Chuck Wendig‘s novel Aftermath [Amazon | B&N | Indiebound] came out on Friday, and while I haven’t read it yet, I’m author enough to admit I’m envious as hell. Chuck got to write the canonical follow-up to Return of the Jedi. How cool is that? The only thing I can think of that might come close is if someone approached me to write the official LEGO Goblin Quest video game.
(Side note: LEGO folks, please hit me up on that!)
To nobody’s surprise, the book is one of the top sellers at Amazon, and has already gathered more than 160 reviews over there.
Funny thing about those reviews, though. Almost half of them are one-star.
What the heck? Did Wendig follow through with his threat to make Jar-Jar and C3PO into Sith lords? Did he introduce sparkling vampire Ewoks? Did he give a character a Swiss Army Lightsaber?
Now, there’s nothing wrong with one-star reviews. Heck, if your book never gets panned, it probably means you’re not reaching a broad enough audience. Not everyone is going to like your work, and that’s okay. Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations and all that, if you’ll forgive the genre crossing.
But half of the reviews? I had to know more. So I started reading.
One of the very first one-star reviews has nothing to do with the book. “[P]ublisher when you drop the price to $9.99 where it belongs — you will then earn a FAIR REVIEW for a FAIR PRICE.” While I sympathize and even agree with the reviewer’s complaint here, I wish Amazon had a way to distinguish between reviews complaining about the author’s story and reviews complaining about other things like price, cover, etc.
The third one-star doesn’t hold back:
“This book includes 3 gay characters that feel so forced into the story. Disney is stuffing diversity down our throats and it’s taking me out of my suspension of believe because it feels forced. I myself am a minority but when I read star Wars I don’t want to be thinking about racial consciousness or sexual idenitity. I also don’t like the inclusion of so many gay charcters becuase my personal opinion is that homosexuality is not normal; sodomy is not normal and I am tired of the liberal media trying to make me accept this lifestyle.” (Source)
Oh, dear. A galaxy that includes countless species and droids and races acknowledged the existence of homosexuality? WHAT WERE THEY THINKING? Can we PLEASE get back to giant slugs with a fetish for other species, green muppets, blue elephant people, and giant walking carpets? You know, characters who are normal.
Well, maybe this ignorant bigot is an exception. Let’s look at some of the other one-star reviews.
- “It’s a propaganda piece by a SJW progressive intent on sending a message about his brand of politics.“
- “And you want to put in alternative life styles? Fine. But it doesn’t have to be spelled out every time.“
- “No really, I’m not being hateful or bigoted, Chuck and Disney decided at some point to make half of Star Wars gay.“
All righty then. So some people are pissed off about Wendig getting teh gay in their Star Wars. Got it.
Other reviews complain about the writing style. Aftermath is written in first person and present tense. Nerdist.com had the following to say about the prose:
“If you’re a fan of Wendig’s writing style, you’ll be happy to know it’s present here. His narration style for this novel is different and won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I like the urgency of it. The tone is snappy but not short, if that makes sense. Each sentence, each description of action, each joke — it all hits you right between the eyes in the exciting head rush sort of way. No space is wasted, and we dive deep inside the inner workings of our lead characters.”
There’s a third batch of complaints from people who are angry at Disney and angry that the expanded universe Star Wars novels are officially not canon, and are not being continued. Author Star Wars Books Facebook Page, which is full of comments like:pointed to the
- “After spending a few thousand $$$$ over the last 22 years on star wars books based on a time line that Disney threw in the trash a few freebies are deserved for any respectable star wars fan to buy into the new timeline….“
- “How to purchase Star Wars: Aftermath:
Step 1) Pick it up on the shelf
Step 2) Look at it and sigh in a disappointed manner.
Step 3) Quickly put it down and pick up a copy of Star Wars: The Truce at Bakura and purchase that instead.”
- “Nah. I have Zahn’s books. Not gonna get this one.“
Looking back at the Amazon reviews, you see a lot of people mourning for Timothy Zahn and the expanded universe. One reviewer sums it up thusly: “Disney already kind of did their slap with tossing the EU that kept the franchise going all these decades.”
So from everything I’m seeing, Aftermath‘s barrage of one-star reviews are primarily coming from three camps:
- OMG you got gay cooties all over my Star Wars and now everyone’s gonna have PINK LIGHTSABERS and Boba Fett’s gonna be flying around in rainbow-colored armor!!!!!1!11!
- Timothy Zahn and his Expanded Universe descendants are the True Gods of a Galaxy Far, Far Away. DEATH TO THE USURPER!
- Dude, first person? Present tense? How can you write about a long time ago in present tense?
I have no sympathy for group #1. Group #2 … that’s frustrating. I get that you’ve invested a lot in those stories, and that’s awesome. It really is. I would have loved to see Thrawn and Mara Jade show up in Star Wars VII. But the decision to go in another direction isn’t a Death Star blast to your childhood or anything like that.
For group #3, if you bounced that hard off of Wendig’s style, then yeah, that sucks. Wendig knew he was taking a risk there, and sometimes risks fail. Some readers seem to really love the way he wrote it. Others hate it. Fair enough.
Did I say I was envious of Wendig? The widespread publicity and success of this book has put him in some ugly crossfire, a good chunk of which has very little to do with his writing. Every published book comes with the potential for negativity, but Aftermath brings it to a whole new level. In all honesty, it’s a little frightening to watch.
But none of it changes my thoughts about wanting to write a Star Wars novel of my own. I might rethink my plan to do it in second-person future tense, though…