Book Review: Aftermath (Star Wars: Aftermath #1) by Chuck Wendig

Sinjir winces, then stabs out a foot to catch the beast in the knee: a common weak point among the humanoid beings. But it’s like kicking a tree. Thud. The Herglic just looks down, then snorts. The alien lets go of the boy’s bound wrists and grabs Sinjir with both hands – hands big enough to tie a speeder bike into a pretzel twist. But slippery hands too, and Sinjir slides out of the grip and quickly goes for another weak point – the creature’s throat. He flips around, trying like hell to get his arms around the creature’s neck, but oops, no such neck exists. The Herglic chuckles, then jams his massive frame right, then left, each time smashing Sinjir into the wall – Wham! Wham!

Sinjir sees stars, his brain shook up like a cocktail.

A voice. Her voice. The Zabrak’s.

“The nose,” she says.

Then thrusts the heel of her hand forward.

Smashing it right into the Herglic’s nose.

The alien howls, his eyes squeezing shut. Some kind of saline slime-snot begins pooring out of his nasal perforations, and the poor lug slaps at his snout like it’s on fire.

“Get the boy,” she says.

Aftermath (Star Wars: Aftermath #1) Chuck Wendig

A fun and exciting book that is a departure from Chuck’s regular ‘profanity-rich’ work. It’s solid tie-in sci-fi that I think does a good job of capturing the old (and new again) Star Wars vibe.

I enjoyed it.

Disclaimer: I am a CASUAL Star Wars fan. I’ve watched and enjoyed the orginal movies and watched and…well I’ve watched the prequels. Ive read a single movie novelisation by a Donald F Glut. I have read exactly zero of the Star Wars Expanded universe. I personally don’t think my casualness makes a difference to my review, but hell, you might think it does and so I’ve put it here at the start.


It’s no secret that humanity is currently sarlacc-deep into the new Star Wars. The Force Awakens movie, the Star Wars BattleFront game, the massively popular BB-8 branded bag of oranges, and so on and so on.

How do you get so big eating food like this?

So much Star Wars.

Too much perhaps?

It was tough to maintain (A New) hope about Chuck’s book. Disney is riding this IP hard, and I worried that they couldn’t deliver on their promise. I worried the Star Wars universe would fall down exhausted, gutted by Disney in an effort to keep the cold and dying IP warm long enough to generate a few merchandise sales.

Thankfully, judging by they movie, the game (I am also a casual PS4 gamer and am enjoying the hell out of BattleFront), AND particularly this book, Star Wars is in safe hands.

Aftermath (Star Wars: Aftermath #1) – 4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis

This book picks up the Star Wars story shortly after the Return of the Jedi. Fresh from dancing with the Ewoks, the Rebellion is establishing itself as the New Republic, and the Imperials are in retreat.

Note that word – retreat. The Empire is scattered but still far from defeated. Whilst the second Death Star has been destroyed, there are many Imperial war assets still in play, Imperial Star Destroyers, TIE-fighters, soldiers, sympathisers. Some of the remaining forces have arranged a secret meeting on the backwater planet of Akiva to plan and ultimately execute a coordinated counterstrike against the ascendant Rebellion.

All that stands in the Imperials way is a an unlikely group allied with the Rebellion – a Rebel fighter pilot and her estranged son, a Zabrak bounty hunter, and an Imperial Defector. These few must work together to prevent a resurgence of the Empire.

Review

On addressing certain…criticisms

Because I’m so late to the Aftermath review party, I’m well aware of the rash of 1 star reviews that accompany this book, and I think that it’s worth recognising some of the reasons and complaints. I’m sure my two-cents worth will change exactly nothing, but I thought I might say a few words anyway (given there are no more than 100 or 200 thousand hot-takes on this issue already).

In brief though, I think the 1 star reviews are highly undeserved. I’ve left a grand total of one 1 star review (very recently) and that book was f…awful. Really awful.

Aftermath is anything but awful. It’s a damn fun book. It’s exciting, its got well developed and interesting characters, and it’s a quick and easy read.

I recommend it.

The Direction of Star Wars

This is possibly what I’m most excited about from this book (and by the new movie). What we see in Aftermath isn’t a defeated Empire and an established New Republic, with everyone holding hands and singing. The Imperials have split into factions, minor generals and Moffs taking over what power they can grab as a galaxy sick of living under their boot rise up and fight back. Meanwhile the Rebellion tries to establish control and a functional government whilst tracking down enemy bases and still working to free planets and whole systems. These political factors scream conflict, and Chuck gives us that in spades.

Star Wars is no longer the simple happy-ever-after-ending fairy story. After the Ewok dance ends and folks sleep off their Ewok beers, people wake up with Ewok hangovers, do their Ewok walks of shame, and then get right back to work. Fighting the good Rebel fight. Freeing prisoners and liberating planets.

