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Aftermath: Star Wars (Star Wars: The Aftermath Trilogy) Paperback – March 29, 2016
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“The Force is strong with Star Wars: Aftermath.”—Alternative Nation
“The Star Wars universe is fresh and new again, and just as rich and mysterious as it always was.”—Den of Geek
“[Chuck] Wendig neatly captures the current states of the Empire and Rebel Alliance and does so through flawed, real, and nuanced characters. His writing gets you up close and personal. . . . Wendig does wonders with dialogue and voice and carving out space for everyone to breathe. Aftermath is a strong foot forward into unexplored territory and puts down just enough foundation that you can start picturing the Resistance and First Order of The Force Awakens taking shape.”—Nerdist
“If the opening chapter of the Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy is any indication, the ‘Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ will be every bit as exciting as the movie.”—New York Daily News
“A wonderful Star Wars adventure by a gifted author.”—SF Book Reviews
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Reading the online summaries of the story, I'm not sure how anyone could think that this was a better followup story than Zahn's excellent works. I wouldn't feel right donating it, will probably just recycle. Swing and a miss.
Star Wars: Aftermath kind of follows Nora Wexley, Snap Wexley's mom. I say it kind of follows her because even with her being roughly the main character she's only maybe in about 60% of the book. The rest of the book is random one-off chapters following characters we either don't care about or have literally never met before, who pop in for a chapter on some remote planet and then disappear again. However, you can count on them resurfacing randomly later in the book to shut down any momentum that might actually give the book a sense of energy. It's all in this attempt to show how the different edges of the galaxy are handling the fallout of Return of the Jedi and the last remnants of the Galactic Empire trying to keep control over a widely-revolting empire that is crumbling beneath them as the Rebel Alliance builds the beginnings of the New Republic.
All of this SOUNDS interesting, all of this SHOULD be interesting, but it isn't.
First, the book spends three (approximation) chapters following Wedge Antilles being kidnapped, and you think he's going to be the main character of the book but once he gets kidnapped you never hear from him again. By this point we’ve basically burned three chapters of inconsequential action and set up for payoff that won't come until the last couple chapters of the book. I use the word “payoff” loosely since Wedge gets rescued “off-screen.”
However, Chuck Wendig didn’t seem to care too much about the actual plot of the book, so neither will this review. The world building of this book is spotty which isn’t too much of an issue since the good thing about a shared-universe book is that world building isn’t as important. Except, Chuck Wendig butchers the Star Wars universe at every opportunity. He squeezes in one-liners from the movies that felt organic in their time, but don't make sense for another character mentioning them for no reason. Wedge says "Oh no they're on me, I gotta do what my pal Han Solo always says and Fly Casual." Han Solo said that once, and it was never a motto, infact he just pulled it out of his ass. Also, Han Solo never talks to Wedge Antilles in the films so I don't know why we're pretending they are best pals.
Perhaps Chuck Wendig thought that if we’re suspending disbelief that every dramatic problem in the galaxy focuses on one Skywalker family, that we won’t mind characters quoting characters they’ve never met before. Wrong. Don’t even get me started on Chuck Wendig slipping an Admiral Ackbar “It’s a Trap” meme in the middle of his “Please take this seriously” book. To top off all the terrible call-outs, Chuck Wendig then has a fan-favorite ruthless bounty hunter, Dengar, unironically use the term “Space Diapers.” What makes a diaper a “Space Diaper?” Does it defy gravity? Does it hold in excrement even in the vacuum of space? Why did the word “diaper” need to have “space” in front of it other than a cheap attempt to make something mundane sound cool and sci-fi?
Anyway, the story bounces around so much that you end up asking what the hell is going on and why we keep getting parts of the universe told from the viewpoint of random characters. But the thing that really chafes me, that set me off and offended me as a reader and as a writer is that he recycles the same “dramatic” element of the story twice within 100 pages. Nora Wexley on two separate occasions steals a TIE Fighter (With no real explanation of how, she just easily stole one) On both occasions she gets in a dogfight, on both occasions she loses control and decides to Kamikaze her TIE Fighter to save everyone and on both occasions she says "Atleast I saw my son again!" right before the TIE Fighter eats it... and then ON BOTH OCCASIONS SHE JUST MIRACULOUSLY SURVIVES.
TIE Fighters have no shields, are cheaply made by the empire to have mass-produced ships and are known to blow-up at the smallest firepower, but somehow Norra Wexley survived not one, but TWO explosions of her TIE fighter and she has never even flown a TIE Fighter before.
"Space Diapers" was terrible.
Describing TIE Fighters with the same Wasp analogy every time one of them is flying around was terrible.
Constant call-outs to popular fan quotes was terrible.
But literally reusing the same fake-death sequence for the same character, that inexplicably survives within 100ish pages of one another isn't just like not knowing the Star Wars universe, it's terrible writing, terrible plotting and lazy as hell.
HOW IS THIS THE MAIN TRILOGY THAT THE NEW CANON WILL BE BASED AROUND?
WHO THOUGHT THIS PERSON COULD BE TRUSTED WITH THIS?
Meanwhile Claudia Gray is writing the best Star Wars books I've ever read but the majority of the fandom's only interaction with the new canon is Chuck Wendig’s "14 year old writes terrible rambling fan fiction in one draft that no editor ever looks at twice before sending to print."
