Finality is such a hard thing to understand and accept. When Star Wars Return of the Jedi left theaters in 1985 many of us, only kids at the time, wondered if this saga was really over. As a kid of course your mind will ponder that fact for about three minutes and then you are off to play lazer tag with your friends. When the years and the mileage of life stacks up, you begin to look at stories with perspective. With plenty of wars in our own galaxy, we understand its self-perpetual motion that never really ends. Good friends one day become enemies the next. What is thought of as good policy today, sets the stage for endless horror a decade later. It is in our later years that we look back at Return of the Jedi and question our childhood assumptions. War is never easy nor does it ever really end and after thirty long years we will revisit that many decades old question. What happened after the Battle of Endor, in the novel Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig.
We will break this review into three parts. The first part will be a traditional brief novel review. The second will be an inch deep and mile wide look at the main story itself. While the last part will be a summary into the many “Interlude” parts of the book. There is a fair amount of material to dissect and discuss and of all it tantalizing good.
First and foremost Aftermath is an engaging, fun, thought provoking ride that will keep you engaged and thirsting for more. To put it simply it’s just plain great Star Wars. The tempo is suberb and the affection and attachment to the characters is real and complete. There are great personalities here and they feel like they belong in our galaxy far far away.
All of this is achieved by the talented pen of Chuck Wendig. I am not going to bullshit this because Chuck and his flat out, get to the point, in your face writing deserves it. With a writing style so reminiscent of Hemmingway, Chuck Wendig can create a vivid scene dripping with detail with four words that would take most writers a page to describe. I am a big fan of Hemmingway and while reading Aftermath, I picture Mr. Wendig standing at his bedroom dresser typing away in a wife beater in the sweet sun of somewhere in Cuba in the 1930’s. This is a G rated site, but on this occasion I must insist. Chuck Wendig’s writing is f-ing made for Star Wars and there is no one better to kick off the first novel that defines this new era.
Star Wars: Aftermath
In this review we will go an inch deep and mile wide to review this novel. There are some minor spoilers, but nothing that would ruin the plot in any way.
The spine and recurring theme of this novel is that the Empire is in chaos after the death of the Emperor and his Dark Lord of the Sith Darth Vader. More importantly, the Imperial military forces and the regional governors that they protect. After the Battle of Endor many star systems fell to immediate rebellion once news of the demise of the second Death Star and Emperor was revealed. Many of those systems now put their faith in the fledgling New Republic which is now headed by Mon Mothma. There are also a vast amount of systems that are still firmly in control by the Empire such as Keyyyshk and Coruscant. Chuck Wedig describes an Imperial force with scarce limited supplies and young inexperienced officers that have been rushed into service from the academies due to the massive loss of seasoned veterans that were stationed on the second Death Star. From machine parts, food, ammunition to just about everything, the Imperial Forces are on the defensive and fracturing nearly everywhere. The state of which is very reminiscent of the German Army near the end of their defeat in World War Two.
It is in these times of chaos that some realize their potential to get ahead and stand out. One of which is a rampart of a character, solid as steel , cunning and ambitious Fleet Admiral Rae Sloan. The novel starts off with her capturing one of our heroes from long ago, Wedge Antilles who is deep in the outer rim in his Sky hopper craft above the planet Akiva. Wedge, sitting in a blaster scored Sky hopper is present at this lonely planet in the outer rim on a mission of his own design. Wedge Antilles, hero of both battles against both Death Stars, convinces Admiral Ackbar and the leadership of the New Republic to send out pilots disguised as smugglers, merchants and black marketers throughout the outer rim to locate the Imperial remnant and their supplies lines. Although the Empire is hurting for material and personnel there is still a steady stream of supplies feeding it’s still substantial enterprise. Wedge Antilles is convinced the Imperial Remnant is hiding in the outer rim and so the search must be made in these dangerous outlying planets in the outer rim. Reluctantly, Ackbar and the leadership agree and the covert missions are launched.
Wedge has already been searching a few planets before he arrives in the loneliness of space above the hot humid jungle planet of Akiva. In those lighting quick moments Wedge realizes he has stumbled across the enemy he has been searching for, as his comm’s are jammed and soon after a Star Destroyer comes out of hyperspace. At the helm of the Star Destroyer Vigilance is Fleet Admiral Rae Sloane, who eventually captures Wedge Antilles in a game of chicken that starts out pitting his Star hopper against the mammoth vessel and ends up with Wedge hiding in the duct work of the Imperial Star Destroyer.
Wedge Antilles capture begins the series of events that lead to our main story in Aftermath. The surprised unforeseen event of a New Republic pilot and the Imperial Fleet Admiral finding each other by mistake above Akiva, will set in motion the events for a thrilling Star Wars adventure .
