Star Wars: Aftermath And The Regressive Hate Machine

starwarsaftermathcover Update 9/6/2015, 4:51 p.m. EST: I was unaware of this, but saw a post on my FB timeline that was posted to Chuck Wendig's page that there is apparently a Facebook group called The Alliance to Preserve The Expanded Universe that has launched a "raid" against this book, hence all the 1-star reviews cluttering up the Amazon product page. Chuck posted a link to this article from Oct. 2014, from Another posted a link to Del Ray's official Star Wars Books page, which given a cursory glance seems to be crawling with The New Expanded Universe protesters (because that's apparently a thing now).

Original post follows....

This is not a review. In fact, at the time of this writing, I'm only little more than a quarter into Star Wars: Aftermath. If you believe the Amazon reviews, though, quite a lot of other folks have read the book and the Petty Internet Hate Machine has been unleashed at full power against this title, with, at the moment, more than half of the reviews ranking this book at a 1-star.

Again, I haven't finished the book yet. I stopped last night at Part Two and will be resuming my read through shortly. I'm enjoying it. A lot. I'm pretty sure that Chuck Wendig is incapable of writing a bad book, let alone a book so bad that the majority of its readers give it a 1-star review. I mean, shit, have you even read his Miriam Black trilogy? And if not, you should. Now. Go buy it. Start here.

Now, I was not a big fan of the previous iteration of the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Like a lot of others, I read and loved Timothy Zahn's Grand Admiral Thrawn trilogy. I tried to read some of the stuff that followed, but was mostly unimpressed and found myself content to wait for the prequel trilogy, which I was disappointed with roughly 1/3 of. When Disney bought the rights to the Star Wars franchise and decided to reboot the Expanded Universe and start over from scratch, I was mostly ambivalent. I still have my battered copies of Zahn's books and Disney has yet to confiscate them from me and burn them on my porch, a scenario that is highly unlikely to ever occur, so this maneuver to put their own unique corporate stamp on the Star Wars brand meant little to me. And like so many others, I am hotly anticipating Episode VII in December. But the books, I can mostly take 'em or leave 'em. Yet when Chuck Wendig was announced as the writer that would be tackling the post-Return of the Jedi narrative on the Journey To The Force Awakens, I was legitimately excited, particularly after having devoured his Heartland trilogy. Here was one of my favorite writer's getting to spin his own story inside one of my favorite film franchises.

I'm reading the book currently, and I am still excited by it. I'm freaking ecstatic that this is going to be a trilogy and that are two more Wendig Star Wars books on the horizon. But these one-star reviews have thrown me for a bit of a loop. Point in fact, I seriously do not understand where most of them are coming from. Particularly in light of such positive reviews from sources like Sci-Fi Bulletin, OmnivoraciousNerdist, and Den of Greek. And yes, I know and understand fully well that people are entitled to their opinions. That's great. But, and you knew there would be a 'but' here, I'm not sure that many of them have actually read the book. In fact, I'm fairly certain that most of them are part of a (likely disorganized, band-wagon) smear campaign at worst, or are just knee-jerk nerdrage at the least.

Most of the reviews have little in the way of actual content. There's little discussion of what, exactly, is supposed to be bad about Aftermath, yet they are also very homogeneous in their opinion of what's wrong with the book. The big target is Wendig's writing style, which is third person present tense, a style that he's honed over the majority of his work. Maybe I'm just cynical, but I'm surprised that this many reviewers have pinpointed this particular style as their main reason for hating the book. Meanwhile, others seem to be shitting all over this new title for the simple reason that it is not Timothy Zahn, or because it is now a Disney property, or because it's not actually The Force Awakens itself (and more than a few seem to already be using this book as a scapegoat for why they think that movie, due out in December, will suck). Or simply because it's a new Star Wars, and anything new is somehow a stain on their own personal memories of the Original Trilogy.

One reviewer writes:

This book is an abysmal, absolutely unreadable failure. Does the Walt Disney Corporation have editors?