Chuck brings us these changes, conflicts and challenging times in two ways. The main story is all its mostly entirely new characters – which is refreshing – and shows a small gang trying to make a critical difference to the outcome of this new situation. Obviously this story dominates the book, as it should. But critically the author also brings us the wider universe. There are cut-aways within the novel (called interludes), small peices showing just the start of other stories; a farming family divided over Empire/Rebellion loyalties, a prisoner uprising in a slave mine, an underhive-dwelling urchin gang attacking ‘bucketheads’, and a charming smuggler and his wookie companion striking off to free the world Kashyyk…none of these are completed (at least here they are not) but they give the story some real breadth. It shows that this is not just five people against the faceless mass of the Empire, it is a galaxy of conflict that is driving towards resolution. It’s a galaxy full of people; full of stories.

..But what about the people who care about the Star Wars Expanded Universe (the EU)?

Much of the negative commentary seems to be some sort of punishment for Disney scrapping the EU. I kind of understand this from some perspective. At least, its the complaint I have the most sympathy for.

Personally I am not invested in the EU and could care less whether these particular fictional stories become…more fictional I guess?… but that said, I do understand that fans care about stories, they care about continuity. As far as Star Wars EU fans are concerned they already know what happened after the second Death Star was destroyed and it wasn’t this. So I understand that there is some sense of betrayal that the stories they knew and loved were allocated to a non-canon category called ‘Legends’. I really do get that. As a fan of 40k, particularly the novels, I’ve seen stories and books and even whole races (squats anyone) in the game shift from canon to non-canon, and it can be exceptionally frustrating to see something you have invested in become suddenly…invalidated.

I nursed a 40k Black Legion army from the glorious 3.5 edition through the 4th edition Chaos Codex, so I know the pain of betrayal (sorry Gav, I enjoy your novels, but my Daemon Prince has never recovered). 

But is nostaliga enough to warrant ‘punishing’ a book with 1 star reviews? Personally, I dont think so. People can’t keep from changing and rewriting actual fricken history, so it shouldn’t be a suprise that fictional IP canon changes for everything, all the time. Superheroes change powers (Superman), gender (Thor), sexualtity (the Alan Scott Green Lantern), race (Miles Morales as Spiderman) even species (Thor – Beta Ray Bill and Thor again – Frog Thor ). Fiction changes and there is little a consumer can do about it.

The Star Wars EU isn’t gone. All the old stories still remain; they can still be read, if with some diminished relevancy. But things have moved on, and you can choose to move on with it and take what enjoyment is available from the new stories.

Exciting: It’s a page turner

I know I’ve said this before, but Chuck can write a hell out of a book. Like the Miriam Black series (although nowhere near as darkly profane as those books – this is Disney after all) Aftermath drags you from one page to the next, forcing you to read *just one more page* as you follow these people through the rapidly escalating story. The writing is clear, punchy, and colourful. The characters are sympathetic. The villains are interesting and nuanced.

Most importantly though (for me, at least), is the fact that he captured feel and the flavour of Star Wars from my childhood. The heroes feel real, rounded, and just a little bit scrappy, the locations feel lived in and dirty (none of the sterile hospital-ness of Star Trek here), and the story feels both individually personal and classically epic at the same time.

One minor criticism I will make is the interludes (yes, the same ones I liked so much earlier). Whilst they definitely created a sense depth within the story, it was a distraction from the main story line, particularly early on when we were still meeting characters. This created a little road-bump, a break in concentration in some moments when I wanted to follow the main story lines. Later in the book they became less intrusive (or I became better at reading these), and they caused less distraction/interruption. I don’t think that much could be done about this – they add too much value to exclude, and it is only a minor crit.

…But what about people who dont like Wendig’s writing style.

I saw some nonsense about excess-hyphens and overused-ellipses… if you don’t like it…well…that’s your choice isn’t it.

Writing style is a personal taste and it’s entirely possible to not like a particular author’s style. If you don’t like how Chuck writes, you are free to not like it. I personally think he writes a fine action-oriented book, and that he brings a powerful sense of pace and building momentum to a story. He writes in a straightforward and conversational manner, and the pages just seemd to fly by when I was reading it. It aint exactly literature, but I’m yet to see tie-in fiction that is.

Still, every person has their own opinion and this is mine.

Great NEW Characters

Loved the characters in this (with one-minor issue). They are people with backstories, with histories, and they act in believeable and realistic ways (realisitic for a space western anyway).

Easy favourite is Sinjir Rath Velus, the ex-Imperial Loyalty Officer (for those 40k fans – this would be a Commissar equivalent). Keeping his head down on Akiva to avoid attracting Imperial attention and the possiblity of identification, Sinjir spends his time drinking bad booze in worse bars. When the Imperials come, he is swept up in events against his will, throwing in with the Rebellion in order to get off planet while trying to hide his past from them at the same time. I thought Sinjir was great. Nowhere near as bitter or self-interested as he pretends, and seemingly ready to move on from his self-imposed misery, he was a dark(-ish) and capable character without being broody or melodramatic.

