Star Wars was a huge part of my childhood, the original was the first film I ever saw at the Cinema and for a period I watched the film (and the two proceeding) pretty much every day - at one point I could recite the whole script if you'd asked me to. Must have driven my poor mother to distraction. I had most of the toy figures, the AT-AT, X-Wing, Tie Fighter, ewok village, Jabba and his music band, and of course the Millennium Falcon. In times before digital entertainment those toys were priceless and my friends, brothers and I spent countless hours recreating Star Wars battles (including replicating the planet Hoth in the garden with real snow).
As a teenager and young adult I read all the expanded universe novels, from the wonderful Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn to the slightly dodgy Crystal Star by Vonda McIntyre — which is still a miles better story than the newer films, even if it does feature centaurs and werewolves. Lucas's increasing drive to interfere with the series (which felt like trying to use plastic surgery to correct slights that weren't there) and absolute travesty of those newer three films saddened this young at heart Star Wars fan. When I learned that the expanded universe I'd loved had also been abandoned, that those books I still had were being discarded in favour of this new vision, I was not a happy fan.
As such I've been trying not to set my hopes too high for the new Star Wars film. It is however becoming more and more difficult not to get at least a little excited, "Lens Flare" Abrams seems to be treating The Force Awakens with respect — a great deal more than Lucas anyway. Disney, it seems are set to try and recapture that magic of the original three films and have even asked one of it's biggest fans, Simon Pegg, for advice during filming. Lawrence Kasdan, the talented co-writer behind The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi has again picked up his pen for these films (he was entirely absent for Episodes I-III).
When I heard that there would be a number of novels published in the run up to episode VII (collectively known as Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens) I was intrigued. When I heard that pen monkey Chuck Wendig would be writing one of them (now expanded to a trilogy) I applauded them for their choice. Chuck, for those who don't know is an incredibly gifted author and one of my favourite writers. He has a natural ability to spin a good story, although all those I've read have been decidedly adult in nature.
Star Wars Aftermath takes place right after Return of the Jedi ends, beginning with the celebration we see at the end of the film. As you can imagine, although the Empire's head has been severed, the body remains and real permanent victory still a way off. The War it seems, is far from over. The new fledgling Republic are eager to press their advantage by hunting down the Empires forces before they can regroup. But above the remote planet Akiva the Enemy seem to be secretly consolidating and plotting. On a lone reconnaissance mission, Wedge Antilles watches as Imperial Star Destroyers gather. Before he can report back he is captured, only managing to shout out a distress call to the planet below.
On Akiva former rebel fighter Norra Wexley has returned to her native world with hopes of reuniting with her estranged son, Temmin. Before she can even begin to build bridges with the troubled teenager she hears Wedges distress call and realises her life as a Rebel fighter is far from over.
It's clear from the start that Wendig really gets Star Wars, he manages to immerse the reader into that unique Star Wars feeling right from the start. The ambience is spot on. Aftermath is full of the strange creatures and dusty technology that helps to make up the Star Wars universe. He then populates this canvas with intriguing, lively, thoughtful characters that fit into the spaces seamlessly. It's great to see Wedge making an appearance in the new "official" expanded universe (even if it is more as an extra), he's been seen in many a tale of the older books that it just wouldn't be right for him not to have a place in new canon. There are also a couple of main characters making an intriguing cameo in one of a few interludes. In another we get a glimpse as to what happens to Vaders lightsaber.
The story itself is well thought out and makes a great deal of sense. Sure its nice to believe that after the destruction of the Death Star and the deaths of both Darth Sidious and Darth Vader everyone would suddenly embrace this new republic and that would be that. Life isn't like that though and while Star Wars is essentially a fairy tale, it's also one with many grown up fans who desire a bit more that a few fireworks and a bit of cheering at the end. There is also a huge void now between the end of Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens — a 30 year gap to wonder about just how we now go from Death Star destruction to the rise of the First Order.
There is plenty of fast paced action sequences, speeder bikes, shoot-outs and such, including a scene where our rebel fighter encounters a Rodian and shoots first, an amusing touch for those who know their Star Wars (There are a few nods like this throughout the book). Wendig manages to capture the alien-ness that marks the strange Star Wars creatures but my favorite is the B1 Battle Droid (those annoying Robots in episode 1 which say "roger roger") "Mr Bones" which has been re-engineered by Temmin as a kick-ass killing machine. He also manages to keep a family friendly approach too without this affecting his unique, charming voice.
The ending, when it comes is just superb and does what a book should, leave you wanting more - such as figuring out just who is really in charge of the remnants of the Empire.
Star Wars Aftermath almost makes up for that sweeping canon reset, a few more like this and Disney will be completely forgiven. A wonderful Star Wars adventure by a gifted author.
Written on 10th September 2015 by Ant.
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