Note: This is a spoiler-free review of Chuck Wendig’s Star Wars: Aftermath.
The war is not over. That sentence is the driving premise behind Chuck Wendig’s Star Wars: Aftermath. The book — the first of a trilogy — is the first canonical foray into the Star Wars timeline past Return of the Jedi. The second Death Star has been destroyed, and Emperor Palpatine has been killed. But cutting off the proverbial head wasn’t enough to take down the giant snake of the Empire. Aftermath picks up months after the game-changing events on Endor and presents a picture of a galaxy in the middle of the messy process of transformation.
Everyone is trying to find his or her place in the new order on both sides. Aftermath doesn’t present one side of the war. We split our time more or less evenly between Rebels like Norra Wexley and Wedge Antilles and Imperials like Admiral Rae Sloane. By using a single, important encounter with those characters at the core, Wendig is able to branch out and make statements about the beliefs, victories, and struggles of each group. You come away with an idea of how much has changed in recent months, how much has stayed the same, what kind of forces each side has, and who’s really in power.
If you’re a fan of Wendig’s writing style, you’ll be happy to know it’s present here. His narration style for this novel is different and won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I like the urgency of it. The tone is snappy but not short, if that makes sense. Each sentence, each description of action, each joke — it all hits you right between the eyes in the exciting head rush sort of way. No space is wasted, and we dive deep inside the inner workings of our lead characters. I’m a Rebel through and through, but boy, Wendig picked up where John Jackson Miller left off and made me admire the hell out of Sloane and how she carries herself.
Outside the politics and battles, Wendig excels at illustrating how the fall of the Empire affects or doesn’t affect everyday citizens. Interludes take you out of the main story and on trips around the universe for vignettes of day-to-day life. These breaks are like pause buttons, and give Wendig the opportunity to weave in connections to the known universe including some familiar faces fans will be very happy to see and the chance to give the story scope. Some of the seeds planted here could be picked up in the next two books of the trilogy, but not all of them have to be. The point is to pull back and see the bigger picture, and the interludes accomplish that.
Back to those connections to the known universe. Without giving away specifics, I’m thrilled to see Wendig reference characters and locations from across the Star Wars timeline — The Clone Wars to the original trilogy. Everything gets its due. This is sort of tied into the weak point of the book for me though. There are references to popular lines within the dialogue, and the number of them falls on the side of too many.
Aftermath isn’t a book about giving you answers, but that makes sense because the story is in a place where there aren’t any answers to be had — not permanent ones. The theme is transition and how damn difficult it can be. Wendig neatly captures the current states of the Empire and Rebel Alliance and does so through flawed, real, and nuanced characters. His writing gets you up close and personal with anyone we come in contact with, whether we spend chapters with them or only a few pages. Wendig does wonders with dialogue and voice and carving out space for everyone to breathe. Aftermath is a strong foot forward into unexplored territory and puts down just enough foundation that you can start picturing the Resistance and First Order of The Force Awakens taking shape.
This review was completed using a copy of the book provided by Del Rey.