I like STAR WARS but I am not a superfan. I have only seen 4.5 of the 6 current movies and to the best of my recollection I have never read a STAR WARS novel or novelization before this one. I think this daily-double of ignorance makes me the perfect reviewer for Chuck Wendig’s STAR WARS: AFTERMATH, part of THE JOURNEY TO THE FORCE AWAKENS series of novels tied in to the upcoming movie The Force Awakens.
Aftermath begins soon after the ending of the movie Return of the Jedi. The second Death Star has been destroyed and Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader are both presumed dead. The New Republic — formerly the Rebel Alliance — has won a decisive battle, but the war is far from over. On Akiva, an Outer Rim planet, Imperial troops still retain control, and a group of high-ranking Imperial counsellors have met in secret to develop a strategy. The New Republic finds out about the meeting and sends an operative to the planet — while a former rebel pilot runs the blockade with the intention of locating her son and getting him safely off-planet.
Most of the action takes place on Akiva, but Wending breaks up the narrative by inserting Interludes. Interludes follow action on various planets, mostly known to fans — Coruscant, Naboo, and so on. In some cases, the interludes are positive as we see the New Republic coming together. In others, Wendig depicts the outcome of war in a less upbeat way. These sections, for me, justify the book’s title; in the aftermath of a near-coup, not everything that happens is good.
The book is written entirely in present tense. If you’re one of the people who hate present tense, don’t even try this one. I am not one of those people. Present tense worked for me most of the time. This tense choice creates a great sense of immediacy, so it works well for action sequences and scenes with lots of people talking. It leaches away drama from flashbacks and makes it harder for the author to provide backstory, and that was its weakness here. On the other hand, the book is mostly about action, so on balance, it worked.
Two characters stood out in the book from the first pages: Admiral Rae Sloan, a loyal Imperial, and Norra Wexley, the rebel pilot and mother. Both of these women were well rounded, and their actions helped drive the plot. Other characters were flatter, but worked well enough given the scenario. My least favorite character is Norra’s son Temmin. When we first meet him, he is a defiant, risk-taking teenager who is always smarter than any grown-up in the room. He reminded me of Wesley Crusher from Star Trek: The Next Generation if Wesley had been raised in a bad part of town. Temmin doesn’t get any better, and the moral lesson he apparently learns didn’t really hold my interest. The bounty hunter Jas and cynical Imperial deserter Sinjir are flatter characters, but are developed enough as they need to be to add to the conflict and suspense. Since this is a series, clues are laid that imply more character development in future books.
When we first meet Norra she is dealing with post-traumatic stress. This made her an interesting and more realistic character from the beginning. About halfway through the book, however, her symptoms fade away with no real explanation, even when she takes actions that mirror the ones that caused the stress in the first place.
One of the controversies of Aftermath was that there were gay characters. Norra’s sister is married to a woman, and Sinjir is attracted to men. These are character traits, like left-handedness or curly hair, and do not affect the plot. As with the present tense thing, if the idea of reading a book that has a gay character in it bothers you, then this is probably not for you.
The book’s action takes place on-planet with speeder-bike chases, impersonations, con-games, and treks through deserted catacombs or abandoned droid factories. It takes place in the air with TIE-fighter battles, and in space, with more X-wing and TIE fighter fireworks. The book ends with some of our heroes attaining their objectives, but on a definitely ominous note, setting up the future books quite well.
There is something in the STAR WARS world called the Extended Universe. This book undercuts the EU, apparently, and sets everything back to the first-released movies. I only know about the Extended Universe because I read some of the angry reviews on Amazon. Since I didn’t know what it was, I can’t say I missed it. Aftermath seems like a plausible take on what the STAR WARS galaxy would really be like in the wake of the battle of Endor.
As I said, I’m not a superfan, but this book entices me to read the sequels, and even see the movie, which wasn’t on my to-do list before. Aftermath delivers on a promise of a fast-paced action story in the STAR WARS world.
I’ll probably end up reading this at some point — I’ve read more of the Star Wars expanded universe than I sometimes care to admit, and I really am interested in the upcoming movie.
Marion, I’m curious: which 4.5 of the 6 movies have you watched?
I watched the “original” three, A NEW HOPE thru ROTJ. Then THE PHANTOM MENACE and half of the one after that. We had it on Netflix and I finally just left the room and went to read. About ten minutes after that Dave turned it off.
I completely understand.
I saw the prequels in theaters when they were first released, and I’m too stubborn to walk out of a movie that I’ve paid to see.
I value time over money, so I will walk out. Weird, I know.
That makes more sense than me going to see Revenge of the Sith even though Attack of the Clones was so bad that it looped past being fun and landed back on awful.