After putting it off for months, I finally sat down and read Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig. I had two weeks on a beach and a couple of long train rides, so I figured it was as good a time as any. I was hesitant to read this canon installment because let’s face it – it has quite a reputation. But with The Rise of Skywalker just around the corner, I knew it was time to dig in.
Aftermath starts soon after the second Death Star is destroyed, on the planet Coruscant, where its citizens are taking down a statue of Palpatine. The celebration is short-lived; Imperial police arrive on the scene to put people in their place. Even with the Death Star in pieces, the war still goes on.
And so the book lives up to its title. Over the course of 366 pages, Wendig shows us what happens after the grandiose victory, after good triumphs over evil. There is gritty work to be done after the battle, and we see it in this novel.
New Republic pilot Wedge Antilles stumbles upon a covert meeting of the few remaining Imperial leaders on the planet Akiva. Before he can alert the Republic, Wedge is captured by Admiral Rae Sloane, who is hosting the Imperial meeting in the hopes of building an even stronger Empire from its ashes. Retired Rebellion pilot Nora Wexley is heading right towards the action to find her son, Temmin – who we know as Snap – when she gets word that her former comrade needs help. Nora finds her son and teams up with ex-Imperial Sinjir Rath Velus, as well as Zabrak bounty hunter Jas Emari, to rescue Wedge and dismantle the remnants of the Empire. With the help of the citizens of Akiva, they manage to rescue Wedge and break up the Imperial summit, with only a few death scares along the way.
For me, the stand-out character from Aftermath is Rae Sloane. It’s fascinating to see her during the early stages of what will eventually become the First Order. We get to see how the FO rose from an Empire that was supposed to be finished. She learns, she observes, she adapts – and eventually she takes charge of the squabbling Imperial leaders. As she escapes the riots on Akiva, Sloane speaks with fleet admiral Gallius Rax, who tells her the summit was a test for her and that she passed. Rae is shrewd and sharp, and I cannot wait to see how she develops in the next two novels of the trilogy.
The other characters didn’t stand out to me as much, but in context of the book itself, I liked them all well enough. By the end of the book, Nora, Temmin, Jas, and Sinjir form a crew almost reminiscent of the Ghost crew. Their interpersonal relationships are interesting enough. Jas and Sinjir play well off one another, with plenty of cynical wit between them. It was also interesting to see the dynamic between Nora and her son, and how being part of the Rebellion, while heroic, has a less-than-idyllic impact on personal relationships. It made me think of the relationship between Iden Versio and her father; they’re different, on the surface, but have familiar themes of living up to parental expectations, and of parents letting their children down.
The plot itself is decent enough; it kept me interested enough to speed through the last 100 pages. It felt more like a setup for meatier plot points later in the trilogy, and I can’t wait to get to them. We know from other works that Palpatine had a contingency plan in place; we know about Operation Cinder; and I believe, at this point, that Shadow Wing is still roaming the galaxy (correct me if I’m wrong). What we don’t know is how all these moving pieces come together to eventually form the First Order, and how they become the powerful army they are in The Force Awakens. Where does Snoke fit into this? How much influence does Palpatine have, even thirty years later? I’m hoping to pick up more clues as I read the rest of the Aftermath trilogy.
Overall, I think Aftermath rose above my expectations. While it isn’t the strongest Star Wars canon novel, it certainly holds its own. I found the interludes interesting – maybe not vital, but an interesting look at how the common people are affected by the war of heroes. The writing style was enjoyable, and the characters interesting enough to drive the novel forward. I can’t wait to grab the next installment and dig in.