This critical event threatens the Empire as their presence on Akiva was to remain a secret. It is here in this hot and humid backwater planet that the remaining leadership of the Empire would meet in secret and hammer out the future of the Galaxy. Only now put at risk by Wedge Antilles, who for the moment was unsuccessful at alerting the New Republic of the Empire’s secret presence.
High above Akiva another ship just is coming out of hyperspace and runs into the same Imperial blockade. This smugglers vessel contains our main hero Norra Wexley, a recently retired veteran pilot and hero of the New Republic, who is fighting her way through this Imperial blockade to get home to her Son, Temmin, who she left behind three years earlier. Norra is a veteran drained of war and wishes no more part of it. Suffering from PSTD and an incredible guilt of leaving her son Temmin behind, she is determined to break into Myrra, get her son and find a way off planet to start a new life. All of this gets interrupted of course and our lead heroine must once again dive into the horror of war to save Captain Wedge Antilles, who’s local emergency broadcast is picked up by Norra. A broadcast and presence of all these Imperials can only lead to a conclusion that something big is going down on the sweltering jungle planet of Akiva. A critical message for Admiral Ackbar and the New Republic.
Meanwhile on the planet surface in the capital city of Myrra, we get introduced to Norra’s son Temmin. A young man who is coming into his own who just feels and acts like a perfect mix of Anakin Skywalker and Ezra Bridger. This young entrepreneur has carved out a life for himself in the three years that his parents have been gone. Becoming a collector and black market guru in Myrra, Temmin is going places, albeit slowly. He recognizes that in order to really make headway in this business, big moves and risks must be taken when opportunity presents itself. In this case he just happens to steal merchandise from Akiva’s most brutal crime lord. A booty that he keeps along with his other top wares in the secret basement of his junk shop above. This all comes to a head when the crime Lords thugs come to punish and question Temmin which leads to an incredibly fun melee in the junk shop. His saving grace, is a character that this Author is in love with. Temmin is a engineering genius and his favorite creation is Mr. Bones, a B1Battle droid from the Clone Wars era that has been heavily modified with a lethality that would make Arnold Schwarzenegger flinch. I love this droid and his companionship to Temmin is even closer than R2 is with Luke. Mr. Bones has been there for Temmin in those lonely three years and will do anything to protect his master. It is during this melee that his mother comes and saves Temmin and they are reunited.
Although Akiva has remained in the Empire’s control for some time its presence on this backwater planet has been minor. That has changed however as security preparations are underway to protect those high value officials that would be arriving shortly. This increased presence has not gotten unnoticed by the citizens, gangsters and those who wish to melt away into the background on Akiva. Two of those who wish to remain anonymous are our next two heroes in this adventure. One is a experienced bounty hunter whose dedication to professionalism of her craft is of the utmost and the other is a former Imperial Loyalty Officer and veteran of The Battle of Endor who deserted long ago. This Zabrak bounty hunter, carrying her modified long range Czerka slugthrower is Jas Amari. She in on Akiva trying to claim a bounty put out by the New Republic for one of these high value targets. Hidden away on an old rusted roof top on Myrra’s defunct capital building, she waits for her prize. Just when she is ready to act, events play out that changes her mind and provides her more opportunity to collect substantially more. It’s during this time that she is discovered and she is captured by the most powerful gangster on Akiva, a Sulustan named Surat Nuat whose thugs drag her into one of his cantina’s where she is seen by our next unlikely hero.
Sinjir Rath Velus is a deserted Imperial Loyalty Officer and accomplished alcoholic, wasting away in the catinas of Myrra. Sinjir is a veteran of the Battle of Endor and content with not getting involved with anyone except a bottle of whatever spirit is being pushed across the bar. The “Han Solo” of our rag tag bunch gets involved in a scuffle early on and eventually gets entangled with Myra’s most powerful crime lord when he recognizes Jas. Both of which end up captured and imprisoned by Surat Nuat. It is during their escape in the dirty festering Myra cantina that also serves as a crime base, that our two unlikely heroes escape only to run into Temmin who is about to be tortured and killed by Nuat. The boy captured after a falling out with his mother Norra. Jas is convinced she needs the boy to fix her damaged rifle and they rescue Temmin and escape in a fun and exciting melee.
Our cast of heroes will embark on a fast paced fun and very Star Wars –esk journey to save Wedge Antilles, communicate with the New Republic and bring down the Imperial leadership in this really great and wonderful novel. The drama ranges from deep within the catacombs of Myrra , which is very reminiscent of the Mines of Moria, from Lord of the Rings, to the beauty of space above Akiva. Our heroes will endure and sacrifice to find each other and a part of themselves they never knew existed. In the journey between pages you will understand the important backstory of our characters and how they fit into the canon we know and love.
