STAR WARS: Aftermath
Del Rey, 366 pages
As we’ve discussed several times in podcast and other articles, it is important for a storyteller to make a priority of telling a good story. Story, story, story.
And in order to craft a good story, you need good characters. Characters that we can care about. Characters that we can emotionally invest in so that their fate becomes important for us as the reader.
As we move forward with a new canon for Star Wars, I realize that we need new characters. Han, Luke, and Leia will not be with us forever, and it only makes sense to introduce new characters moving forward in the new Expanded Universe. Chuck Wendig has done this in Aftermath.
However, I think he’s also missed an opportunity, in that none of the characters he’s introduced are even remotely interesting. In fact, he compounds this problem by using established characters only as props.
Granted, the story he tells is a decent one, and it nicely sets up a trilogy, as we have come to expect out of Star Wars material. But I found myself frequently not caring about any of these characters. They are all stock at this point — the angsty teenager forced to live on his own because he was abandoned by his parents, the traitor to the cause who finds himself questioning the cause, the bounty hunter with a heart of gold, and the very skilled pilot called away to the cause at the expense of her family — and all the while, Wedge Antilles was tied to a bed in a closet off-screen.
When the book opens and introduces Wedge, I felt optimistic. I figured maybe it was going to be an X-Wing story, or at least show how one of the few survivors of both Death Star attacks, made out in life after the triumph over the Empire. But that’s not the story we get here.
Instead, Wedge gets injured and captured at the very beginning of the story, and only pops up at such infrequent times during the rest of the book, that it didn’t even need to be Wedge in the book. There is such little regard for this person on the part of everyone else, that it could be just any old X-wing pilot instead of the hero of the Rebellion.
I also found myself bouncing out of the book frequently because of Wendig’s use of present tense narration. An interesting creative choice, yes, but it runs counter to the notion that all of this happened “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”
Having said all that, I didn’t dislike the book. It tells a good tale, and sets up what I’m sure will be a solid collection of stories in the new Star Wars universe.
But I don’t feel compelled to read this book again, other than to do some fact checking and make connections with the movie as regards Temmin Wexley, otherwise known as Snap the X-wing pilot (played by Greg Grunberg in the new film). Given the fact that the character never bore that nickname in the book, I can only assume we will see how he got the name in future stories. I can only hope it will somehow involve Mr. Bones — the one really bright spot in the story, a refurbished Clone Wars era B1 battle droid. Since we didn’t see Mr. Bones in The Force Awakens, I can only assume something happens between now and then…
The Imperial Remnant representatives in the book aren’t that three-dimensional either. Always bickering with each other. It really felt like I was watching a Prequel Trilogy Senate meeting whenever I read those scenes. Admiral Rae Sloane is given some depth, as she questions even assembling this motley band of self-important posers, but that’s about it.
The basics of the story are that Sloane is trying to get the band back together, assembling what she feels are the leaders of what remains of the Empire after the destruction of the second Death Star over Endor. And in the midst of it all, a bounty hunter arrives to take out one of the officers, an Imperial deserter arrives to maybe make contact and be an Imperial again, and a Rebel pilot returns home to re-connect with her son, who’s a bit grumpy.
There are some close calls, some chases and combat scenes, along with various “Interludes” that have nothing to do with the story at hand — doubtless setups for other stories — and I’ll probably read the next two installments just so I know what’s going on as we move forward toward Episode VIII.
But it was a 6 out of 10 for me. Nothing really here to trip my trigger. Which is good because if I was wearing stormtrooper armor, I wouldn’t hit anything anyway.