Review: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig

Aftermath

I’ll get this statement over with straightaway – yes this book is written in a very different style to other Star Wars novels so far. However, something else I’ll say right off the bat – I really enjoyed this style! It gave the novel a sharp, snappy pace which made it utterly unputdownable. It’s a very vivid book, it grabbed me from the very first image of Palpatine’s statue being torn down in Coruscant and it didn’t let me go until the very last page, somewhat breathless from the wild and fun ride!

This story takes place very soon after the events of Return of the Jedi and gives us our first insight into this new, canon galaxy after the Battle of Endor. Most of the action takes place on the hot and humid planet of Akiva (or in the stars just above it) as we follow a somewhat ragtag band of unlikely allies, from the Rebel pilot Norra Wexley, her son Temmin, to a Zabrak bounty hunter Jas Emeri and an ex-Imperial Loyalty Officer Sinjir Rath Valus. They are pitted against the wits of the ruthless and determined Imperial Admiral Rae Sloane as she tries to navigate the Empire through this turbulent and dangerous time.

What’s good

Despite the stylistic shake up, I found Wendig really ‘got’ Star Wars and I instantly had that all important Galaxy Far Far Away feel from this book. To me, Star Wars has always had this ‘lived in’ feel which I think Wendig really portrayed in Aftermath. From the sand filled datapad to the greasy droid worktop filled with battered robotics – it evoked a very strong sense of returning home for me.

Wendig has a great, vivid storytelling style and he can really evoke a strong sense of place. Whether it was the steamy jungles and humid nights of Akiva, or the cold, impersonal corridors of an Imperial Star Destroyer I always had a wonderful feel for these places and found his descriptions to be wonderful!

As Aftermath’s cover suggests, the war is indeed not over – it’s very much just beginning. Something I really like about the Legends books (which Aftermath also achieved with aplomb) is the sheer sense of how overwhelmingly long the shadow of the Empire was cast over the galaxy.

One thing that really struck me about Aftermath is how it focuses on the human tragedy of the war. All of the characters are just people trying to get by in the galaxy, or trying to do their bit. All of the characters felt very real to me and fully realised from very early on in the book. I think that this is because none of them are perfect, they all make bad decisions and are flawed people, but this just makes them all more relatable. Norra, for example, starts out trying to make what she believes are the best decisions for her son, but somehow she always manages to do it wrong! I felt so bad for her and I couldn’t say whether or not she made the right decisions (although, jabbing your son in the neck with a tranquilliser needle is probably always going to be a bad idea!!). We don’t get much parent/child dynamics in Star Wars (or living mothers on that note!) and Norra and Temmin’s push/pull relationship was very sad, compelling and moving to watch unfold.

I also liked Jas a lot (I mean, a female, Zabrak bounty hunter was always going to appeal to me right?!) I thought she was a complete badass who is clearly on a very interesting character journey and I can’t wait to see where her story goes. Her references to her ‘Aunt Sugi’ gave me life and was such a lovely throwback to The Clone Wars. Wendig is clearly a Star Wars fan and it shows with so many lovely references dotted throughout the book. They were great nods to The Clone Wars TV series, or the Prequels and Original Trilogy, but Wendig showed great restraint using these references to that they added to the flavour of the story he was creating, without overwhelming it. I haven’t quite warmed to Sinjir as a character yet (as in, I like Jas and Norra more) but, that being said, I do find him very intriguing and definitely want to get to know him better.

Aftermath was such a fun book, it made me smile, it made me excited and I constantly wanted to dive back into Wendig’s version of the galaxy. It reminded me of the old Jedi Academy days of adventure stories (although I do think Aftermath is definitely fun aimed at grown ups!)

What’s bad

So I struggled here. I enjoyed reading this book so much, I really can’t think of anything bad to say about it! I even looked up some of the more negative reviews online so I could see what other people disliked about it and I didn’t agree with anything they said! I guess the only thing to say is that the writing style, written in present tense might throw some people, so perhaps just take that as a note of caution going in! (To be honest, it’s quite a popular style these days so I doubt it’s as unfamiliar to people now!)

Overall: this was everything I was looking for in a band-new Star Wars trilogy – it’s fun, fresh and grown up – and a really great transition away from the Original Trilogy with enough of that all important Star Wars ‘feel’. I can’t wait for the next book!

Rating: 4 ½ out of 5 Death Stars – leave room for Life Debt and Empire’s End!

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