Let me be honest, here – I haven’t read a Star Wars canon or new canon book before. I’ve noticed that with the new films, Disney have taken the decision to go with a new ‘canon’ of books leading up to the new films. This doesn’t discredit the books that came before, more that they point to a wider universe of imagination and are part of the myth of Star Wars – I don’t think that the new and forthcoming books eclipse what has gone before.
With that out of the way, I’ve been a fan of Chuck Wendig’s blog and writing books for a few years, and it was a brilliant surprise when he revealed he was writing a new trilogy of books depicting some of the events directly after Return of the Jedi. Aftermath takes a side view of what happened next – mainly following new characters with a few appearances by Admiral Ackbar, Wedge Antilles, and even a brief appearance from a couple of our favourite ex-smugglers (you’ll have to read it to find out who, but I’m sure you’ve guessed). Of course, with the destruction of the Death Star mark 2, there are still a few battles left for the Alliance. It begins with Captain Antilles as he stumbles across a blockade of a planet, Akiva, where the remnants of the Empire are amassing for a meeting to decide their own fate. The novel follows a ragtag band of people who are thrown together in order to save Captain Antilles and capture the attendees of the meeting.
‘His jaw tightens. The bad feeling in the well of his gut is swiftly justified, as ahead a Star Destroyer punctures space like a knife-tip as it drops out of hyperspace. Wedge fires up the engines. I have to get out of here.’ – Chuck Wendig, Aftermath.
What I immediately loved about this book was that it took me right back to the feel of the original trilogy. I’m not sure how to describe that – a sort of dustiness, a bit of cynicism, a dash of hope and cheesiness, hard-knock-lives brushing up against the spirit of rebellion. Another thing that impressed me was that the events were plausible and much more nuanced, taking a look at ambivalence, at the people who got swept up into the war, the possible reasons and how that has affected their lives and relationships.
Most of all though, even with that expansive look at a wider galaxy of people, Chuck Wendig has also zoomed right in to a band of interesting, four-dimensional characters. War has shaped their lives and the decisions they make, and how they relate to others. There are also interludes in the book where the scope is zoomed in on other characters around the galaxy, which added an extra dimension of information about what is happening elsewhere.
‘To the camera, Tracene points. “We’re on in three, Lug. Three. Two—” She mouths the word One— “This is Tracene Kane broadcasting on the first day of the Queen of the Core Network. I’m standing here with Olia Choko, public relations representative of Chancellor Mon Mothma and the new Galactic Senate here on Chandrila …” – Chuck Wendig, Aftermath.
I also noted the diversity in the novel – same-sex relationships, single mothers, different ethnicities, and very little fuss made about it, which was fantastic. I’ve read some science fiction novels, mostly Ursula Le Guin, who is very much about gender fluidity and sexuality, which doesn’t always make an appearance in mainstream science fiction. With the way some (idiotic) people are being about diversity in the new film, I think it’s fitting that this is also reflected in the new novels. It’s interesting to me that people still get so up in arms about diversity being reflected in new films – we aren’t in the 70s or 80s any longer (as much as I love some films from that era) – society in general should be much more open about diverse representation in entertainment.
I even thought the droid, Mister Bones, was great – along with Jas, Norra, and Sinjir, I think he was actually one of my favourite characters. Both sinister and endearing. The Empire thread of the story is where we follow Admiral Rae Sloane, attempting to create some semblance of order within the meeting of the last ‘heads’ of the Empire. She is a great character, and there is some level of pathos whilst still recognising how dangerous she is.
‘Behind her, a small squadron of stormtroopers catch up, their armored boots clattering in the hall behind her. They raise their blasters as she lowers hers. “I’m sorry, Captain,” she says. Then, to her backup: “Arrest him. Take him to detention level— No. Wait.” She snaps her fingers. “Have him shackled and taken to my shuttle. Have a medical droid in attendance.” With a stiff smile she says (as if for his approval): “We are not animals.” – Chuck Wendig, Aftermath.
I’m intrigued to see what happens next, as there is, as with the films, a shadowy puppet master in the wings. The novel ends with a few unanswered questions and I’m looking forward to reading the next book. If you’re as much of a Star Wars fan as I am, and can’t wait for the new film, read this book – it’s far better than waiting for the next TV spot trailer!