Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig (Del Ray)

A  LONG TIME AGO, IN A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY….

The second Death Star is destroyed. The Emperor and his powerful enforcer, Darth Vader, are rumored to be dead. The Galactic Empire is in chaos.

Across the galaxy, some systems celebrate, while in others Imperial factions tighten their grip. Optimism and fear reign side by side.

And while the Rebel Alliance engages the fractured forces of the Empire, a lone Rebel scout uncovers a secret Imperial meeting. . . .

The new Expanded Universe has so far been a positive experience for me despite my love for the previous one.  Tarkin, Lords of the Sith and Dark Disciple were all very strong reads, and I’m yet to read Heir to the Jedi or A New Dawn but both look like very appealing titles at the same time. And then there’s Marvel’s Comics, which are very strong indeed, with the main Star Wars title, Darth Vader and the rotating mini-series all being super impressive. With Force Friday behind us and The Force Awakens ahead, It’s a good time to be a Star Wars fan, and whilst Aftermath, the latest novel from one of my go-to authors, Chuck Wendig, (responsible for the awesome Miriam Black novels) may have been met with fairly divisive reviews, it remains another good offering that provides a welcome look into life post Return of the Jedi, because as should be clear by now, the war against The Empire is not over yet. They may have been dealt a severe blow, but there’s still enough threat there to return and strike again, with a new leadership against the newly formed New Republic.

Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath literally deals with the Aftermath of the events that readers will have seen in the films. The Empire has collapsed without a clear leader and there are plenty of power struggles and whilst the Rebel Alliance have formed the New Republic, they’re struggling to find out to maintain the peace in the fallout as the Empire try to start anew through Admiral Rae Sloane on Akiva, in order to bring it back to its former glory. Sloane is one of the many varied characters that we meet in this book, and there’s plenty of them there, as Wendig makes use of both recurring characters and new creations very well indeed. We spend more time with the likes of fan favourite pilot Wedge Antilles, and on top of that, there’s also a fair amount to do for Admiral Ackbar, which came as an unexpected but welcome surprise for the man commonly known for the “It’s a Trap!” line in Return of the Jedi. The new cast also have Norra Wexley to offer them, a Rebel Pilot who wants nothing more than to go home to her son after years of fighting for the Rebellion, but it isn’t going to be as a warm homecoming as she would have hoped for. It’s a diverse bunch, offering some excellent variety to the Star Wars books that may have given us one too many cheap Han Solo knock-off characters in the past.

The decision to focus on unknown characters rather than the more established stars may frustrate some who want to know immediately what their favourites are up to, but fleshing out the new cast always helps. Yes, Han and Chewie may feature, but only in brief cameos, which makes the book a bit more unpredictable than it otherwise would have as we don’t necessarily know that these new characters will make it through to the end. They don’t have that star power that keeps them safe, and with so many books out there that put the main cast in the spotlight, it’s refreshing to see a book that avoids doing so.

The writing style that Wendig uses, third person present tense, will be familiar to fans of his Miriam Black books, but for the readers who haven’t checked them out before his prose will come as a surprise, a break from what the normal Star Wars books have given us in the past. This is refreshing and offers a different look into a familiar universe, and Wendig’s narrative weaves a compelling structure that really feels at home and is something that I’d like to see explored further. Don’t go in expecting too much hints towards what’s going to happen in The Force Awakens – this book doesn’t significantly move forward the events in the Expanded Universe and if you go in with that in mind then you shouldn’t be too disappointed. Instead, Aftermath uses an opportunity to tell us how the common people are reacting to the fall of the Empire. Different people with different views and backgrounds all across the galaxy are presented throughout the book and it makes for a far less black and white situation than we’ve had presented to us before, told to us primarily through various interludes in which explore characters who might not necessarily be part of the main struggle.

The story really picks off when Wedge Antilles is captured by Sloane and it never really slows down after that, eventually turning into a fast paced action novel that has a variety of fight sequences that are strongly entertaining, with battles taking place both on land and in space. The atmosphere perfectly hits home with the tone, look and feel of the original trilogy, and whilst the novel may have its doubters, Aftermath is something that I really enjoyed and I hope that we get to see more of Wendig’s novels in this Universe in the future. There’s loads of potential for some great new stories to be told.

VERDICT: 8/10

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