Yes guys, today I finished Star Wars: Aftermath, the first novel in the new continuity to be set after Return of the Jedi. There had been a lot of fanfare around this early in the month, but as I was in the middle of reading another book when it came out, I had to wait before making it to this one.
So what’s the verdict?
In case you couldn’t face watching that, I’ll provide some written words here as well.
We’re currently on our way to Episode VII, of course, and Aftermath is a first step on that path as we see the shape of the galaxy in the months following the Battle of Endor. The story follows a rag-tag band of folks on the backwater planet Akiva as an Imperial summit is held by some of the survivors of Endor to determine the course of the Empire. The premise of the story sounds pretty great, but unfortunately I feel it fell kinda flat.
The main problem for me, I think, is the hype around it. I was expecting something galaxy-spanning and amazing, super-important with all the main players that I know and love. Instead, we get a story that follows a group of people (“nobodies”, as I kept referring to them in the video – sorry about that!) on a backwater world that doesn’t really amount to anything of significance.
A group of Imperials who we’ve never encountered before are presented as really important to the Empire, and are deciding its fate in a clandestine meeting that is suddenly blown wide open. Of course, Star Wars history is being re-written, so we shouldn’t really know these people, but I still found it difficult to get round. We do get to see Admiral Ackbar quite a bit, along with Wedge and General Madine, and a stream of new New Republic commanders and leaders. Mon Mothma makes an appearance, and we also get Han and Chewie for a bit, but that’s really it. Everybody else is new, and feel like they don’t particularly matter, with perhaps the exception of the Imperial Admiral Rae Sloane. She’s one of the major point-of-view characters during the story, first introduced in the earlier novel A New Dawn, and the ending feels like she might see more of her in upcoming stories.
The story is told in the present tense, which I really enjoyed, and I liked how close the Clone Wars felt to the current timeline here. Bantam novels set in this era made the Clone Wars feel more than a mere 2-3 decades ago, almost as an accident of the time they were written in. While previously, the word “Jedi” was made out to be something special, the sort of thing that most people wouldn’t know anything about, now we’re getting the truth that yeah, for a significant portion of the galaxy, Jedi would have been within living memory. In the official timeline, Order 66 and the Battle of Endor are only separated by, what, 22 years. I’m quite pleased to see that side of things being recognised now. It’s also kinda exciting when we see relics of the Clone Wars such as Separatist droid factories and whatnot.
The main bulk of the Akiva storyline is interspersed with “interludes” that take us across the galaxy, ostensibly to see in what shape it is following the Battle of Endor. However, due to the extent that personal stories are being told here, it doesn’t really feel like we’re really getting the extent of that. A couple of them are potentially interesting, and could be setting up future developments, but in the main I feel it’s a curious mix of “oooh!” and “uh-huh…” For instance, on Taris a group of cultists buy what they believe to be Darth Vader’s lightsaber, clearly revering the Sith Lord. This ties in with what we know of Kylo Ren’s obsession, and could potentially be setting something more up. We also see that the Jawas on Tatooine have recovered Mandalorian armour that looks to be acid-burnt, so I assume Boba Fett will be back, because obviously.
In short, Aftermath has been set up as the beginning of something amazing, but perhaps due to all this hype, I feel it fell particularly flat. It’s a good story, with lots to commend it, but it falls into that trap that Del Rey books have for at least the last five years been in, where the stories they tell are no longer the swashbuckling epics of the Bantam era, but more like just any old story that happens to be set in the Star Wars universe. The fact that we don’t get any Luke, we only get a hologram of Leia, and Han and Chewie only get a handful of pages, it just doesn’t feel like it’s all that important to the overall storyline in the way that, say, the Thrawn trilogy did. I’m expecting to be proven wrong come December, but for now, I feel a bit let down by this book.
But it’s part of a trilogy, apparently, so maybe it’ll round itself out as that gets underway. Haven’t actually come across anything more on those other two books yet, which feels weird…