Book Review: Star Wars Aftermath by Chuck Wendig

Aftermath_Random-House1The galaxy is reeling and planet Earth is no different – the status quo for the Star Wars universe has changed and for the better. When we last visited Star Wars, or at least when I last visited that galaxy far, far away things were… a little bloated.

It was as bloated as Jabba on his throne. He was certainly big and maybe majestic but most of him was hollow. The sale of Star Wars to Disney was not so much turning back time but a well deserved session of liposuction: The Hutt maintains his position but becomes more mobile, more svelte and sleek.

And now we have Star Wars Aftermath. Chuck Wendig has written not the first new Star Wars novel, but the first novel to go beyond Return of the Jedi, where once we had the Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn. Previous to Heir to the Empire, all the new novels were set either before the Episode IV or  between it and Episode V.

In the first few pages of Aftermath it’s immediately apparent just how much of the Star Wars universe has changed. Han and Leia aren’t married with kids. Chewbacca hasn’t been crushed by a moon. And there’s no, absolutely no Yuuzhan Vong. All that remains is the Aftermath of the Death Star’s destruction and the Empire’s fall.

Wendig handles this major turning point with aplomb. He acknowledges the toll both the Rebels, now the New Republic, and what remains of the Empire have taken. From all the cheering at the end of the Return of the Jedi (special edition) comes torment and tragedy as the rest of the galaxy still has to fight for its freedom even as Endor and a few other worlds set up a new government.

It’s those interludes, when Wendig has the chance to show his writing chops, that the Star Wars universe really expands to become what I remember. The grit and grim are a burden but through it all sentient life prevails against the hardships and the turmoils of such tumultuous times, and in doing so it gives people hope. And Star Wars Aftermath

Yes there may be heroes and villains clearly on each end of the morality spectrum in Star Wars but the vast expanse of the galaxy is somewhere in between which keeps it interesting. And Wendig gets to work with that, creating a complex situation for his new characters to overcome. He does so through short yet evocative sentences that pull you back into the Star Wars universe and left me feeling like I was watching the movies all over again.

Star Wars Aftermath is the first in a planned trilogy by Wendig, the second and third books are set to come out in 2016 and 2017. And in some ways it’s a shame the first book wasn’t longer, because as it stands there’s no incentive for a sequel. The characters were interesting and clearly filled the Lucas’ required roles for a good Star Wars story, but they weren’t captivating. None of them had enough of arc or inkling of a back story that made me want to read more.

If anything this was an introduction, or reintroduction to the Star Wars universe. For those of us who are fans or were fans and know a decent amount of the lore from the old Expanded universe Wednig has peppered details throughout that harken back to that very universe – the witches of Danthomir being one of the most notable in Star Wars Aftermath. Which means it’ll be interesting to see what’s still considered canon.

Overall, Star Wars Aftermath is a ripping good yarn. It’s well paced and expertly written. It’s a book that satisfies your need for more of the Force but doesn’t have the staying power of some of the older books. Hopefully, Wendig will get to expand on his characters in the sequels while adding more of those interesting interludes. Regardless, give it a read to travel once more to a galaxy far, far away.

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Greg Pellechi ThumbnailReview by: Gregory Pellechi
Gregory Pellechi used to work in the Middle East and Southeast Asia  but now calls Finland home. He wishes he had more free time to read and write – the latter of which he does far too little of for himself. Greg will read just about anything and these days that includes books (albeit easy-readers) in Swedish, but prefers Cyberpunk, Speculative Fiction and Star Wars. You can visit his blog at www.gregorypellechi.com where he runs the podcast Fulltime HEL. He’s also on Twitter (@SvenNomadsson); just remember the time difference if you’re expecting a prompt reply.

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