It was a dark time for Star Wars fans around 1990 due to the absence of any really compelling new content. Then Timothy Zahn released Heir to the Empire in 1991 which kicked off the outstanding Thrawn trilogy. Zahn gave us an incredible post-Return of the Jedi era story while introducing new characters that would be highly influential throughout subsequent novels in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Characters such as Mara Jade and Gilad Palleon.
Now, it’s important to bring that up as it was beloved by many and is now not part of the official canon. Star Wars – Aftermath by Chuck Wendig is now the first in-depth look we are getting at the galaxy in the wake of Palpatine’s demise, and the destruction of the second Death Star that is a part of the new canon. For this reason it has been the most hotly anticipated new novels being released in the lead up to The Force Awakens. And what many fans don’t know is that Aftermath is actually the first book of a planned trilogy, but we’ll come back to that.
The novel opens with a short interlude, of which there are many, that actually delves into that quick scene where Palpatine’s statue is toppled over at the end of Return of the Jedi – Special Edition. What we didn’t see in the movie was how immediately after that statue was pulled down, Imperial forces descended on the crowd and opened fire indiscriminately and without warning. This tells us that the war between the Rebels and the Empire is not yet won.
Now, the heart of the story actually takes place on an Outer Rim planet known as Akiva, which we find is going to play host to an important meeting for the Imperials, information the newly founded New Republic doesn’t have. This is the essential background around which all of the events of the book unfold. The tale Wendig weaves surrounding this secret meeting are pretty compelling, and you actually care about the characters, though not all of them in a good way.
While the book features mostly new characters, it does begin with Wedge Antilles entering the Akiva system in a small, one person starship on a solo scouting mission. On the Imperial side, Admiral Rae Sloane is a returning character from A New Dawn and one of the strongest, well-developed characters in the book.
One of the strengths of the book were the characters. Wendig did a great job deepening Admiral Sloane’s character as well as introducing and developing original characters like Norra Wexley, who feels torn between the duty she feels she has to the New Republic, and her desire to reconnect with her estranged son Temmin. Or Sinjir Rath Valus, a former Imperial Loyalty Officer whose motives and desires are largely unclear. Then there’s Mr. Bones. All I will say about Mr. Bones is that he is pure fun.
Now the previously mentioned interludes are a bone of contention among readers of the book, and to this point Aftermath has received relatively so-so reviews. Many found the interludes to be bothersome and didn’t do much other than to take them out of the main, as nothing hugely consequential is divulged there. I disagree. Not only are they cool, but they’re also important. While the events in the interludes may not be pivotal, they really serve to expand the new canon little by little, offering us quick glimpses of events happening on planets across the galaxy like Taris and Chandrila.
One of the common knocks on the book is less to do with the characters or subject matter, and more to do with Wendig’s writing style. I admit, I can see how the sometimes short and fragmented sentences used could be irksome to many, it honestly didn’t detract from my enjoyment of Aftermath.
Now, as I mentioned before, this is the first book of a planned trilogy. I wanted to bring this up because I feel like it influenced some readers opinions of the novel. It wasn’t widely known that this was going to be the first part of a trilogy. In fact, I didn’t know until I bought the book. This is purely speculation on my part so make of it what you will, but I think that because many people weren’t aware that it was the first of three they had a different expectation for it. For instance, the ending of the novel kind of raises more questions than the book answers, so for anyone expecting a nice and neat resolution is likely to be disappointed.
Overall Chuck Wendig helped guide us into a new, much larger world and he did a great job of it creatively developing characters and story arcs throughout the novel. It’s not a must read, but I would highly recommend Star Wars: Aftermath to all Star Wars fans.
Don’t know what is and isn’t a part of the new Star Wars canon? Check out our breakdown. When you’re done with that be sure to check out Gwendoline Christie’s thoughts on playing Captain Phasma in The Force Awakens.
Images: Lucasfilm, Del Rey Book