The most anticipated Star Wars novel in recent memory – probably ever, if the recent hype is anything to go by – has at last arrived. Last week as part of the Force Friday celebrations, in which Disney and associated vendors released the first gigantic wave of Star Wars: The Force Awakens merchandise, Del Rey chose to join in on the fun by giving us our first glimpse at the post Return of the Jedi world. This is not the first book as part of the newly regulated and overseen canon, but it is the first to detail some of the many events that occurred after Vader and the Emperor were destroyed.
Spoilers will be present in this review. Dear Lord Vader, they’ll be present! So much to discuss. Peruse at your own peril.
The Empire isn’t finished just yet. It’s reach, beyond the former Death Star and the Battle of Endor, is extremely far and wide. They were running an entire galaxy, so the destruction of the Death Star hasn’t as of yet affected everyone. Not all people believe or even know about Palpatine’s demise. But the Galactic Empire is quickly losing its grip over the galaxy, and the New Republic (formerly known as the Rebel Alliance) is pushing their ground, and attempting as best they can to turn a new leaf for the many encompassing worlds. But this isn’t as easily said as it is done.
Aftermath is a book with far too many characters to balance, but one has to give credit to Chuck Wendig for trying. There are essentially three factions of individuals we follow: the Imperials on Akiva, the protagonist rebels on Akiva, and the New Republic.
Perhaps the novel’s most important message was the fact that several leaders, admirals, and Moffs of the Galactic Empire were meeting on Akiva to discuss the fate of the Empire, and what their next move should be. Whether to run, to fight, or other, we know that this small faction of the Empire must eventually become the First Order, in some capacity. And although that term is never actually mentioned, we do get a feel of how that eventually develops. The seeds are planted. Rae Sloane, who first appeared in A New Dawn, is back – and she’s pretty awesome. She’s up there with Grand Moff Tarkin as one of my favorite Imperials. I have a feeling she will be used in some capacity in the coming movie. Although there are other Imperials of import at this summit, the most interesting would definitely be Yupe Tashu who has an interesting fascination with the Dark Side of the force. He apparently was an advisor to Palpatine. Whether or not he is a force sensitive individual isn’t divulged, but he does appear to worship the Dark Side and the Sith.
The protagonists of the novel are a motley few who eventually band together against their common enemy, the Empire. They know something is up on Akiva, with the increased presence of the Stormtroopers and whatnot, but they don’t know what exactly. Norra Wexley, a mother who left her home to join the Rebels, comes back to Akiva, only to find her son Temmin involved in black market trading and theft. Jas Emari, a Zabrak bounty hunter, is thrown into the action as she’s hunting someone at said Imperial summit. The most interesting of our protagonists, however, is an ex-Imperial Loyalty Officer, Sinjir Rath Velus. It’s through him we realize the irony of a loyalty officer being the turncoat, and it’s because it was impossible for him not to see the faults within the Empire, and how it was rotting from the inside out.
As far as the way it was written, I must say it took some getting used to. Wendig has a habit of separating powerful lines of thought and action into their own seperate mini-tabbed paragraphs, something I rarely ever see done, especially in that frequency. But far more odd still was the amount of interludes playing out between nearly every chapter – and that’s no exaggeration. I’m curious if this was a conscious decision on his part, or a requirement from the Lucasfilm Story Group, the group in charge of maintaining and expanding the canon.
The interludes, sad to say, were the best part about the book. We learned more between the chapters than through the actual story playing out within the chapters through the characters’ point of views. I feel I actually perked up whenever I saw an interlude, because 9/10 times it either teased something major, followed a character I wanted to actually hear about, or take me to a part of the galaxy I wanted to know more about. And man, were some doozies dropped. In one we see Sith fanatics called the Acolytes of the Beyond fawning over what is almost certainly Darth Vader’s lightsaber, perhaps tying into the Force Awakens’ Knights of Ren. We get mentions of Boba Fett’s armor that’s been through hell (and back again), we find out what’s up with Han and Chewie, we get a mention of 1313… A whole lot of really cool stuff. It’s just a shame we had to exit the story nearly every chapter to get what amounted to a collection of really good short stories, detailing what happened after the Empire was given such a crushing blow. And I suspect these many side-stories will be expounded upon later on. There were a lot of promising new characters introduced in the canon within the interludes. I can’t help but think these are seeds to larger stories, books, comics and games that the Lucasfilm Story Group has big plans for.
More perplexing still, when it came to flashbacks, it was always incorporated in the form of a dream sequence. But you were never told the person went to sleep, or got knocked out, or are plain ol’ daydreaming. And this really took me out of the story. I didn’t care to know of their post-traumatic stress disorders, incurred from the war. The flashbacks were too intriguing to have just been thrown in randomly, and abruptly, often at the very start of chapters. I’d rather they weren’t present at all.
My largest qualm with this book is something I’ve noticed with every novel thus far, but only now am upset with. This book’s sole purpose is to bridge a gap. It, in itself, feels more like an interlude to the Star Wars history than it does a next chapter. This is an issue the Expanded Universe rarely had, and that is a major disappointment with this new series of books. I hope they can step their game up and give us a proper next chapter to the Star Wars lore, instead of having us sit through 30 years of “oh and this is what was happening behind the scenes”.
Now this part of my review dives into major spoiler and total speculation, if your mind can wrap your head around those two vastly contrasting notions. What I’m referring to is the unidentified imperial fleet admiral at the very end of the book. When all is falling apart for the fleeing Imperials, Rae Sloane says there is another weapon at their disposal that she neglected to tell anyone about. Pandion asks if he is still alive, after she mentioned previously that he died. She says yes. In the epilogue we meet this person. He’s a vile thing who apparently orchestrated much of the infighting between the imperial higher ups. We are never given his name, or appearance. The audiobook, however, made it sound exactly like Emperor Palpatine. And that is the only person Sloane mentioned had died to the other Imperials earlier in the novel. Could he still be alive somehow? Or is this supposed to be Supreme Leader Snoke (the new Dark Lord in Episode VII)? Perhaps this is taking a cue from the now non-canonical SWEU and giving us Thrawn? So much to think about. What are your thoughts?