Diese Rezension wurde ursprünglich auf Jedi-Bibliothek.de auf Deutsch veröffentlicht. – This review was initially published in German at Jedi-Bibliothek.de. I translated it because of „popular demand“, you might say.Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig is the first book of the eponymous trilogy and at the same time the only adult novel in the „Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens“ and atop of that also the first canon novel set after Return of the Jedi. The book is mainly about a secret imperial meeting on the new planet Akiva, which a ragtag band of rebels led by a new Akivan character named Norra Wexley wants to interrupt after receiving a distress call from Wedge Antilles.
Expectations: Some readers expected this book to be the new Heir to the Empire, thinking it would dictate the direction for all future books, comics and other works in the post-Battle of Endor Star Wars timeline. My expectations were considerably lower. The hype for Heir to the Empire had different reasons and the book’s plot isn’t really comparable with Aftermath. Truce at Bakura, the chronologically first post-Endor Legends novel, is also a bad comparison, even though more logical than the one with Heir. Basically, I was expecting a novel clearly presenting me the state of affairs after Endor and also tackling important questions. No, not important questions about The Force Awakens – that’s really not realistic given its placement in the timeline – but questions focusing on the formation of the New Republic and the state of the Empire and the remaining Imperial leadership on Coruscant. Sadly, Aftermath mostly fails in this regard. But what else can be said about the book?
New characters! Aftermath’s first part consists of (mostly bland and unspectacular) character introductions. Even though I have to praise Wendig for his usage of dreams and memories, I think his characters offer little for the reader to identify with. Only the respective admirals, Ackbar (on the side of the New Republic) and Rase Sloane (on the side of the Empire, introduced in A New Dawn) were characters I found interesting. That is because the first is a veteran character we’ve known for years and the second (Rae) has been introduced masterfully in John Jackson Miller’s A New Dawn, an introduction the reader can use to understand her character here. In fact, the new characters only started to interest me in the third part, but that is also mostly owed to the plot coming together and the rising stakes and has little to do with the characters themselves. Still, I commend Wendig for the diversity of his characters regarding sex, race and sexuality. This is something Star Wars really needs more of. Sadly, the characters themselves are mostly bland stereotypes – a neglected teenager, a bounty hunter with a soul, an intellectual Imperial deserter… Only the unconventionally modified B1 battle droid Mister Bones conquered my heart immediately.
New characters? At the focus of Aftermath is a meeting of so-called high-ranking Imperials on Akiva. Sadly, these – maybe with the exception of Rae Sloane – are just a bunch of wannabes. At no point of the story was I able to take this meeting seriously. And this has a simple reason: these high-ranking Imperials were all completely new characters. Where are Mas Amedda, Sate Pestage, Ars Dangor, Armand Isard, Janus Greejatus (assuming he canonically didn’t die on the Death Star) and all the other Imperial leaders established in Revenge of the Sith, Tarkin and, most recently, Lando? The book does not tell us what became of them and why they aren’t present, which I consider a huge plot hole – even though Lost Stars states that Mas Amedda is still around after Return of the Jedi. He basically was Palpatine’s second in command (disregarding Vader) – why isn’t he part of a meeting that claims to decide the future of the Empire? Instead we get a corrupt banker, an incompetent, self-proclaimed Grand Moff, some general, a fanatic adviser to Palpatine and a recently promoted Admiral? The end of the book may explain some of this setup, but it doesn’t excuse stalling us for 360 pages with these boring, supposedly important characters without telling us what happened to the actually important characters. I have the feeling the rushed last 80 pages of Lost Stars told me more about the time after Endor than this book.
So it’s all bad? Nope. There are also interesting things. In so-called „interludes“, Chuck Wendig provides us glimpses of events elsewhere in the galaxy. Tatooine. Taris. Chandrila. Jakku. Naboo. Even Coruscant. These are offering us hints at what may be happening at these places right now. From events that may or may not mean the beginning of the First Order from The Force Awakens to the foreshadowing of the Battle of Jakku and the reformation of the Bounty Hunter Guild there are some interesting ideas. (However, I didn’t quite get the point of all of these interludes, but maybe books 2 and 3 of the trilogy will expand on them.) Sadly, I have to say that I often found the events in these interludes more interesting than the main plot. Especially the „interlude“ with Han and Chewie is mocking the reader, teasing him things he cannot have (but hey, maybe in book 2 or 3…) – and this interlude isn’t the only one that does this. However, some of these interludes (like the ones on Coruscant and Naboo) just seem like filler chapters to me, intended to inflate this book’s page count beyond that of previous canon novels – and, well, it worked.
Also interesting: The meetings of the Imperials, as unimportant as these individuals may seem, offer a tiny, interesting glimpse at the state of the Empire, even though the big questions are of course avoided. However, Tashu (the advisor of the late Emperor) gives us an anecdote about Palpatine’s dark side research that may (or may not) be relevant for Episode VII. There’s also an interlude with Vader’s Sith lightsaber that may give rise to speculations. Easter egg hunters can also find allusions to Star Wars Rebels (including a scene that is clearly mirroring the Rebel transmission from „Call to Action“) and to The Clone Wars. In fact, one of the main characters is related to a recurring The Clone Wars character and another important character has been recruited into the Rebel Alliance by a certain „Fulcrum“…
The ending: After part 2, I was ready to categorise Aftermath as an uninteresting book with the same irrelevance as some of the previous canon novels, but with the added problem of stylistic defects. (A verdict that I still mostly stand by.) Then came the third part, which got things going at least a little bit. As I said before, Wendig manages to steer his badly characterised protagonists into a somewhat exciting showdown with a lot of action on the ground and in space, and I was at least invested in Rae Sloane’s fate (because of A New Dawn). In every book I’m looking forward to the climax, when the plot comes together and unfolds into a finale, and I at least get that here. Part 4 and the epilogue then plant the seeds for the continuation, which will hopefully become a better book than this one.
The style: Aftermath is written in the present tense, which is some sort of personal preference of the writer; at least I found the same stylistic device in the preview of another Wendig novel. But wait – is it truly a stylistic device? Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void by Tim Lebbon used the present tense to mark dreams and memories. Chuck Wendig uses it because… because he can? I don’t know. It doesn’t really add anything to the book, but you get used to it after a while. However, what really put me off was the simple syntax with extremely short sentences. At some points, they were cleverly used to convey a feeling of accellerated action, but most of the time it just seems like a child wrote this novel. (If it’s a case of accellerated action, it’s usually also marked by one-sentence paragraphs emphasising the staccato.) Finally, the writer likes to use colloquialisms like „helluva“ or „oops“ in the narration, which doesn’t really remedy the impression of a sloppy, awkward style.
Conclusion: Aftermath is a book that you can probably only enjoy with low expectations. Initially I thought I had such low expectations, but apparently it’s too much to ask for from a book that’s intented to open up the post-Endor canon to at least provide superficial answers to the most important questions of that time. In addition to that, it doesn’t even fulfill the basic requirements of a good novel – interesting characters, logical plot, good style. Well, style is a matter of taste, but for what it’s worth, this style isn’t to my taste. Since we’re looking at two more novels by Wendig, I hope that both he and the story group will come up with more interesting concepts for the future. A few allusions to important events happening elsewhere in a mostly shallow novel don’t really make for an enjoyable read and thus I can only give it 2 out of 5 holocrons (or maybe 2,5, since I considered the third part an improvement). It’s possible this book only serves as an exposition of what will be expanded on in the second book, but by itself, Aftermath is quite the disappointment.
Thanks to Del Rey for providing me with a review copy!