Star Wars: Aftermath by CHUCK WENDING – Book Review [Bellarius]
Bellarius takes a look into the first real push beyond Return of the Jedi with Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wending.
“After reading this novel, Star Wars is dead to me.” – Bellarius, The Founding Fields
The subject of the new canon in Star Wars has been met with both hope and derision. Many old fans still are understandably irate at having everything they cared about deemed to have never mattered and starting over. At the same time, more optimistic views hope that this could overcome some old failings, and should be given the chance to stand on its own and prove itself. Aftermath manages to thoroughly demolish any remnants of goodwill after Wending practically drops his britches and starts defecating on the Thrawn trilogy in the first chapter; not only taking the time to mock one of the trilogy’s most famous moments, but pick out every single little problem the author had with it. Things rapidly proceed to go downhill from there.
Aftermath, as the title suggests, is the first book in the new canon to follow in the wake of the victory of Endor. It promises to explore the ideas of the Rebellion growing into a power and pave the way for the new trilogy. This is a lie. What we get is a 379 page tome which threatens to become something interesting, but spends most of its time meandering about from one plot point to the next. Jumping at random between Wedge Antilles, revolutionaries, and former Rebel and Imperial agents, it tries to weave a larger image of a plot on the world of Akiva. Instead what the reader is left with is a nonsensical pile of gibberish, disconnected plot threads and a bloated tumorous story which attempts to prop itself up with a large stash of easter eggs.
Without mincing words, the text here is downright incomprehensible at times, extremely awkward and incredibly inconsistent. In order to try and retain a rapid pace and get the ball rolling, he tends to stick to extremely brief and pithy sentences, resulting in extremely choppy descripions. Lacking the varied terms and presentation needed to allow such a short structure have any serious impact, it becomes shallow and difficult to follow. Bereft of any useful descriptions or even properly establishing the environment, often you’re left scratching your head wondering what is going on and where characters are in regards to one another.
Of course there are a few exceptions to this presented style, but we promptly go from one extreme to another. Pages start to become utterly focused upon mundane and minor details, so rather than fully describing a bar, the book opts to try and grab every last little bit of information on the nameless barman. This results in such lines as “The bartender shrugs, his gelatinous eyes quivering,” and things only get worse from there. Even the combat delves into this at points with this often quoted line justifying anyone just closing the book and seeking a refund: “The TIE wibbles and wobbles through the air, careening drunkenly across the Myrrann rooftops – it zigzags herkily-jerkily out of sight.” Suffice to say, air combat is far from good and the ground battles are hardly any better.
Even were it not for the style itself, the substance of this novel canot hope to stand up to any scrutiny. As mentioned, there is a huge emphasis upon easter eggs and minor notes about various races or the universe. There is ideally nothing wrong with this, plenty of tales used such fleeting asides to flesh things out, but Aftermath is drowning in them. The reader is left repeatedly delving through abrupt, random moments which destroy any semblance of story cohesion. Not only does a one-armed Wookiee come barreling into the story and out the other side in an almost surreal inclusion, but we end up with a sudden fight involving Dengar – a character who only Expanded Universe fans would ever care about – and sudden, abrupt species related tibbits of info. Perhaps the worst part is the fact so much of it is inconsistent to the point of shattering all suspension of dibelief. Despite the widespread purge of both groups, leaving only a small handful even fully aware of them, apparently vast swathes of the galaxy have in-depth knowledge of the Jedi and Sith. With a general street urchin knowing the famous phrase of the Jedi, and Stormtrooper grunts retaining knowledge of the Sith supposedly lost to the mists of time, it truly becomes head tilting after a while. Some of the incessant winks towards the old films become hilarious, notably when a character proceeds to follow Han Solo’s advice of “fly casual” but was never in that scene in the first place. Books have certainly built themselves heavily upon world building elements over the core tale, see the Grudgebearer trilogy for a spectacular example of this, but that was structured. This? They’re simple scattershot statements, spammed in the hope that something somewhere might keep the reader going.
Once you strip all of the shout outs away, once you ditch all of the sloppy pushes for some veneer of a wider galaxy, you’re left with nothing of any substance. Rather than serving as the journey to The Force Awakens, the reader is just given a pointless tale with flat characters, meaningless events and nonsensical gibberish. Even recognisable faces like Wedge become little more of a pale shadow of their former selves, and there is nothing to characterise them as the heroes people loved. You could honestly rename every character in this book “Waru” and it would have about as much impact.
If Aftermath is a sign of things to come, Star Wars is doomed. This was the first step to push beyond Return of the Jedi, the first real attempt to create a new universe. It’s not only a misstep, but the literary equivalent of a pratfall, embarrassing to any and all involved. Stick to better books folks, you’ll find nothing of value in these pages.