The second Death Star has been destroyed, the Emperor killed, and Darth Vader struck down. All major victories for the Rebel Alliance. But the battle for freedom is far from over.
Determined to preserve the Empire’s power after its defeat in the Battle of Endor, the surviving Imperial elite are converging for a secret summit to consolidate their forces and prepare for a counterstrike. Above the remote planet Akiva, as Star Destroyers gather like deadly birds of prey, rebel pilot Wedge Antilles finds himself the sole witness to the looming threat—only to be capture before he can alert the Alliance. Meanwhile, former rebel fighting Norra Wexley has returned to her home on Akiva, ready to leave the ravages of war behind. But when she intercepts Wedge’s urgent distress call, she knows she must help, no matter the cost. What she doesn’t know is how close the enemy is—or how dangerous her mission will be. Together with her technical-genius son, a Zabrak bounty hunter, and an Imperial defector, Norra prepares to take the fight to the resurgent Empire—and do whatever it takes to end its oppressive reign once and for all.
Aftermath by Chuck Wendig is unique among the Disney Canon of Star Wars novels, being the first among them to deal specifically with the fallout of the events of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. While I had personally chosen before now to linger in fiction that takes place amidst the first six films, it was this largely uncharted territory that had me especially looking forward to starting this novel and the subsequent sequels that make up the Aftermath trilogy. Despite the Emperor’s fall and Darth Vader’s redemption the war is not over, as the tagline says, and I was eager to see the more in-depth details of the true end to the Galactic Civil War.
While having an ultimate focus, this novel tries to cover many fronts. It tells the story of a motley crew of people who come together on the planet Akiva to put a stop to an Imperial summit that is trying to determine the future of the Galactic Empire. At the onset of the novel none of these characters are together, or even really know each other, so a lot of time is spent getting to know them individually before they eventually come together. This includes a former Rebel pilot Norra, her estranged son Temmin, his psychotic battle droid bodyguard Mister Bones, bounty hunter Jas, and ex-Imperial loyalty officer Sinjir. For a novel that only numbers a little over 300-pages and tackles more than just these characters, Wendig does a fairly good job of characterizing most of them. It was a little jarring at first to constantly switch focus between fairly new characters, but each left a distinct impression and grew on me in their own way.
The problem that arose for me was that along with this cast of the characters the book also explores the Imperial perspective through Admiral Rae Sloane (a returning character from A New Dawn), their captive Wedge Antilles, a Rebel special forces soldier, New Republic high command, and numerous “Interlude” chapters that takes us all over the galaxy showing us vignettes of the war as it rages on and/or the growth of the New Republic. There are so many viewpoints to the main plotline alone that a lot more time is spent detailing perspective than building out an actual story, so it doesn’t feel like a whole lot happened.
The most interesting perspective for me was actually that of the Imperials, Rae Sloane being a fairly well-rounded character who is on the wrong side of history yet does not believe in the Empire simply for the sake of evil. They also felt the most vulnerable as they are leaderless and seemingly losing ground rapidly throughout the galaxy. Despite this, even their side of the story doesn’t have a lot going on. For the most part they just react to rebel activity on Akiva, trying to hold their summit together and stop those in attendance from panicking. There are some nice pieces of insight provided, but not enough to keep me all that satisfied. The fissures within the Empire are brought up, but not really explored, when the ways the organization broke apart and the mindsets behind each splinter seem the most interesting to me.
The “Interludes” were actually some of the most interesting parts of the novel, showcasing an array of reactions from different groups of people throughout the galaxy. One stand out for me was someone becoming a lawman on Tatooine to try and keep the peace after the power vacuum left by the death of Jabba the Hutt. Another was about a mysterious cult of Dark Side worshipers buying what they believe to be Darth Vader’s lightsaber so they can return it to him in death. We also get a brief look at what Han and Chewbacca are up to, which I’m confident will lead into the following novel. While I get the feeling some of the others will continue throughout the trilogy too each stood well on their own as insights into the actual state of the galaxy following the events of the film, which was more in line with what I wanted.
Aftermath is a decent Star Wars novel that covers a transitional, tumultuous time not covered in detail in the new films. The “Interludes” are great glimpses, but unfortunately the main story feels more like an origin for the motley crew of characters rather than a more substantial look into the state of the galaxy. The main cast are successful on Akiva, but what they accomplish feels of little consequence, and the Imperials held meetings, came to no conclusions, and in their final scene seem better off than the whole novel would otherwise have you believe anyway.
I will give the book some extra points for the characters themselves though, who did win me over despite a slightly jarring start. The dynamic between Norra and Temmin was a good emotional look at the cost of fighting and those we leave behind, and Jas and Sinjir have an intriguing rapport with one another. I also want to see a lot more of Mister Bones; we could all use more psychotic battle droid in our lives.
My rating: 3 out of 5