Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig
A long time ago in a book review blog far, far away….
The second Death Star has been destroyed, the Emperor killed, and Darth Vader struck down. Devastating blows against the Empire, and major victories for the Rebel Alliance. But the battle for freedom is far from over.
As the Empire reels from its critical defeats at the Battle of Endor, the Rebel Alliance—now a fledgling New Republic—presses its advantage by hunting down the enemy’s scattered forces before they can regroup and retaliate. But above the remote planet Akiva, an ominous show of the enemy’s strength is unfolding. Out on a lone reconnaissance mission, pilot Wedge Antilles watches Imperial Star Destroyers gather like birds of prey circling for a kill, but he’s taken captive before he can report back to the New Republic leaders.
Meanwhile, on the planet’s surface, former rebel fighter Norra Wexley has returned to her native world—war weary, ready to reunite with her estranged son, and eager to build a new life in some distant place. But when Norra intercepts Wedge Antilles’ urgent distress call, she realizes her time as a freedom fighter is not yet over. What she doesn’t know is just how close the enemy is—or how decisive and dangerous her new mission will be.
Determined to preserve the Empire’s power, the surviving Imperial elite are converging on Akiva for a top-secret emergency summit—to consolidate their forces and rally for a counterstrike. But they haven’t reckoned on Norra and her newfound allies—her technical-genius son, a Zabrak bounty hunter, and a reprobate Imperial defector—who are prepared to do whatever they must to end the Empire’s oppressive reign once and for all.
I’ll begin with a confession. I know that there is already a vast back catalogue of Star Wars expanded universe fiction, and even though I consider myself a fan of the films I’ve never felt particularly inclined to actually read any of these tie-in novels. Aftermath is the exception to this rule for two reasons. One, Chuck Wendig wrote it, and two, I felt the urge to try and fill the Star Wars shaped gap in my life before The Force Awakens arrives1.
I was struck with a thought as soon as I started reading. When the credits rolled at the end of Return of the Jedi there was a nice, neat happy ending. I was nine years old when it was originally released and I had just witnessed the evil Empire being soundly vanquished. The Rebels were victorious and everything was rosy. There were even Ewoks dancing, it was great. I realise now, with grown up eyes, that this was a hopelessly naive interpretation of events. What actually happened was the Emperor and Vader were defeated. What about the rest of the Imperial Fleet? What about all the other Star Destroyers? I may be wrong, but I expect that the Empire probably had more than three of them?
Chuck Wendig’s new novel helps to answer some of these questions. The reality is that after the end of Jedi, a power vacuum exists in what is left of the Empire. Political struggles, some overt others quite subtle, are the order of business. Elsewhere, the renamed New Republic *cough* Rebel Alliance *cough* are just as adrift. They’ve won the war, now they need to figure out how to maintain the peace. Turns out galactic conflicts aren’t neat and tidy, what comes after even less so.
Akiva seems like the perfect place for what is left of the Empire to try and begin again. Admiral Rae Sloane is determined to succeed, and bring those pesky rebel scum to heel. She has arranged a clandestine meeting, and if she can negotiate with all the important power brokers who are left, perhaps there is still some hope for the Empire.
Meanwhile, Norra Wexley, a Rebel pilot, is tired of all the conflict. All she just wants to go home to her son, Temmin. Unfortunately, years apart has created a little conflict of its own. Add to that a self-proclaimed Grand Moff, a few suitably sleazy gangster types, Wedge Antilles, and you have the makings of quite the shindig. Turns out Akiva is quite the political powder-keg.
Of all the various characters, I think my favourite was Sinjir Rath Velus. He is a delightfully snarky ex-Imperial loyalty officer whose shady past (and reasonably shady present for that matter) are a source of much enjoyment. I do so love meeting a character who is entirely wrapped up in their own existence and is brutally honest about it.
With the exception of a couple of nice cameos from some familiar faces the majority of the cast were unknown to me and I like this approach. The Star Wars franchise has always focussed on a few key individuals, and it’s nice to step away from them and look elsewhere for a change. From Coruscant to the Outer Rim, the events taking place between the Empire and the Rebels are directly affecting billions of lives. To see evidence of this happening at ground level is insightful stuff.
Some random thoughts. (1) Turns out Admiral Ackbar is a complete and utter badass. He knows martial arts people! I was not aware the Mon Calamari were anywhere close to being that cool (2) However you look at it, Wedge Antilles is just spectacularly unlucky. (3) Dengar is one grumpy old bounty hunter (that I did suspect, nice to have it finally confirmed though). (4) If I was going to have my own battle droid, I would call it Mister Bones.
I’m writing this review just after seeing a tweet confirming that a new fifteen second teaser for The Force Awakens has hit the web. Do yourself a favour, you don’t want to be suffering from Jedi fatigue come December, avoid any further trailers for the new film and read this instead. Wendig has achieved an accomplishment I thought nigh on impossible. He has written a novel that has left me actively salivating for the next Star Wars movie. Well played Mr Wendig, well played. Turns out, thirty two years later, I haven’t changed a bit; I am still completely in thrall to my childhood favourites. If The Force Awakens manages to capture the same sense of adventure that is on display here, then the future of Star Wars is in safe hands2
Star Wars: Aftermath is published by Century and is available from the 10th September.
1 without spoilering myself.
2 crosses fingers