I don’t think there was ever a book that has elicited so many different emotions from me after its completion. Last Friday, I was delighted to receive my review copy of Star Wars Aftermath: Empire’s End from the awesome folks at Del Rey. This new novel from Chuck Wendig is the third and final installment of the series and one that I have been eager to get my hands on. With two nights and a comfortable couch, loaded with an impressive wine and snacks, I hit the pages running like a Battle Cat charged with cocaine.
Star Wars Aftermath Empire’s End” has a tempo that is fast paced, -imagery that delights your inner iris and characters that feel like old friends. Chuck Wendig will make you swelter and scar your eyeballs describing the Plaintive Hand plateau on Jakku and make you cry as he captures the voice of Princess Leia in a sad reminder of our recent loss. Empire’s End is rock and roll, run and gun Star Wars that will carbon score your brain meat. The heroes are like family, and the stories have never felt more real and authentic in the Star Wars Galaxy.
The third installment begins with our group of heroes on the hunt for Admiral Rae Sloane. This elusive target, which went missing after the terror attack on Chandrilla is public enemy #1 for our primary heroine Nora Wexley. The famed pilot of the Rebel Alliance who is now fever bound to hunt the woman she feels is responsible for her husband becoming a brainwashed assassin. This planet hopping manhunt is the spine of “Empire’s End.” A confrontation in the making that lends itself to a dramatic conclusion beneath the hot sands of Jakku. Vengeance that runs in parallel with the same veracity for Admiral Rae Sloane and her desire to destroy Counselor Gallius Rax. The Supreme Admiral that has taken over the Imperial Remnant with cunning callousness and strength.
If vengeance is the spine of Empire’s End than the characters within it are its central nervous system, each one is familiar and feels like seeing family on holiday. For me, I could read every word about Sinjir and never feel full. He is my Doritos on paper, the more he talks, the more I want to learn about him. Nora, Snap and Jas are also engaging and expressive in their actions that make you root for them over and over again. Nora wants death; Jas wants to earn money while doing a little good and Temmin, well, he’s still worried about his Mom and wants to fly X-Wings. As for Mr. Bones, which now for some strange reason I hear Sidney Poitier’s voice yelling “THEY CALL ME MR. BONES!”, when I read him in the pages of “Empire’s End.” The idea of a murder bot teaching a bunch of bad kids in a downtrodden inner city school would make for an excellent spin-off novel. Regardless, our psychopathic droid does not disappoint in Empire’s End going on a killing rampage that would make Quentin Tarantino squee with glee. The melee’s in Empire’s End are gloriously well done and don’t skimp on the gory imagery.
As for our antagonists in Empire’s End, they remain mysterious, full of conviction and determined to stick to the plan. A devious machination from nonother than Palpatine himself. A final contingency order levied at Gallius Rax if Palpatine were into ever fall to the alliance. A Galaxy wide scorched Earth policy that Adolf Hitler might nod at or get big orange thumbs up from President Trump. If the Emperor is no more, then the Galaxy should follow suite.
The ploy, in this case, is Jakku itself and the battle that ensnares the fledgling new Republic in a showdown to end all showdowns. Like the “Rumble In The Jungle” or the “Thrilla in Chandrilla,” this bout will take the lion share of Republic Starships against the Imperial Remnant. The last of the gleaming white Stormtroopers, erratic, bloodthirsty and pushed to their breaking point. Sand scrubbed, hardened razors sharpened by Gallius Rax on the hot sands of Jakku. A place of scorched lungs, blinding heat, and cruel death. A planet that conveniently enough can serve as a makeshift bomb.
As the plots converge between Nora, Rae and Gallius in a secret observation facility in the bowels of Jakku, the battle for the end is both surprising and complete for the series. Chuck Wendig did an excellent service wrapping up the legacy of the Empire in a bow matted in blood and spirit. From the very end of the Battle of Endor to the voyage into the beyond, the Aftermath series sets the stage for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
There is also the great Interludes from Chuck, where we catch up with the Mando Armor wearing Law Man Cobb on Tatooine, to the Anklebiter Brigade on Coruscant, facilitating the end of the war. The Acolytes Of the Beyond are in there too, if only for a few delightful, mysterious pages with red lightsabers switching ownership. Then there is something special, and that is the return of Jar-Jar Binks in the lively city of Naboo. An interlude that is both charming and at the same time incredibly sad about the fate of our beloved character from the prequels.
Like I mentioned earlier in this review, this book did make me feel lots of emotions, especially within its final pages. It taught me some valuable lessons and had my thinking long and hard for the better part of a week. A good book makes you wonder; a great book makes you kick the trash can a week later. The last thirty pages brought out feelings of being deceived and cheated. Emotions that took a few days to sort out. With my family and me moving to a new place this week, it was a joy to sort of wrestle with my feeling about the ending of this book while drenched in the sweat of manual labor. I was wrong about the magnanimous Gallius Rax being Snoke, a character that would have made for an incredible back story for our new main villain in the saga. I felt Nora’s decision, in the end, didn’t make sense to her character, yet for the council of a really great guy, I understood why. I know this might sound strange, but I love to be wrong because that ultimately leads me to learn something new.
I will never be surprised about the experiences you learn while running a popular Star Wars fansite. You make a lot of mistakes in this hobby of blogging, and the lessons come down in a trickle some days and waterfalls in the next. Star Wars Aftermath “Empire’s End” taught me valuable ones that took a few days to flesh out. This new lesson was about approaching reviews for novels in the understanding that the vast majority of readers do not sift through every bit of news, interviews, and spoilers about Star Wars. With “Empires End” I sort of felt cheated that there wasn’t any big reveals or some new slab of meat we all could chew on. Instead, I found myself wanting to know more about the new era of Star Wars. Especially after three books in the series, I wanted something new, something that would blow my pants off into the next room. I didn’t get that in Empire’s End, but that’s because I am so ingrained with the every day in our Star Wars Galaxy, that my perception is skewed. For the person who barely keeps up with Star Wars and picks up “Empire’s End” at the airport, is going to be blown out the emergency hatch with smiles on their faces during their flight. They are going to marvel about the Plaintive Hand plateau and the secret research facility beneath Jakku because they didn’t obsess over the Junior book “Rey’s Survival Guide” for a year. I also learned that Star Wars novels are stories first and data points last. Enjoy the tale and worry about the clues later.
However, there is a point to be made, and I cannot stress this enough in particular for Lucasfilm. If Star Wars print is ever to leave the realm of “Meh, I might pick that up” to “Holy Jehoshaphat! I need to get my hands on that book!” it needs to have more information about the new era of Star Wars. Trusting the talented pen, of writers like Wendig and Gray to new elements and backstory for the principle characters in the episodic films is worth the risk. The movies are always a priority. However, there is room there to share more and propel Star Wars print to a must have.
The Star Wars Aftermath series has been wrought with unfair, unforeseen events. Like the douchebaggery of the Bring Back The Expanded Universe Sandinistas to the poor timing and exposure of the release of Star Wars Aftermath “Life Debt,” right before convention season. It’s this author’s hope that Star Wars: Aftermath “Empire’s End” get’s the credit and exposure it deserves this time around. Chuck Wendig has done a fantastic job with the series and explaining the new era of Star Wars in an excellent fun, run and gun style that feels authentic. It’s this Author’s sincerest wish that Lucasfilm continues its partnership with Wendig and his rock and roll pen. Whether for a spin-off film, animation series or new novels, we want more Wendig.
We will have more features on this great novel in the coming days, most of which will be spoilerific.
You can pick up Star Wars Aftermath “Empire’s End” today at your favorite bookstore. It’s worth every single penny.