This is a pretty straight-forward scare tactic that gets repeated by a number of the one-star reviewers, attempting to frighten readers away by saying it's impenetrable thanks to shoddy editing and typos galore. Yet similar refrains from other reviewers provide no examples to back up their complaint, and I'm not finding anything particularly egregious. One reviewer claimed to have made it through a whopping three pages before giving up. So, please, if you haven't bought this yet, use Amazon's Look Inside feature and see if it's up to snuff for you. But also realize that every book has errors, typos, misspelling that even a team of editors sometimes miss. Some big, some small. That's just the way it is. Not every single story is flawless. But this critique from the rebel band of 1-star reviewers is just flat out incorrect in its presumptive scope. I'm not finding many egregious errors at all, and am finding the book to be highly readable. Again, it's a quibble, my opinion versus theirs. Or perhaps they think the writing style itself is the failure, which is also incorrect. But, for here, I'll presume they mean merely poor line edits. My own personal standard is that if it's as poorly edited as Vince Flynn's American Assassin was, then the editors deserved to be excoriated. That book was riddled with mistakes, typos, and in at least one memorable instance, the switching of two characters mid-scene yet separated by entire continents. Frankly, Aftermath has not set off any of my editing alarm bells, and if there are any mistakes (and, honestly, odds are there are a few) then the story has been rolling along well enough that I've completely and utterly overlooked them.

Many seem to have a problem with Wendig's narrative style of third person present tense (one reviewer even mistakenly calls this first person and claims it reads like a blog entry. It doesn't.), or eagerly chalk this up as nothing more than 'fan fiction,' as if that's somehow a bad thing. Again, maybe it's a quibble, but a licensed property paying an author to write a canon story is hardly fan fiction. I know many are using it as an insult here, but if this is fan fiction, then so was the original Expanded Universe, starting with Timothy Zahn himself. We can get all philosophical about how any piece of writing could be fan fiction, but I don't want to get too digressive here.

Then, as we go through page after page of one-star reviewers, we get closer to the original words of warning. Finally, we maybe get to the actual meat of the issue here, and perhaps why there have been so many one-star reviews that all sound alike and hit on so many of the same notes without providing any supporting evidence.

Dennis, whose only previous product review on Amazon was a 1-star review for all three platforms in which Mass Effect 3 appeared more than three years ago, writes:

It's a propaganda piece by a SJW progressive intent on sending a message about his brand of politics.

While Georgio opines:

it seems that either him or Disney are using the Star Wars property to push a political agenda...that of diversity. This book includes 3 gay characters that feel so forced into the story. Disney is stuffing diversity down our throats and it's taking me out of my suspension of believe because it feels forced. I myself am a minority but when I read star Wars I don't want to be thinking about racial consciousness or sexual idenitity. I also don't like the inclusion of so many gay charcters becuase my personal opinion is that homosexuality is not normal; sodomy is not normal and I am tired of the liberal media trying to make me accept this lifestyle.

That damn diversity. Next thing you'll know, they'll retcon the OT so Lando is a black guy and might even have him blow up the Death Star instead of one of the white heroes.

This issue of diversity as a political issue is one that confounds me. Writing characters that are diverse isn't some crazy political reactionary thingamajig. Representing the world as it actually is should not be whacko political rehtoric. The world, the real world, is radically diverse, but hey, screw you evolution for being so damn political and shoving diversity down our throat, what with all those different kinds of flora and fauna and people.

And, again, this is still Star Wars, so there's actually no sodomy to be found here. Not a single blow job, rim job, anal penetrative act, or human/non-human love fest to be had. Actually, there's no sex at all, gay, straight, or otherwise. Maybe Georgio has been reading different fan fiction. I will admit at this point, though, that I'm more than a bit shocked that Wendig hasn't lobbed in a few "fucks" yet, so he was either remarkably constrained or did have editors who were right on the ball.

Even Fox News contributor Allen West (I know, I know, say no more, just bear with me here) has chimed in with his blog post, Wow: New “Star Wars” character shows how FAR America has fallen.

Yes, folks, that's right. The Star Wars universe has dared to become representative of reality and feature a cast of diverse characters! AMERICA HAS FALLEN! BAHWAHWHAHAHAHA!