The ending of this culminates in a really surprising conclusion for the Empire. Without giving too much away, it becomes obvious to the remaining Imperial elites that the Empire they knew would never return. Instead the rot will have to be cut away so the body can live. The ending is rather important and for this review we do not wish to spoil it. We will have more about this ending coming soon.
The rag tag group of our heroes definitely shares similarities with our heroes on the animated series Star Wars Rebels. With Temmin as Ezra, Norra as Hera, Sinjir as Kanan and Jas as Sabine. I would say that Mr. Bones is like Chopper, but no way no how. This new battle droid is on a completely different level. Although these characters are similar in some regards, they bring a more sophisticated development that you will have you scream for more. Aftermath feels so right within the Star Wars universe,that in its present state it would make a fantastic A Star Wars story motion picture. We are very lucky to have Aftermath be the first of a trilogy for those reasons, as these characters have some serious staying power. In short, Aftermath is just plain good Star Wars.
As mentioned earlier in this review Aftermath is setup with Interludes that are embedded in the novel. Small one or two page snippets that start new threads into some fantastic story lines. This Author is not going to beat around the bush, these new threads have me more excited than even the main story of Aftermath. Whether by complete invention by Chuck Wendig or the Star Wars story group, or both, they are insanely awesome and we look forward to reading more about them. We will lay these out in a simple fashion one after the other. Please remember these interludes are incredibly brief and give very little information.
Tracene Kane is a reporter getting ready to interview the very nervous and new Public Relations Representative for the new Galactic Senate, Olia Choko on Chandrilla. Chandrilla is also the home world of Mon Mothma, the new Chancellor of the New Republic. There is a huge ceremony in the city as the new galactic Senate walks into their new building and the history books but also present are protesters. One of which gets angrily involved by throwing rotten fruit which engages Olia into speaking with the disgruntled citizens and admitting that there is lots of work to do in rebuilding the galaxy.
A scene around the family dinner table at the Taffral house where two sons and a father are rehashing old arguments. The argument is one son firmly behind the Rebellion and the other with the Empire, with a stoic calm father in the middle. Until of course violence breaks out and one son leaves with his father’s blessing while the other son is knocked out.
Mon Mothma walks amongst the burning ruins of Naalol where a battle has just taken place as New Republic Forces are hunting the Empire to their fall back garrisons on planets of strategic insignificance. Mon Mothma is walking with her advisors as she is tormented by the waste and killing of endless war. In this important but brief Interlude, Mon Mothma declares “It is vital that we demilitarize our government so that a galactic war cannot happen like this again” to the dismay of her advisors. A bold move to be sure but perhaps short sighted. This one Interlude is the first that has a direct connection to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
The Imperial Academy is destroyed by the New Republic and as guards are securing the area, a hover bus arrives with a load of new Imperial recruits. One of which is Pade who confronts the Rebel soldier to demand where should they all go. The soldier is dismissive and tries to tell the young man that is up to him. A short conversation ensues and an offer is made if they want to join the Rebellion. Many of these young recruits were conscripts and have no place to go with many of their families lost during the war. Pade takes up the offer.
Coronet City, Corellia
Two bounty hunters are battling it out in a lighthearted melee on a rooftop. One young and one older, are fighting over something that comes straight out of the funny dark comedy Grosse Pointe Blank, staring John Cusack and Dan Aykroyd. The older bounty hunter Dengar tries to convince the younger Mercurial Swift to join his Bounty Hunter Union to protect the Bounty business, now that the New Republic is running things. Mercurial wants no part of a Union group and wants to stay a lone killer. Who would have thought, Martin Blank in Star Wars.
In the slave spice mines of Sevarcos a massive battle is underway between the Imperials and New Repubic forces. Three slaves in the middle of this volley decide to use the opportunity to break their shackles and run for freedom. During the onslaught it isn’t apparent who is winning or losing but during their escape they battle their Imperial Slave masters and let loose three Rancors out of their holding pen. Chaos ensues and in the end they are free but lost on who won or who lost.
