Written by: Chuck Wendig
Published by: LucasBooks
This has been one of my most anticipated books of the summer and I must admit that I had not been successful in suppressing my expectations. I’m not really a Disney fan but one thing you can count on Disney doing is maintaining the value of a franchise. Just from a purely fiscal perspective I’ve got great faith in Disney protecting the Star Wars vision. After all Lucas himself has set the bar rather low. So I was expecting great things from Aftermath and I’m rather crushed that those expectations have been dashed.
So one of the consequences of Disney buying Lucasfilm is the striking of the cannonness of decades of EU (Expanded Universe) material. There has been a lot of wailing and lamentation of this fact but I was rather excited by the prospect. The slate had been wiped clean, other than the movies themselves, and it’s not like Disney was going to ignore the demand for Star Wars material. And sure enough it wasn’t long before a list of titles as long as a wookie’s arm was released. Most of the stories interestingly are set in between the movies, but Aftermath is the first novel in the bunch that takes place in a post Return of the Jedi world.
Palpatine is dead, so is Vader. Pieces of the second Deathstar are still falling out of orbit around the forest moon Endor along with the cream of the Imperial Navy. The Empire is not dead though. The head may have been struck but the body is still flopping around. As the former rebels strive to transform themselves from a rebellion into a functioning government the Imperial remnants are trying to sort out who is in charge.
Wedge Antilles has parked his X-Wing with two Deathstars painted on its side and is temporarily piloting a beat-up tramp freighter trying to find where the Imperial remnants are being supplied. Shortly after jumping into the Akiva system Wedge notices that all his communications have been jammed and immediately realizes he’s probably found what he is looking for, but before he can plot a new course out of the system to somewhere he can alert the New Republic forces he’s caught in a tractor beam and basically removed from the narrative.
Meanwhile in a wild coincidence as Wedge is being tractored into a Star Destroyer a former rebel pilot is returning to Akiva to reunite with her son who she had abandoned years before to run off and fight the Empire. Not knowing about the increased Imperial presence the smuggling ship she has booked passage on stumbles right into a patrol of TIE fighters. After a moment of hesitation she stares down the grizzled smuggler and takes over the flying of the ship, because grizzled smugglers in life and death situations always hand over the yoke to other pilots they don’t know that well because she has that hundred yard stare. After some hair-raising barnstorming Norra Wexley, that’s her name, has evaded the surviving TIEs and has found her estranged son just in time to save him from a bunch of thugs.
Meanwhile a bounty hunter is poised in the highest point of the city with one of the Empires biggest moneymen in her sights. Just as she is about to take the shot though she sees several more high ranking Imperials appear and her plans suddenly change.
Meanwhile in a grungy bar with a “no imperials” sign behind the bar a disillusioned Imperial survivor or the Battle of Endor is getting drunk. Of course you know all of these people are going to end up forming a unlikely band to disrupt the Imperial summit that is taking place on Akiva.
Sprinkled randomly through the narrative are little vignettes of the impact that the Battle of Endor had on the lives of people all over the Galaxy. These are welcome interludes and are actually some of the highlights of the book. I think one of the things that everyone was hoping for from Aftermath was some hints to the world that The Force Awakens will take place in, but other that some subtle hints at what the Empire ends up morphing into there weren’t really any details.
There is a lot going on here, but after a twist and a red herring or two it all comes together and the good guys win and the remaining bad guys ride off into the sunset shaking their fist shouting “next time”, figuratively of course.
I had a hard time liking the protagonists. This is Star Wars you are supposed to like the good guys, yeah Luke may have been a bit whiny at first but I mean come, on all of his friends had already gone on to the Academy. This rag tag band just never could capture my sympathy. Worse than that though the Imperials come across as a bunch of bickering bureaucrats. Imperials are supposed to be menacing. Yes, I understand that the cream of the crop went down with the Deathstar over Endor but you can’t have a good Star Wars story if the Stormtroopers are bumbling buffoons.
I like the idea that Disney is experimenting with new authors and taking some chances, but unfortunately they barely got on base with this one. Of course we all know that’s not going to stop me from sampling the next Star Wars books as they come out.