Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Star Wars: Aftermath review

    One of the things which always annoyed me was the celebration montage of the Return of the Jedi Special Edition. While other fans may complain about Han shooting first, Boba Fett being a lowly thug in Jabba's entourage (I maintain that's Jodo Kast), and Luke screaming when he's clearly trying to kill himself in order to avoid capture (or escape via air vent); the thing that annoyed me most was the sight of the entire galaxy celebrating the death of Emperor Palpatine.

    I had already been exposed to the Star Wars Expanded Universe by this point and the idea of the Empire just dying off because Palpatine was gone seemed silly to me. The Nazis didn't last much longer than Hitler but that was because they'd been totally rolled over by the Allies at that point. For me, I thought it would be a long and drawn-out struggle to liberate the galaxy from the Empire. Most of the Expanded Universe agreed with this and the war continued with both Marvel comics as well as the novels.

    Star Wars: Aftermath tries to tell the consequences for the new canon, beginning from the Battle of Endor and moving onward. It follows the attempt by the Galactic Empire to reform itself with a conference on an Outer Rim territory world as a makeshift group of rebels tries to capture the participants. Throughout the book, we get interludes of how the galaxy is reacting to the death of the Emperor.

    Honestly, the book didn't initially interest me because I wanted to know what Han, Leia, and Luke thought of events. At one point, Mon Mothma talks about demilitarizing 90% of the Rebel Alliance as well as seeking peace with the Empire's forces. What did Leia think of that? What did Luke? This is a conversation I would very much like to hear. Heir to the Empire focused on how the Heroes of Yavin reacted to the Empire's defeat and what they were doing with their lives. Some insight into their reaction would have been good. Albeit, I'm pretty sure Luke has a 'secret" appearance in the book where he talks to some kids about joining the New Republic military instead of the Empire's.

    One should never focus on what you wanted a sequel to be over what a sequel is, however. Also, Chuck Wendig has been clear that the publishers wanted him to focus on original characters. So, with that in mind, what did I think of Aftermath? I really enjoyed some parts, liked others, and overall was very satisfied with the book. It's not the greatest Star Wars novel ever written, that would be Shatterpoint, and I preferred Lost Stars in the New EU but it is still worth the money.

    The standout character from the book is Admiral Rae Sloane, a black female Admiral who is one of my favorite new characters from the canon. She is a mountain of competency in the sea of anthills which seems to be the Empire's survivors. I admit, my tastes have matured to the point I'm not a big fan of complete good versus complete evil in my storytelling so it's nice to see a Lawful Good Imperial.

Empire represent!
    Unfortunately, for Rae Sloane, the other Imperials at the conference have difficulty walking and chewing gum at the same time. Worse, she doesn't have the inclination to gas them all like Admiral Daala did in the Legends universe. I look forward to seeing more of her in Chuck's upcoming books about the franchise. I'm also fond of the character of Sinjir, a homosexual male Imperial loyalty officer, who has decided the Empire isn't his thing anymore.

    I'm very fond of the interludes during all of this. Moments like the aforementioned scene where Mon Mothma decides to make peace with the Empire, Possibly-Luke being confronted with so many young men just wanting to escape their homeworlds, and scenes where people react with varying degrees of joy to the Emperor's death. I really liked the invocations of the Arab Spring to Coruscant's riots after the Battle of Endor. Chuck Wendig made the emotions involved very real and very interesting.

    Sadly, I never bothered with main character Norra and her son Temmin. I actually liked Temmin and couldn't help but tend to side with him in his arguments with his mother. Norra abandoned her son to go fight in the Galactic Civil War and proceeds to come back five years later to try and pick up where she left off. Having had friends have similar parents who feel like they're entitled to be part of their children's lives despite their past actions, I couldn't really get behind Norra or her quest.

    I think part of the issue I had is the book suffers from the Empire seeming to be a fairly reasonable bunch of people this time around. Grand Moff Tarkin and New Dawn's Count Vidian are horrible people. They've engaged in many acts of depravity but the new Imperials appear to be selfish jerks more than monsters. I didn't really see any reason to side with the Rebels over the conference Imperials this time around.

    In conclusion, this isn't a work which you absolutely must have in order to appreciate The Force Awakens. No great revelations are made about Han, Luke, Leia, Snoke, or Kylo Ren. Still, it's a story which is decently-written and has several interesting characters. As mentioned, the interludes are probably the best part of the book and it's Imperial anti-villain. I will pick up more in the series as they come out and recommend you do to.


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