The female Zabrak (Darth Maul’s race) bounty hunter Jas Emari was interesting, if a bit less well developed (IMO). Again, whilst we dont see much of it, I got a strong sense that she is conflicted – struggling between her mercenary background and a (seemingly) newly developed sense of…something? Duty? Honour? It’s not clear. Even at the end when she reaffirms that she is sticking with the New Republic for money I didnt really believe that. I feel her character arc might mirror Han Solo’s travel from smuggler to Rebel General.

The other two characters were the Wexley’s – Norra (the Rebel X-Wing Pilot) and her mechanical genius/scrap merchant son Temmin. Their main story line is one of reconcilliation. Norra left her young son to join the Rebellion and search for her husband who was taken by the Imperials, and he is understandably bitter about that. These characters were fine, and the interplay between Norra and Temmin is believable.

That said…Temmin annoyed me a bit. Teenage characters annoy me generally – they whine a lot, make seriously stupid decisions…I mostly just want to scream at them to suck it up the Universe isnt about them. The other problem I had with Temmin was the ‘mechanical genius’ – I just got a ‘kid Aniken’ flashback with Temmin, and it stretched my goodwill a bit.

Minor issues (like me being an old fart and hating those kids on my lawn) aside, it was great to see all new characters. There are a couple of callbacks to the characters we know and love, but I’m glad its not a simple greatest hits story. There were more than 5 people in the universe, and I like seeing this bigger picture.

…But what about those people distressed over women and gay characters?

Sigh. Double sigh.

People have problems with women characters? Really? When I was a young(er) man (I’m 40) some of the greatest characters and heroes I consumed with were women. Ellen Ripley. Sarah Conner (T2 Sarah). Princess Leia. Lara Croft. Polgara. Morgaine (Mists of Avalon). Pretty sure that growing up consuming fiction including these centrally important women characters hasn’t had any negative results, or at least that’s what my wife is making me say.

(Clearly I’m kidding – my wife doesn’t read this blog.)

People have problems with homosexual characters. Really? I saw a number of reviews of this book that were seriously upset that a character or two was ‘homosexual’, and prior to actually reading the book I got the impression that Chuck had written some seriously steamy gay sex scene. A non-stop sweaty same-sex-stormtrooper bone-a-thon in the back of an AT-AT.

After reading it – there are a sum total of TWO references to homosexual relationships; one is a major character, and one of them I almost missed (a woman references her wife). That’s it. I think I was disappointed, it had been built up so much. Thing is, why does anyone care?

If you are worried about homosexual content, it’s you that has the problem. Let us know when you get over it, we’d love to welcome you over to the Light side of the force.


Whilst I seriously doubt anyone has got to the end of this (it’s nearly 2,500 words long – it kinda got away from me…), I suspect that a few people at least scrolled down here just to see the gifs. If you have any comments about this review, feel free to leave it. I should let most comments through (even contrary ones), provided of course that it’s polite.

If you cant be polite though…

Cheers

KT

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9 thoughts on “Book Review: Aftermath (Star Wars: Aftermath #1) by Chuck Wendig

  1. Hi there! I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed your post. To say it is great (not just this post, all of yours!) is an understatement. You are really talented (:
    Because of how much I loved this post I had to check out your blog and I couldn’t help but follow you because your blog is both amazing and beautiful! I am so happy I came across your blog and I can’t wait to read more from you, so keep it up (:
    By the way this comment is towards all of your blog posts because they are all equally amazing and incredible (:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Howdy – you are too kind. Thanks for the encouraging words, and I hope to not disappoint!

      I’ve followed you back – always on the look out for good book-bloggers, and (of course) good books.

      Cheers
      KT

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Aww you are so welcome! I am positive you won’t (: and thank you so much! You made my day, I can’t wait to see what you post next! (:

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Nicely done, KT. Your review of Aftermath was far better than mine. I realize now I spent most of my time expressing my confusion and frustration at all the one-star reviews, and never really got around to reviewing the book itself. I’ll have to go back and see if I can fix that. That said, excellent and concise review. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha – I found myself doing the same thing. I actually stopped midway & restarted it because all if written was commentary on the other reviews. Glad I did- the reasons I liked it are far more important than the negatives of others 🙂
      Thanks,
      KT

      Like

  3. Nicely written. Must admit, I’ve been curious about this book since watching the movie. Loyalty to the EU has held me back, well that and spare time, as i was pretty heavily invested into the new Jedi order series from the EU. Now that the building work on our house has eased up somewhat, I might take a look.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. “[H]ands big enough to tie a speeder bike into a pretzel twist.” Not only does Star Wars have pretzel twists, they are sufficiently well known to be a common point of reference. But they don’t have cell phones or e-mail…

    Sorry. I’m not a Star Wars fan; these are the kinds of questions I come up with when I encounter it.

    A fine review though!

    Liked by 1 person

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