When Disney took over Lucasfilm and continued the Star Wars movies, they made the controversial but understandable decision to relegate all of the old Expanded Universe books to non-canon Legends and establish a new body of canonical fiction. Suddenly, all those wonderful stories, many of which were set in the turbulent time after The Return of the Jedi, were gone and a new canon was to be established.
With Star Wars: Aftermath, Chuck Wendig has the honor of writing the establishment of the New Republic. Timothy Zahn's Thrawn Trilogy once started this same period after The Return of the Jedi, and there are certainly parallels between Zahn's trilogy and Wendig's Aftermath. Yet, where Zahn only had the original trilogy to go on and emulated their tone, I can't help but dislike the influence the prequels have on this reboot—and the lack of influence from any Legends material. For example, to a fan of the old books, Mon Mothma starting her reign as chancellor with emergency military powers comparable to those of Palpatine in the prequels simply feels wrong. Yes, the choice makes sense in this new canon, but it’s not something the previously established Mon Mothma would ever agree to.
Replacing Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy with a new canonical trilogy, featuring anew the struggles between the freshly created New Republic and the remnants of the Empire, is a steep uphill battle for Chuck Wendig to fight. The Thrawn Trilogy introduced many beloved characters like Thrawn, Mara Jade, and Talon Karrde. The absence of these characters, now non-canonical legends, stings. However, Wendig does a decent job fighting this battle. The story of Aftermath is an interesting one, with new character Imperial Admiral Sloan attempting to unite the remaining factions of the Empire that still hold parts of the galaxy firmly in their grip, while the Rebellion is celebrating their destruction of the second death star and defeat of Emperor Palpatine. Tension across the galaxy is palpable and the stakes are high in the ongoing war between the struggling Empire and the newly victorious Rebellion. Through intriguing viewpoints across the galaxy, Wendig sets the stage for the rising New Republic. Aftermath succeeds in portraying a galaxy in disarray and presenting a gripping backdrop for its original story.
Despite this, I didn't feel fully engaged. I think this was caused by two related problems. First, there is an overload of viewpoints. In just the first third of the book, I counted nearly a dozen viewpoints, ranging from well-known characters like Ackbar, Mon Mothma, and Wedge Antilles to random New Republic pilots and drunk guys in a bar. Slowly, the reader gets acquainted with these new characters, but their introduction is slow and often seemingly random. The number of viewpoints can easily overwhelm. While I eventually felt some measure of interest in their various stories, the main characters were initially difficult to relate to.
The second and bigger problem I had was that most of the book is written in sentence fragments. This was a conscious stylistic choice on Wendig’s part—which he defends in this blog post—and it's certainly not a grammatically invalid one. For a Star Wars book, however, one with a heavy role in establishing the new canon even, I disagree with the choice. This is is a world populated with familiar characters, yet through the fragmented writing and choppy style, they feel estranged. Worse yet, the new characters Wendig introduces all feel the same, as they all speak and think in this same choppy language. I would personally love to read a different story written in this style, but for a Star Wars book, it prevented immersion into the world I love so much.
Chuck Wendig's Aftermath does do a great job setting the scene for a new Star Wars canon and whetting our collective appetite for more Star Wars stories. Yet, the execution could have been better; different stylistic choices may have created a much more engaging and immersive experience. If you’re a long-time fan of the Star Wars Extended Universe like me, it might be difficult to give Wendig the benefit of the doubt. It might not quite live up to some of the Star Wars Legends, but by the time Aftermath ended, it definitely had me hooked. I’m interested in the story of these new characters—especially that of Admiral Sloane—and will definitely read the rest of Wendig’s trilogy....more