But, no. Just no.


What a fucking feat that would be! That's a twofer of the highest order! He should get a medal, or a carbonite statue in his honor, or maybe a cheeseburger named after him.

America is fine. America hasn't fallen. The nation is still chugging along and filled with white people, black people, Latinos, Asians, Arabs, Canadian Hispanics running for US President, men, women, Donal Trump, LGBT, pansexual, asexual, and straight people. Dare I say, Star Wars is starting to look a little more...familiar. A little more realistic. A little more representative.

The cast of Star Wars: Aftermath is not Luke, Leia, and Han Solo. Many are upset by this. People are, in fact, downright pissed off that Wendig had the balls to write a Star Wars book that features all-new characters (a bold and daring maneuver last seen in the likes of the video-game series Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic), in which the primary protagonist is a woman. In fact, the primary Imperial antagonist is also a woman. There's a bounty hunter who is also a woman. And the ex-Imperial Loyalty Officer that features heavily in the narrative is...gasp!...homosexual.


Or not, really.

By the way, why are the bigoted homophobes constantly going on and on about having things shoved down their throats? Is this like a wishful thinking sort of thing? Doth thou protest too much?

The one-star campaign against Star Wars: Aftermath is starting to reek of Angry Puppy flopsweat, with a dash of tart, mealy GamerGater tears.

And there's only one thing that's certain in such instances - when these groups, and people like Allen West, get vocal against something, you can generally presume that thing is actually pretty darn decent and worthwhile.

So, maybe, instead of copying bullet points from other one-star reviews and jumping on the band wagon, you could, I dunno, actually read the book and bring an informed opinion to the table? Just a thought.

If that's too difficult, here's a a quick and very heavily-loaded and unsubtle list, written by a guy who has read a full 27% of his Kindle edition of Aftermath, to determine if Aftermath is or is not for you.

  • Are you willing to experience a Star Wars story that does not feature Luke, Han, and Leia?
  • Do you like Chuck Wendig?
  • Did you bother to read the book's description in order to make an informed decision as a consumer with purchasing power and the ability to govern yourself and make decisions on your own?
  • Are you OK with stories that feature a cast of diverse characters from a non-homogenous background with varying life experiences, and science fiction that has some measure of commonality with the actual real world?
  • Are you fine with reading the first book in a new trilogy?
  • Do you hate, loathe, despise all things Disney? Does my mention of Disney cause you to suddenly breakout into hives and foaming at the mouth?
  • Do you love Star Wars yet inexplicably hate all things Star Wars?
  • Do you love Star Wars but dislike anything new being introduced beyond the films or what you already know from the previous and now defunct Expanded Universe?
  • Do you already hate Star Wars: The Force Awakens even though you haven't seen it yet?
  • Are you willing to read a brand new post-Return of the Jedi novel that is not written by Timothy Zahn, does not feature Grand Admiral Thrawn, and has nothing to do with the now-defunct Expanded Universe?
  • Does a novel written in third person present tense bother you? Can you even identify third person present tense?
  • Do you believe that it is impossible for women to be capable in their duties, to be both a soldier and a mother, possess agency, and that they have no business being seen, heard, or written about?
  • Are you troubled by the fact that the day may be saved by characters that do not conform to hetero-normative standards?
  • Are you troubled by the fact that non-white, non-male characters may be able to save the galaxy?
  • Like Allen West, do you, too, hate "'art' that wants to change our traditional values"? Do you even understand the basic function of art?
  • Do you refer to homosexuals as "the gays" and believe that they are the sole force responsible for eroding American "family values" while at the same time supporting Bible thumpers who molest children, join Ashley Madison and routinely have extramarital affairs, get divorced multiple times, and routinely hold everyone to a system of highly flexible double standards?
  • Were the "good old days" an era in which equality didn't exist and Jim Crow laws are something you miss with all your heart?

Depending on your answers to the above, you may wish to avoid Star Wars: Aftermath. Or, conversely, you might decide this one is right up your alley and give it a shot. I only suggest that if you do read this book, you approach it with an open mind and then decide if you liked it or not.

Michael Patrick Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.

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