It was announced back in 2015 that the first “official” canon novel set after Return of the Jedi was going to be Aftermath, written by Chuck Wendig. Set mere months after RoTJ, it was unknown at the time who was going to be in the novel, or even what the plot was going to be about. Aftermath was only one part of a multi-part publication strategy entitled "Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens," which included one adult novel (Aftermath), several children’s books, and several young reader books.
Writer: Chuck Wendig
Publisher: Del Rey
Almost all of those books, only some of which were prose fiction, were set during the Original Trilogy (OT, Episodes IV-VI). But some contained at least framing scenes set almost immediately before The Force Awakens that offered tiny glimpses into the TFA story before the movie was released. Shortly after the announcement of Aftermath, it was then announced that Aftermath was going to be the first book in a new trilogy. What those other stories were going to entail was also unknown at the time.
Since the last novel in the trilogy had been released recently, now is a good time to go over the entire trilogy and determine: was this trilogy a worthy successor to Return of the Jedi?
And would this trilogy be a worthy replacement for Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy, which was the first trilogy written post-RoTJ, and is now relegated to Legends status. This may seem like a weird question and you may be thinking “they are completely different universes, why does it even matter? The old continuity is gone.” But it did matter to many people. They wanted to feel that the old continuity was wiped away for something at least as worthy. So was it? I’ll review many of these questions after I’m done with the trilogy.
Warning: Spoilers ahead!
I had read Aftermath a long time ago (about when it was written), so I had to go back to get a bit of a refresher before moving on to books 2 and 3, which I had not read yet. So my knowledge on book 1 may be a little rusty, but I think I got the basics down.
Aftermath takes place about five months (give or take, they haven’t really nailed this down, but this is my conjecture before being able to read more of the series) following the destruction of the second Death Star and the demise of Emperor Palpatine in RoTJ. During this time period the Empire is still alive and kicking and putting up a fight against the now entitled “New Republic.” Famed pilot Wedge Antilles (you know, the guy in all of the OT who helped blow up both Death Stars), is sent to do some reconnaissance work at the planet Akiva for the fledgling New Republic. He ends up getting captured by Admiral Rae Sloane (a character that first appeared in the first canon novel of the Disney era: A New Dawn).
In a separate trip, rebel Norra Wexley is traveling home to Akiva to find her abandoned son, Temmin. Norra joined the rebellion and abandoned her son to try and find Temmin’s father who left to join the rebellion but nothing has been heard from him since. Norra intercepts Antilles’ distress beacon and basically forms a team to rescue him, which includes her son, his battle droid Mr. Bones, an Imperial defector Sinjir, a Zabrak bounty Hunter, Jas Emari, and eventually a New Republic commando, Jom Barell. All of this is occurring as the fractured leadership of the Empire is meeting over the planet in order to determine the next logical course for the Empire, which basically involves a lot of infighting and backstabbing and results in Rae Sloane being one of the last ones left. In the end they escape from the planet with the injured Antilles and are rescued by the New Republic which had come to Akiva with a fleet of warships. We are left with Rae Sloane conferring with a mysterious “Operator” (whose identity many guessed to be Grand Admiral Thrawn or perhaps Snoke).
Interspersed throughout the novel are a series of breaks in the action, termed “Interludes.” These interludes deviated outside the main plot of the story and gave us brief glimpses into what was going on in the galaxy as a whole outside of Akiva. Interlude stories included appearances by Han and Chewie, Mon Mothma, as well as many other people and planets.
Aftermath took a lot of criticism when it was first released for a variety of different reasons:
First off, his book includes several openly gay characters, which some people choose to see as a flaw. Why is this a flaw? I have no idea.
Second was his writing style. Aftermath was written in a present tense. Meaning that when anything happens it is as if it is happening now.
For instance this line of text: “‘I call him Mister Bones,’ Temmin says.”
If that was more traditional it would have been: “‘I call him Mister Bones,’ Temmin said.”
Third, also along with his writing style, was that he uses short, often choppy sentences. For instance:
Ha, ha, ha.
Time to end your mirth, Arsin Crassus.
But then her scope flashes–
Fourth was the author’s apparent abrasiveness to his critiques on social media. Often dismissing their criticisms as just being homophobic, or something of the sort.
Fifth, this wasn’t the story they were looking for. They were hoping for a continuation of the “Big Three” (Han, Luke, and Leia) and barely any of them were to be found within the story.
Personally, my feelings of the book was that I enjoyed it greatly. I felt the short, choppy sentences caused the flow of the book to be greatly sped up and the present tense did nothing to bother me. I’ve read enough styles of books that I would never have even noticed it had it not been pointed out to me.
Along with many people, the Interludes really intrigued me. I had often heard from a large chunk of the readership that the interludes were actually their favorite parts of the story. I feel that’s because they didn’t get a whole story with those, so those sections left them wanting more. After I was done with the novel I wondered if these interludes were actually parts of subsequent stories that are to be expanded upon in future novels in the trilogy. My memory of the interludes is a bit fuzzy though, so even if many of them were continued later, I would be hard pressed to remember it.
My biggest criticism of the story isn’t really directed at the author but at the general direction of the story. I’m not sure who picked it but it intrigues me that we have almost nothing of the main cast of characters here, many of whom reprise their roles in the distant (30 years later) TFA. So why stray away from them now? Even the Shattered Empire comics had Luke doing some weird mission in that one. But in here he is only briefly mentioned. I want Luke! Give me Luke! But it’s likely that’s exactly the reason he is not here: to build up anticipation for when he makes his triumphant return in The Last Jedi.
And the comments of the author’s abrasiveness to his criticisms? I think that is a lot of people not getting Chuck’s humor. Many of the comments he made I could hear a dry sense of humor in, but I could see where people would be offended. I have a similar sense of humor and I can turn people off real quick. So, none of those really bothered me. I don’t often interact with the authors anyway. I let their works speak for themselves.
But overall I enjoyed it. The characters were intriguing and I could stand to see more of them. Mr. Bones was the clear standout of the cast but I really enjoyed Sinjir in general. His interactions with Jas were some of the best moments of the book for me. The writing style didn’t bother me in the least–it added something different to the mix, something that I can get behind. It speeds up the feel of the novel and gets the action scenes really moving.
I can’t wait to see what Book 2, Life Debt holds.