Aftermath, by Chuck Wendig
Aftermath [Amazon | B&N | IndieBound] is the first book of Chuck Wendig‘s Star Wars trilogy that connects the period between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. The book has generated some strong and at times vicious reactions.
Here’s the official publisher’s description:
As the Empire reels from its critical defeats at the Battle of Endor, the Rebel Alliance—now a fledgling New Republic—presses its advantage by hunting down the enemy’s scattered forces before they can regroup and retaliate. But above the remote planet Akiva, an ominous show of the enemy’s strength is unfolding. Out on a lone reconnaissance mission, pilot Wedge Antilles watches Imperial Star Destroyers gather like birds of prey circling for a kill, but he’s taken captive before he can report back to the New Republic leaders.
Meanwhile, on the planet’s surface, former rebel fighter Norra Wexley has returned to her native world—war weary, ready to reunite with her estranged son, and eager to build a new life in some distant place. But when Norra intercepts Wedge Antilles’s urgent distress call, she realizes her time as a freedom fighter is not yet over. What she doesn’t know is just how close the enemy is—or how decisive and dangerous her new mission will be.
Determined to preserve the Empire’s power, the surviving Imperial elite are converging on Akiva for a top-secret emergency summit—to consolidate their forces and rally for a counterstrike. But they haven’t reckoned on Norra and her newfound allies—her technical-genius son, a Zabrak bounty hunter, and a reprobate Imperial defector—who are prepared to do whatever they must to end the Empire’s oppressive reign once and for all.
Now, no book is going to appeal to everyone. I enjoyed this one, but I can see two valid reasons why it might not work for some readers:
1. Wendig’s writing style doesn’t match that of most Star Wars books I’ve read. Wendig wrote this one in present tense, and he tends to use shorter, choppier sentences:
A voice. Her voice. The Zabrak’s.
“The nose,” she says.
Then thrusts the heel of her hand forward.
Smashing it right into the Herglic’s nose.
The style took me a few pages to get used to, but I thought it worked. It creates a faster-paced flow to the prose, which worked for all of the Star Warsy action.
That said, if you prefer an invisible writing style, this book might not work for you.
2. Aftermath is almost entirely about original characters. Han and Chewie get a very brief cameo. Admiral Ackbar pops up a few times. Wedge Antilles has a more significant part in the story. But the book mostly focuses on new characters, like a pilot from the attack on the second Death Star who’s suffering from PTSD and trying to reconnect with her son after being gone for so long; an ex-Imperial loyalty officer; a bounty hunter; and a small group of Imperial officers trying to figure out what the heck to do now.
I liked the characters. But if you’re hoping for Luke Skywalker lightsabering stormtroopers or Han and Leia flirting and arguing and blasting bad guys or maybe a glimpse of baby Rey or baby Ben/Kylo or baby Finn, you’re going to be disappointed.
But then you have the anti-SJW brigade and their one-star campaign, posting reviews like, “It seems that Star Wars has become a feminist movement. All main characters in this book are females. Oh wait, except for one of the main bad guys – of course a white male. Which is right in line with the new movie…”
All main characters are females. Except Wedge Antilles. And Sinjir. And Temmin. And Mr. Bones. And…yeah.
There were complaints about the inclusion of gay and lesbian characters. I guess magic space wizards and giant asteroid snakes are fine, but loving someone of the same gender is just too much to believe.
A lot of the reviews attacked the writing style as well. Like I said, the style might not work for everyone, and that’s fine. But complaining that the author uses sentence fragments and therefore doesn’t know how to write? Um…y’all know authors sometimes break elementary school writing rules for various reasons, right? Or folks saying they could have written a better book when they were 13? Go ahead and try it. We’ll wait.
Basically, Wendig and his book got flooded by a lot of negativity. Some of the reviews were valid — like I said, no book works for everyone. But an awful lot of the nastiness was just assholes being assholes…
Me? Like I said above, I liked it. I appreciated seeing some of the costs of the war, and the ethical issues Wendig delves into. The interludes were a nice addition, showing the aftermath of the Battle of Endor throughout the galaxy. The story itself was self-contained, but at the same time lays the groundwork for the rest of the trilogy. There’s plenty of action. And of course, Mr. Bones is fun (and disturbing) to watch.
I’ll be picking up the sequel, Aftermath: Life Debt.
August 13, 2018 @ 11:08 am
The trilogy is tremendous. It gave me hope for the new stories and new vision coming after the purchase of SW by the Evil Empire. Loved the writing style and the characters. They felt real. Their justifications for their actions seemed organic.
August 13, 2018 @ 7:25 pm
That writing style was an utter fail for me when it popped up in the middle of a book by an author who normally doesn’t write that way — enough that I actually noted it in my review as an editing flaw. A whole book written like that? I’ll pass, TYVM.
August 13, 2018 @ 8:02 pm
I really should go read the rest of that trilogy at some point.
I wound up reading the first book after seeing some of the negative press about the gay folks in it, although I was kind of disappointed that the coming out for the one character was late in the book, and really didn’t amount to much. I mean, while that’s progress in that being gay isn’t a big deal, it also felt like something was missing there.
I realize there were lesbian aunts in there, but they really didn’t have much to do besides point out the shortcomings in one of the protagonists.
And frankly, it won me over when Admiral Ackbar kept worrying about being trapped. While I’m amused by the meme that has become, it was nice to see some character development and acknowledgement of why he was so worried about.
Jim C. Hines
August 14, 2018 @ 1:57 pm
James – Oh, yes! Ackbar’s trap fear was a great touch 🙂
August 14, 2018 @ 7:40 pm
i do not know, after spending all that time reading tons of expanded universe books, just to have it rebooted after being replaced by the force awakens and the last Jedi. I mean there were tons of books/trilogy’s in the EU that would have made much much better movies. I guess i am tired of movie reboots, and if i am going to invest in reading something i don’t want it to reboot too.
maybe they should reboot harry potter, he could travel back in time for an alternate ending…..
August 16, 2018 @ 6:41 am
I appreciate your review, Jim!
I found the book, like a good chunk of the old EU, to be middling. The writing style didn’t bother me – as you said, it lent itself to fast-paced Star Wars-y moments. I, too, had the negative review campaign as my lead in to the novel so I was rather underwhelmed by the reality of what actually happens in the novel with regards to the gay and lesbian characters. I loved the aunts! But from the negative campaign I was expecting the book to barely have a straight character in it. Maybe someday we’ll get that book. I will say I enjoyed the gay character’s story arc over the next two books, I thought it was well done for new ground in the Star Wars universe and I was glad it was there.
I thoroughly enjoyed Mister Bones, Temmin, and the new characters. It reminded me a lot of the Tales From and the X-Wing series, where we focused on a bunch of OTHER people who lived in the Star Wars universe and saw things through their eyes.
I do think the book suffers from some pacing problems, but that is, I feel, in the eye of the beholder and if I had read this as a much younger reader I probably wouldn’t even have noticed or cared.
August 24, 2018 @ 9:05 am
I read that whole sequence of books and it was very good.
I don’t have trouble with present tense narration, but a lot of my English speaking friends seem to, so I guess there’s that. As a translator, I currently use present tense in my language for a novel series, even though it can be a lot awkwarder than in English, but we decided that was the best way with the publisher. So far, I’ve seen only a few reviews commenting on it, and almost none negatively… Different people different strokes I guess.
But yeah, the backlash to that first book was largely undeserved, in my opinion.