Aftermath by Chuck Wendig
Star Wars novelizations can be good, bad and indifferent. I recently read again the novel for Return of the Jedi and tried to read Force Awakens with my son—Return of the Jedi was acceptable, but pretty much word for word the same as the film, whereas Force Awakens was such a chore we gave up and bought the junior version instead—Alan Dean Foster seems to specialize in verbosity as an art-form, and succeeded in making an exciting, fast-paced film, dull.
Aftermath by Chuck Wendig definitely falls into the good category. I’ll preface this review by flagging that I didn’t read it, but rather listened to an audio version. This had the benefit of some great voice acting and also music and sound effects which added a lot to the atmosphere. However, the strength of the writing still shone through the slick audio production.
The book is set in the aftermath of the destruction of the second death star—so preceeds the action of Force Awakens by a number of years. What happened after Return of the Jedi and the death of Vader and the Emperor? Did the Empire just fold? You might expect so given the loss of its figurehead. But no, the Empire fought on against the Rebellion—or New Republic as its now known. Doubles of the Emperor masquerade as Palpatine and there is a denial that the Emperor is dead. Mon Mothma is the new chancellor of the Republic and seeks to bring peace to the galaxy, while Admiral Ackbar leads the mop-up of Imperial forces. That’s the general setting. Aftermath focuses on one planetary system: Akiva. This system is still under control of the Imperials and has been chosen as the location for a meeting between a number of senior Imperial figures—including Admiral Rae Sloane, who is one of the main view-point characters. The story also follows Wedge Antilles, who is on a mission to Akiva, and also a rebel pilot, Norra Wexley, who comes from that planet, and is returning to find her son now that the war is coming to a close. Also involved are a Zabrak bounty hunter and a former Imperial loyalty officer, who escaped the defeat on Endor.
There is a good balance of rebel, neutral and imperial characters—which stops it being just a good against evil conflict—and also enables the storylines to overlap in interesting ways. Although, in the classic tradition of Star Wars there is plenty of excitement too and action, as well as dose of humour to go along with it. I particularly liked the Battle Droid gone rogue—which was brilliantly voice-acted in the audio version.
I enjoyed and would recommend Aftermath to anyone who loves Star Wars. I enjoyed the characters and the story, although its perhaps lacks the epic scale of the big Star Wars films—action only on one planet for instance, the book is fast paced and what is lacking from some other star wars novelizations, is definitely fun.
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