Novel Recommendation: Star Wars: Aftermath

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If you don’t like this book because it has gay characters in it, because one of the characters struggles with PTSD, or even because Wendig made hamsters canon, go away. I wish this galaxy was far, farther away from your ignorance, negativity, and weird nerd rage towards small rodents. Go turn a lightsaber on underneath your Sarlacc pit and let the rest of us fans enjoy a fun romp in the Star Wars universe. Chuck doesn’t serve your kind here, thank the Force.

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about Star Wars: Aftermath.

Following the Battle of Endor and the destruction of the second Death Star, the Rebel Alliance, now turned  New Republic, continues to press their advantage against the Galactic Empire. What’s that? Didn’t the Rebels win when Vader threw Sidious into a glowing blue pit of energy and vaporizing his tyrannical ass? They had a party with the ewoks and everything! No, my fellow nerds, a war is not finished after one battle, no matter how decisive. There remains much to be done with many worlds still to free, many bases still to destroy, and many powerful enemies still to sniff out and eliminate. The New Republic may have the Galactic Empire on the run, but like a certain fallen Jedi left to burn in the lava of Mustafar, they are not dead yet.

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The bulk of the story follows Norra, a pilot for the Rebel All – sorry,  the New Republic – who has gone back to her home world of Akiva to reunite with her son. Unfortunately, what the reader knows that she doesn’t is that a number of high-ranking Imperial men and women have come to the planet for a summit under the watchful, calculating eye of Admiral Rae Sloane. Sloane has another pilot of the former Rebel Alliance under guard – one Wedge Antilles of the famed Rogue Squadron – who could cause serious problems for the Empire’s little meeting if he managed to get word to the New Republic. Throw in a smooth talking ex-Imperial, an honorable bounty hunter, a cynical teenager with a massive chip on his shoulder, alongside a murderous, re-programmed battle droid and I think we got ourselves a Star Wars story worthy of canon if I ever saw one.

I hate how much crap this novel, and its author, have gotten since it was released. Aftermath is a solid story filled with entertaining moments, enjoyable characters, and enough Star Wars lore embedded in its pages to make any fan happy. The best part about it is Chuck’s writing style which might not be everyone’s cup of blue space milk, but is entirely cinematic. The only other Wendig novel I’ve read is Blackbirds, and the entire time I was reading it I thought, “Man, this is an HBO show.” His work is incredibly visual, his word choice, sentence structure, and style combining to pull you into head-first into the story.  Yes, every novel is meant to come to life in your head, but Chuck’s work lingers in front of your eyes. I will admit there were a few more fragmented sentences than I would have liked and I too was not the biggest fan of “herkily-jerkily”. I will concede that point. However, on the whole, I enjoy Chuck’s writing style, and look forward to seeing what other animals he makes canonical in the Star Wars universe. May I recommend the platypus?

Another facet of the novel I’ve heard complained about is one that I felt elevated my interest in the book: the interludes. I loved getting these glimpses into random character’s lives who are being affected by the current shift in power. The end of Return of the Jedi is a simple, Disney happily-ever-after (ironically enough); it is the beginning of real change throughout the galaxy. This change, however, does not affect everyone equally. There are those who still agree with the Empire, those who are orphaned and confused no matter who’s in power, those whose standing shift as the galaxy does, and a myriad of others whose lives are not necessarily wrapped up in a perfect package because the New Republic is winning. I really enjoyed this aspect of Aftermath and can’t wait to see more of it in the next book of the trilogy, Life Debt

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Misses being part of the plot, Yoda does.

As to the main plot, I found it less engaging than I would have liked, but I remained intrigued throughout the novel’s duration. I would have preferred that the crux of the story be focused on Temmin and his problems with Surat, as the nature of the secret Imperial meeting that takes place on Akiva just wasn’t all that interesting. It felt as though Sloane was only half paying attention to those around her while constantly looking over her shoulder for the New Republic to come blasting down her door. Since she didn’t seem exactly all there amongst her fellow officers, I didn’t feel all that inclined to be either. I enjoyed her personality – stern and focused – but I would have liked to see more of who Rae Sloane is this first time around.

Unfortunately, all the characters are not fully three dimensional. Each fits into an archetype – the silver-tongued charmer, the badass but honorable bounty hunter, the scrappy kid with an attitude, and the soldier that says she wanted out but just can’t give up the cause – but that’s not a bad thing. Norra is a strong character who struggles with PTSD while trying to reunite with her son and continue doing the right thing when she has every right to walk away. Sinjir’s dialogue is fun, Jas is cool, and Temmin created the memorable Mr. Bones so he’s okay in my book. They could use a little more meat, but this is a trilogy and I’m excited to see how this group grows as the story progresses.

If you’re a Star Wars fan, you should have no problem enjoying this book. If you do have a problem and it has anything to what I listed in the first paragraph, well, you know what to go do. Star Wars: Aftermath is cinematic, fun, and overflowing with affection for the Star Wars universe. Chuck’s love for the source material drips off the pages, and that should be enough of an endorsement to pick this one up.

May the Force be with you, and your hamster!

 

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