Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig (book review).

September 10, 2015 | By | Reply More

It might have taken thirty-two years but, with the publication of Chuck Wendig’s novel ‘Star Wars: Aftermath’, we now have the definitive story of what happened to the Rebellion after the Death Star II was destroyed in ‘Return Of The Jedi’. As the whole world counts down to December and the release of ‘The Force Awakens’, ‘Aftermath’ allows us to see the immediate consequences of how the Rebellion damaged the Empire and what the former regime does to try and retaliate.

SW-Aftermath

Famed Rebel pilot Captain Wedge Antilles has been conducting a series of low-level reconnaissance missions to Outer Rim planets trying to determine where the fledgling New Republic might encounter resistance. On visiting the world of Akiva, he stumbles on some of the remaining Imperial Navy and is captured. Meanwhile, Norra Wexley, a decorated pilot from the Battle of Endor who helped blow-up the Death Star II has returned to her homeworld of Akiva to reconnect with her abandoned teenage son, Temmin. Slowly but surely, Norra is drawn into a plan to rescue Wedge and discover what the Empire is attempting to do on Akiva.

‘Aftermath’ isn’t just a heart-warming story of a mother and son bonding over a hostage extraction, there’s a Zabrak bounty hunter, a highly-modified Clone Wars era battle droid (‘ROGER ROGER!’) and an alcoholic Imperial deserter thrown in to the mix. From this, Wendig pulls this unlikely group of individuals together into a team of freedom fighters worthy of the Rebel Alliance.

There’s an equally disparate group of Imperials in the novel, trying to understand the new galaxy they live in and unsure whether to take the fight to the New Republic or run like hell before they’re tried for war crimes. Admiral Rae Sloane has brought the Imperials together, including a bigoted bully of a Grand Moff, a master tactician and one of Palpatine’s inner circle, who wants the group to continue to embrace the dark side. I thought these characters and their discussions provided a pretty accurate view as to how the Empire might have reacted in the face of losing their leadership and much of their power.

Scattered throughout the novel are ‘Interludes’ detailing snapshots of what is happening in the galaxy as the Empire falls. We see the toppling of a statue of Palpatine on Coruscant, reminiscent of Russia or Iraq. On Chandrila, the New Republic’s PR machine attempt to establish how the New Republic will be different to the Empire. Across the galaxy, slaves are released, new criminal gangs are being created on Coruscant’s notorious level 1313 and there’s a crime power-vacuum on Tattooine with the demise of Jabba the Hutt. Wendig does a very good job of showing us how the galaxy is slowly but surely coming to terms with the loss of the Empire.

What you don’t really get is a sense of what has happened to the movie’s lead characters. Han and Chewie turn up for one chapter but, apart from casual mentions of Luke and Leia, they don’t make an appearance. This novel is not ‘Heir To The Empire’, Timothy Zahn’s ‘Return Of The Jedi’ sequel, that kicked-off the old Expanded Universe, this is a more focused effort, a microcosm of what is happening, with glimpses of the effect of change on the wider ‘Star Wars’ universe. There may even be hints as to what is to come in ‘The Force Awakens’, as Wendig shows us the black market trade in abandoned Sith artefacts sought out by fanatics.

Wendig has a writing style that may irritate some but I found to be quite refreshing. There’s a brevity in his prose and an immediacy that is suitable for this quick picture of a galaxy at a turning point. The literary equivalent of a rolling news channel. He writes his central characters well, too, with the relationship between Norra and her son being a particular highlight. I predict there’s one non-human character that readers will love, too.

If you were expecting the continued adventures of Han, Chewie, Luke and Leia then this novel will come as a disappointment, but if you’re keen to see what happens to the galaxy when structures of control have been destroyed and new alliances and opportunities are found, ‘Aftermath’ does a good job of showing how that might happen. Hopefully, Wendig will be given the chance to contribute again to the ‘Star Wars’ range and build on what he has begun here. Until then, how many sleeps until December the 18th?

John Rivers

September 2015

(pub: Century/Random House. 379 page hardback. Price: £19.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78089-364-8)

check out websites: www.randomhouse.co.uk and www.starwars.com

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Category: Books, Star Wars

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