) the flailing Empire is up to something. Before he can get word back to the New Republic though he is captured in a tractor beam by Admiral Rae Slone and pulled aboard her ship.
Admiral Slone keeps Wedge locked up whilst she partakes in a meeting that consists of the major players remaining within the Empire. Each has a very different idea of how the Empire should move forwards that ranges from retreating through to staging one last attack. The reason for these varying opinions differ, some feel that the ‘Rebels’ were lucky to win the original battle and don’t have anywhere near the resources required to halt another attack whereas others are happy that Darth Vader and the Sith have fallen, knowing that the Empire crossed a line that they can now cross back over.
Jas Emari is a Bounty Hunter who arrives on Akiva to take out a number of the high profile Imperials who she has tracked down to the planet, but before she can collect on the bounties she is taken out of play. Whilst trying to find a way to kill her targets she runs into an interesting character: Sinjir Rath Velus. Sinjir was a former member of the Imperial’s army – before deserting – and he recognises Jas, because he saw her not too long ago at the Battle of Endor – where she made a choice not to kill Princess Leia.
Temin and Norra Wexley are a son and mother reunited. Norra left Temin to fend for himself whilst she joined the Rebel Alliance. Despite being one of the Alliance’s most successful pilots and having played an important role in the fall of the Empire, Temin is far from proud of his mother. He has had to live on Akiva like a street urchin in order to survive. Upon seeing what Temin has become, Norra desperately tries to mother him and turn him away from his questionable droid selling business that has taken him down paths full of dangerous people. However, when Norra gets a distress signal from her old friend Wedge, she quickly learns that Temin being far from the child she left behind isn’t all that bad. The life Temin has led makes him the perfect companion to infiltrate Slone’s temporary headquarters and rescue Wedge. Can she fix their relationship and convince him to help her though?
Chuck Wendig takes each of these characters and weaves between their points of view as well as those of the supporting characters. In addition he makes use of ‘interludes’ – 3 or 4 page chapters that give views of characters and events across the galaxy not directly related to the main story. These interludes include a glimpse at what happens to Darth Vader’s light sabre, a teaser of Han Solo and Chewie setting off on a secret mission, and a young child set to go to an Imperial school being directed instead to the New Republic’s academy, in addition to many more besides. Initially all these viewpoints and the seemingly random sprinkling of interludes do boggle the mind somewhat. However, once you understand the point of the interludes and the viewpoint characters unite at about the halfway point of the novel, things really begin to quicken in terms of pace and any kind of confusion or disorientation you felt in the first half of the novel will be left behind. Add to this the fact that the action is relentless, the prose are snappy and laden with cheese – much more reminiscent of the original trilogy than the prequel trilogy – and you will find this novel is a fast, fun ride and easily consumed in a couple of days.
Over the past week I’ve read a lot of reviews and a lot of criticism of Chuck Wendig’s book – 1* reviews in abundance and some absolutely horrendous personal remarks directed at Chuck, his writing style and his inclusion of a homosexual character. One person, for example, was truly angry that after many Star Wars novels within the ‘Legends’ version of the Expanded Universe using the past tense, Chuck choose to write in the present – so gave him 1*. Another found Chuck’s inclusion of a homosexual character a blatant political statement that had no place in his beloved Star Wars novels and it disgusted him, so gave him 1*. Well, my views on why the 1* reviews are showing up is quite simple: Star Wars: Aftermath proves that it will be quite some time until a novel anything like Darth Plagueis is seen in the New Canon. For those who haven’t read Darth Plagueis, it was a Star Wars novel released only a few years ago, in 2012, that really delved deep into the lore of Star Wars and took fans to places the films never even touched upon – using characters and timelines fans had literally been waiting decades to visit. It drew extensively, almost dizzyingly, upon information that would have required hundreds of hours of reading within the Expanded Universe in order to identify each reference. It was labelled as the deepest, most important book in the Expanded Universe and it got a lot of fans excited about just how complex and interlinking things were going to get with the EU. The sad truth of Star Wars: Aftermath is that as much fun as it is (and oh man is it fun!), the yellow writing that scrolls down the start of movie VII will likely summarise Chuck’s book in about 150 words. This leaves the vast majority of what the author has written in Aftermath redundant and, therefore, the hardcore fans won’t leave with many more ‘facts’ than the casual fans who simply watch the upcoming movies.
Don’t let that put you off reading it though. So long as a person’s sexual preference doesn’t rile you. You don’t mind present tense. You are willing to look beyond the Expanded Universe’s collapse. And realise that this book has been written primarily to set up Star Wars: The Force Awakens then I feel you will truly enjoy it and it will fulfil its aim of fuelling your appetite for the upcoming movie. Chuck has kept the spirit of the original Star Wars movies – that cheesiness and goofiness we all loved so much – but at the same time made sure there is enough realism and grittiness so that it appeals to the tastes of readers today. I, myself, have never been massively into Star Wars beyond the original six movies and a couple of the Sith / Darth Maul novels, but Chuck’s work has me willing and excited to look into what else will is out there as part of the ‘New Canon’. I truly hope Chuck writes a few more books in the Star Wars Universe without the constraints so obviously halting him from attempting anything to ambitious with Aftermath…