This is by far my favorite Interlude of the whole book and it has a direct connection to the events in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Although extremely brief, these simple two pages were fascinating and bring up many questions. The Interlude starts off with a red lightsaber lighting up the darkness. The blade is being handled by a long snouted Kubaz who is standing before three individuals. Two in black robes with their faces concealed and a third, a young pale woman who is hunched over. Her hands plucking the air like a spider weaving a thread. Here they stand on a tentament on Taris, in a tick infested ruble of a room with graffiti of Vaders helmet bearing the words Vader Lives on the walls. A sale is being arranged, credits for this lightsaber. The young pale woman asks “Is it really his lightsaber?” to which the seller responds “It’s the Sith Lord’s laser sword, sure enough”. “How do we know it’s Vaders blade?” to which the seller replies “You don’t. But it’s a lightsaber isn’t it? And it’s red. Isn’t that the color you seek? After a time of counting credits the sale is complete. The seller asks this group of three who they are, as he insists they are not Jedi. “We are Adherents”, she hisses. “Acolytes of the Beyond”. He then asks the most amazing question in the entire novel “What do you plan on doing with that thing?” to which they reply in the most deadpan way “We will destroy it, so that it can be returned to its Master in death.”
Han Solo and Chewbacca are punching a hole in hyperspace. They are bored beyond belief and Han is reminiscing about the freedom of the old days. They eventually come out of hyperspace above the planet Dasoor. A dangerous planet full of thieves, run by gangs (who are in turn run by a crime cartel) and powered by slaves.To vile for even a young Han Solo to venture into, much less the seasoned veteran. They are on a mission like Wedge Antilles, in trying to locate the Empire supply lines. That is until their mission gets interrupted by a call from an old smuggler Imra who has an opportunity for Han with a small time window. Chewie is agitated on what she shows next as it is his homeworld of Kashyyyk. The Wookie planet is still in lockdown by the Imperials but word is many Imperials are leaving without a date on when they will be returning. If there was a chance for rebellion now would be the time. Han is torn about continuing his mission as the leadership expects or going to possibly save the Wookies of Kashyyyk, but ultimately he makes the choice to save Chewie’s homeworld.
Jak is a thirteen year old boy who ventures into the deep underworld of level 1313. He meets with a known crime boss and presents a matte black card with letters that glow red. A trinket that signifies that he has accomplished something great and deserves payment from the crime syndicate. It is also his birthday and during this discussion with the crime boss he is given a gift, a gift that he can’t refuse.
A red headed orphaned boy by the name of Iggs is standing in line with a small group of other children in the city of Theed on Naboo. Here wealthy parents are looking for refugee orphaned children for adoption. Iggs wants no part of it and wants to continue his work back on Coruscant disrupting the Empire by striking from the shadows. The group of orphans were so successful that they began calling themselves The Anklebiter Brigade from Coco-Town. Jak isn’t interested in begin adopted and sneaks away trying to get back to Coruscant.
Adwin Charu is on the desert planet of Tatooine looking for the best wares this stinking group of Jawas have to offer. The Jawas refuse to even show their best goods to this stranger as per their policy of establishing lots of business over the course of time, before anyone gets a peek into their good stuff. Adwin has a job to do here for his boss and it’s not for bringing back junk. That is when an old man appears behind Adwin and offers up his services to him. Having done plenty of business with these Jawas before, Cobb Vanth helps Adwin gain access with the Jawas. During this bargin hunt he brings up questions for Adwin about why he is on Tatooine. Adwin responds that he is with this new mining company (a front for a criminal outfit). After looking through the good stuff, Adwin comes across something great. A complete set of Mandalorian armor, (from presumably BobaFett). They have another brief discussion on how there is a power vacuum after the demise of Jabba the Hutt and who will replace him. As Adwin proceeds to take the armor, Cobb insists that he wants it instead. A gun show down reminiscent of the old west, Cobb gets the better of Adwin and shoots him in the shoulder and takes the armor, insisting he is the new Law Man of Tatooine.
This is a dead place, Corwin Ballast thinks. In this interlude we are finally getting insight into the barren wasteland of Jakku. A planet many of us have been itching to know more about since its reveal at Star Wars Celebration. Out in this wasteland there is nothing. Nowhere, stretched wide and made ifinite – a beautiful description by Chuck Wendig. The people are desolate, scarred, scavengers, the castoff’s and dregs of the galaxy’s populace. In this interlude the character Corwin Ballast who has made his way to Ergel’s bar where he takes down some truly unique and disgusting spirits. His brief discussion with the bartender, is short but gets down to the question of why he is on Jakku. The answer astounds the bar keep as he cannot believe Corwin’s answer. A man tired of war after losing his wife and daughter in the crossfire between the Rebels and Imperials. He thinks Jakku will be spared from war being at the farthest edge in the outer rim. As the bartender replies “If the war comes here, I’ll buy you all the KnockBack Nectars you want”. As we know they both are in for one insane surprise.
This is our first review of Aftermath and we here at the post will have more in the near future. There is much more to discuss and we look forward to hearing your own reviews. Star Wars Aftermath is an excellent novel and worth the $20 bucs. Like I said before in this review, it’s just plain good Star Wars.