Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath is the first canon Star Wars novel to take place after Return of the Jedi since the old EU was declared Legends more than a year ago. I’ve only formally reviewed the lackluster Heir to the Jedi since then, but it’s no secret that the canon novels so far haven’t been to my tastes. My focus has never really been on books set during the film eras, and before Aftermath all the offerings were just that.
But I am pleased (and, yes, a little surprised) to report that I found Aftermath to be rather good. You’ll hear a lot about Wendig’s unusual style of prose – and I had some hesitation there as well – but I found that once I got into the rhythm of the book it was no trouble at all. In fact, this is the first canon novel I didn’t have to force myself through at all – it read speedily and offers a satisfying story with interesting characters.
But they are, for the most part, new characters. Wedge Antilles plays an important part, but you can’t call him a lead by any means. Rebel pilot Norra Wexley, her son Temmin, former Imperial loyalty officer Sinjir Rath Velus, bounty hunter Jax Emari and Imperial Admiral Rae Sloane (who originated in A New Dawn) carry most of the plot’s weight.
Only minor spoilers, if that, beyond the cut.
The book’s main action takes place on the Outer Rim planet Akiva, with some forays to the New Republic’s base on Chandrila, but sprinkled throughout are the Interludes. These brief chapters check in on various places and people throughout the galaxy, giving us a larger picture of the galaxy post-Endor. Many of them could be interesting hooks for the rest of the trilogy – there’s even one with Han Solo and Chewbacca.
There is definitely groundwork being laid here for the new films – Sloane’s thoughts on the Empire’s future, the mystery set up by her last chapter, an interlude on Jakku and a glimpse at a group devoted to Darth Vader. But they’re only hints, a sketch at best, waiting to be filled in.
To address the biggest elephant in the room: Expecting a Heir to the Empire or even a Truce at Bakura is sheer folly – the franchise is in a different place these days. Some seem to have a hard time remembering that Heir not only predates the prequels, but that it came out when there was a near-total void of Star Wars stories, and had been for some time. It hadn’t even been announced in 1991 then that more movies were coming! The early Expanded Universe, unburdened by the era’s approaching films and with minimal continuity concerns, had a lot more leeway than anything we’re going to see now – but that’s been the case since long before Disney and The Force Awakens came into the picture.
I’m sad that we get only glimpses of the major characters here, but it’s also understandable that Lucasfilm would want to be sparing with them at this juncture. Heir and the old EU needed them to hook readers – Aftermath, as a lead-in to a film that we know features them in some capacity, and heir itself to 20+ years worth of Star Wars novels, doesn’t.
If you’re on the fence about Aftermath? Read it. Canon or not, you can certainly do worse – but temper your expectations. Regardless, it’s a fun book, and it’s nice to see there’s still some life in the old girl after all.