Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens
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’s 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.
About the Author
Chuck Wendig is a novelist, screenwriter, and game designer. He’s the author of many novels, including Blackbirds, Atlanta Burns, Zer0es, and the YA Heartland series. He is co-writer of the short film Pandemic and the Emmy-nominated digital narrative Collapsus. He currently lives in the forests of Pennsyltucky with wife, son, and red dog.
The release of Star Wars: Aftermath marks the official relaunch of the Star Wars Expanded Universe into post-Return of the Jedi territory. It is also a release that has been greeted with a rather rabid divisiveness among the Star Wars fandom community. When it released on Force Friday (Sept. 4, 2015 to the rest of the world), it was assailed almost immediately with one star reviews, with online groups devoted to the original Expanded Universe -- titles now marketed under the Star Wars: Legends banner -- encouraging fans to buy the Legends titles in an effort to outsell Aftermath. That doesn't seem to have worked as, at the time of this writing, Aftermath is now sitting in fourth place on the USA Today and NY Times Bestseller lists. The more vocal and ferociously devoted fans of the previous Expanded Universe have also taken umbrage at the inclusion of gay characters, strong female leads, the lack of the film's heroes, and apparently any and all non-one-star reviews posted at Amazon.
Given the intense backlash meeting this new entry to the brand-new Star Wars canon, the immediate question is, is Aftermath any good?
The answer is, thankfully, yes. We're off to a pretty strong start with the relaunch, with a few enticing teases during this book's resolution that promises to only get better.
Opening with the immortal words, "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..." and giving us a brief "crawl" through recent events to establish this story, you'd be hard pressed to not hear the infamous opening notes of John Williams' score.
As noted, this book is free of Luke Skywalker, while Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Leia pop up ever-so briefly in cameo appearances (the Han Solo cameo in particular is pretty tantalizing and opens up the door for what should be a pretty solid adventure in its own right).
Our characters here are Norra Wexley, an ace Rebel Alliance pilot, her son Temmin, an ex-Imperial Loyalty Officer Sinjir Rath Velus (whose motivations are explained wonderfully and with a gracious bit of depth and truth for a man in his position late in the book), and a bounty hunter, Jas. Temmin has some robot-building mojo and has updated one of those ridiculous, monotonous, and childishly awful battle droids from The Phantom Menace to be his personal bodyguard. More impressive, Wendig has taken this battle droid, named Mister Bones because of the animal bones it wears as a sort of stylized armor, and because it was named by a 15-year-old, and turned it into something interesting and humorous.
On the villain side, we are treated to Admiral Rae Sloane, who has captured Rebel/New Republic pilot Wedge Antilles, and has organized a meeting on the planet Akiva in an effort to reunite the fractured Empire. Among those gathered are a prominent banker and slaver, who is in the crosshairs of the bounty hunter, Jas.
What could have been a pretty good Star Wars story in its own right takes on an epic scope with a series of interludes. In these vignettes, Wendig is able to explore the ramifications of the war between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance, and the reader is able to get a deeper sense of the state of the galaxy, the threat the Empire still poses, and the process of rebuilding as the Alliance shifts gears towards becoming the democratic New Republic. I loved getting a peek into all these various corners of the galaxy and these characters responses to the conflicts affecting their lives, either directly or indirectly.
Writing in third person, present tense - a stylistic choice that Wendig has used in his previous novels - the story is given a sense of graceful urgency, propelling the reader along through the action. Some have voiced their displeasure at this approach, but I have zero problems with it and, as with previous Wendig books, I was able to sink right in and enjoy.
Star Wars: Aftermath is a good, fun start to a new series of books, and one that provides enough galactic intrigue to start building depth across the gap between this title and the release of the film, The Force Awakens, later this year. If, like me, you had no particular attachments to the previous Expanded Universe, it's a good time to dive in without worrying about continuity outside of the films. But, if you did have a strong attachment to those prior novels, I still encourage to approach this work with an open mind and decide for yourself.
On a sliding scale to the film comparisons, I'd say it is not as terrible as The Phantom Menace, but at least as good as Attack of the Clones and a solid follow-on from Return of the Jedi. We might not be into The Empire Strikes Back territory, but the set-up promised in the final chapters of Aftermath looks like there's a very fun story ahead of us.
[And if you've made it this far and thought this review was helpful, please vote at Amazon to indicate as such. I don't ever ask for this, but given how often and how quickly positive reviews for this title are getting slammed by the so-called "fan" community, those of us who did enjoy the work would appreciate the support. Thanks in advance!]