Taking place after Return of the Jedi, Chuck Wendig’s Star Wars: Aftermath tells the story of a group of people dealing with the transition between the downfall of the Empire and the rise of the New Republic. This comes after a move by Disney/Lucasfilm to put aside the previously published canon, that was established through comics and other novels, and start clean with the Clone Wars series and the films. With a clean slate and a movie release approaching in December, fans are eager to rediscover the Star Wars universe with Aftermath.
One of the more striking aspects of the book, and potentially the goal of the new canon, is the shift away from the previous generation of core cast. Of course it wouldn’t be a Star Wars narrative if the staple lines weren’t included. You can always bet there’s somebody uttering, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” The cast in Aftermath is designed to reflect the attitudes of the galaxy as the story develops, each one adapting to the new status quo amid the war between the New Republic and the Imperials.
My favorite character is by far the ex-loyalty officer, representing the disillusioned and tired Imperials. His story was an interesting development and watching his interactions with other Imperials and the other core characters was a highlight. The bounty hunter gave us some good insight into what is happening with the criminal underworld: what’s happening to a galaxy that doesn’t take to bad guys as well as it used to? Lastly, there’s the mother and son. The mother went off to war to find the husband that went to do the same, leaving the son behind to raise himself and now the two are thrown back together to pick up the pieces. The relationship between parent and child is a theme that runs through out the book, as we see parents teach their offspring the way of the galaxy and how they interpret the cycle of war and peace.
Much like how Han, Luke, and Leia were forced to depend on each other to defeat the Imperials, this new group is banded together by the threat of an Imperial attempt to regroup after the events of Return of the Jedi. They each have their own moralities and differences, but learn to adapt them to thwart the Imperials from establishing a foothold against the New Republic.
Adaptation is the key focus for the New Republic and Imperials as well. The New Republic is struggling to maintain its identity of freedom and democracy while maintaining a semblance of order and security in a war torn galaxy. This was the same type of conflict that transformed the previous republic into the Empire and that’s a idea that sticks around throughout the book. The Imperials are faced with reinventing their own identity from once being the most powerful organization in the galaxy to the new “Rebel Scum,” and are forced to survive using the tactics once employed by their enemies in the Rebel Alliance. For me the best part of the story came from the Imperials scrabbling to figure out what their next move is; ultimately there is an interesting conclusion that I didn’t really see coming.
Overall I would say this book is probably something like Avengers 2 for the Star Wars universe. A great blockbuster that was full of everything we could’ve expected, but at times felt the burden to help introduce the next phase of the story. Just like Avengers 2, Aftermath isn’t without its faults. How the story is structured, with seemingly frequent interludes breaking up the action, is a little annoying at times. Keeping that in mind, Aftermath is still an extremely important book for Star Wars fans. It’s the first branch of canon growing toward Force Awakens, so it’s a valuable bit of story to tide us over till December. However, it might not be as fun for people who are new to Star Wars. To keep with the metaphor, it would be like watching Avengers 2 and not having watched any other movie before it; you just wouldn’t get the point. If you are a fan of the Thrawn trilogy, the part of the old canon that used to be where Aftermath now stands, you would enjoy the parallels between it and Aftermath. In total I would say Aftermath has me excited to see where the story is going, and even more excited to see Force Awakens in December!
If you’re interested in other Star Wars books establishing the new canon, check out our review of Heir to the Jedi.