I give Star Wars: Aftermath 2 Stars. One star for the turncoat imperial officer who helps the main characters and is actually a very interesting character and one star for me finishing this book and knowing I never have to read the probably equally-terrible sequels.
In addition to the main story there are multiple 2 or 3 page interludes. A bit confusing since the characters mentioned in these are irrelevant to the rest of the story. I find this distracts the reader from the main story. But seeing that there is an aftermath sequel, it seems the interludes will come into play later.
The main problem with this book is the consistent use of real world "Earth" references. The author consistently uses animals such as cats, dogs, moths, monkeys..... It pulls you out of the Star Wars universe. It also leaves the impression that the book was not edited.
Top international reviews
The story itself is fine – I'm glad to find out more about what happened after the original Star Wars trilogy. But they really should have found somebody better to write it. Chuck Wendig writes in a very basic, hugely distracting way that reads like a child wrote it.
For starters, his idea of detail means hammering in similes every other sentence. I can count how many there are in just two paragraphs: 11. Similes are of course useful, but Wendig demonstrates the restraint of a schoolboy. Somebody's arm goes up like a Corellian slot machine? Surprise hits somebody like a galeforce wind?
When he's not spamming the similes, Wendig often just repeats himself. When he's not content with one adjective, he'll follow it up with another and another, and you can almost hear him flick through the thesaurus. The book reads as if this is your first book and big words need to be explained to you. For the reader, this can be frustrating.
Then there's his writing style, which is somewhere between pretentious and awkward. When he is not mixing up his tenses, jumping between past and present tenses), the book reads like a screenplay. Often, you don't even get complete sentences, just a location and a noun. There are any reasons to write in short, sharp sentences, often for effect. But when you only do that, this just comes across as pretentious, as if Wendig wrote the book's outline and decided it was good enough to publish.
As much as it pains me to miss out on canonical Star Wars tales, I will not be picking up parts two and three of Aftermath. I barely made it to the end of the first.
It's a great shame, because Disney's grand plan for the franchise beyond the original trilogy is clearly full of great ideas and characters. Sadly, Wendig is not the one to deliver this vision. Disney has used far superior writers for the other Star Wars books – check out Bloodlines by Claudia Grey or Phasma by Delilah Dawson. They'll show you how it is done.
Chuck Wendig's style of writing is incredibly juvenile. The opening chapter or two comprise mostly short sentences, cutting down what could easily be one sentence into four or five to (I assume) try and represent urgency? It doesn't work. It's borderline unreadable. Thankfully he calms this down as the book progresses, but constant use of real-world terms are always there and really misplaced in a galaxy far, far away. One character even references "space diapers"...
The structure of the novel is to break away from the story every few chapters for an interlude; a brief tale from somewhere else in the galaxy. Some of these are good, some aren't - and some will clearly link back into the main story at some point - but I felt these interludes ruined the pace. Just as you were getting into the story -BOOM - "interlude".
The story itself is passable, but really focuses on a meeting of surviving imperial hierarchy. Not the most exciting premise. There are some interesting side characters like the Sullustian gangster, but the main characters are pretty dull. I didn't long to find out more about them, although Mr Bones is a fun concept.
There are also -SPOILER- two separate moments for the same character, where they are apparently killed , and you pause to think "wow" .... only for the author to say "actually no, not dead" on the next page. It really was a ridiculous thing to do twice to the same character.
I can't recommend this book. The only real moment of intrigue came in the last couple of pages. I wish I'd skipped the rest. The story, characters and writing style made it hard work.
I really wouldn't bother.
Bottom line, if you're looking for a great jumping on point for star wars novels begin here, you wont be sorry. Then dig into the teat of the new canon novels released in the past few years. Then you have a wealth of legends stories to pick at at your whim
So why two stars? The story suffers from the same problem that has ruined the new movie trilogy in that the Imperials are so hopelessly inept and the New Republic characters so capable that it all becomes a bit silly. If, for example, a wounded special forces sergeant with a broken arm is so superior to Storm Troopers, a young teenager can outwit the Empire, TIE pilots are shot out of the sky with ease and Imperial Moff's so inept then it begs the question of how did the Empire ever rule the galaxy after growing out of the force that destroyed the Jedi order? If they were as incompetent as this lot (even noting the story device that the Empire's best have been lost) then it wouldn't have needed much of a rebellion to overthrow the Empire.
The Imperial characters are somewhat odd too in that whilst Admiral Rae Sloane is constructed as a human being and an individual with a moral compass and values and who is intelligent, and General Shale is presented as a perspicacious individual most of the other Imperials are just cartoon caricatures, a blend of pure evil and idiocy.
After a while the illusion breaks down and I found that rather than being immersed in the story (any sci-fi needs you to just accept the alternative reality created by the writer, and if well done even fantastical and ridiculously outlandish alternative realities can suck you in) I was just left observing that the Imperial's needed to hire some soldiers who knew a little about soldiering.
One of the reasons that the movie "Rogue One" and the Thrawn stories worked was because they told stories of an Empire that was powerful and frightening and not just made up of dumb dominoes waiting to be knocked over.
I like StarWars but this is the first novel from the series that I have read. I enjoyed it but honestly the characters names and descriptions are a bit of a distraction for me. More than once it describes a person / situation as being like an animal / alien that I have not hard of. Searching helps though.
I will read the next, perhaps that says enough
The story creates one particularly strong villain, who's return I look forward to, with also smaller villains who have satisfying demises.
Overall a very enjoyable Star Wars story.