Friday, 13 November 2015

Aftermath by Chuck Wendig

Aftermath (Star Wars: Aftermath, #1)Aftermath by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The second Death Star has been destroyed, the Emperor killed, and Darth Vader struck down. Devastating blows against the Empire, and major victories for the Rebel Alliance. But the battle for freedom is far from over.

As the Empire reels from its critical defeats at the Battle of Endor, the Rebel Alliance―now a fledgling New Republic―presses its advantage by hunting down the enemy’s scattered forces before they can regroup and retaliate. But above the remote planet Akiva, an ominous show of the enemy’s strength is unfolding. Out on a lone reconnaissance mission, pilot Wedge Antilles watches Imperial Star Destroyers gather like birds of prey circling for a kill, but he’s taken captive before he can report back to the New Republic leaders.

Meanwhile, on the planet’s surface, former rebel fighter Norra Wexley has returned to her native world―war weary, ready to reunite with her estranged son, and eager to build a new life in some distant place. But when Norra intercepts Wedge Antilles’s urgent distress call, she realizes her time as a freedom fighter is not yet over. What she doesn’t know is just how close the enemy is―or how decisive and dangerous her new mission will be.

Determined to preserve the Empire’s power, the surviving Imperial elite are converging on Akiva for a top-secret emergency summit―to consolidate their forces and rally for a counterstrike. But they haven’t reckoned on Norra and her newfound allies―her technical-genius son, a Zabrak bounty hunter, and a reprobate Imperial defector―who are prepared to do whatever they must to end the Empire’s oppressive reign once and for all.

Star Wars Aftermath – I had a bad feeling about this.

Having read a wide range of extended universe novels, from Anderson to Zahn, I was excited to have the opportunity to read the first, post-Jedi canon effort from Wendig. Expectations were high; surely, this would be an opportunity to reminisce and give us a sneak preview of what the future holds?
Alas, no.
As though translated from Rodian, the narrative trips and tumbles clumsily through the plot in the present tense and leaps from character to character faster than the Millennium Falcon did the Kessel Run. Recently, I saw the whole Star Wars saga written in the style of a Facebook status and, yes, it is not to that extreme but a dinosaur such as myself does prefer a story in the past tense, especially a story set a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

A consequence of this meant that I found it impossible to relate to any of the new protagonists. Frustratingly, however, they certainly do have potential: Sinjir has the possibility to excite; and Jas (at least to begin with) sparks intrigue; Admiral Sloane probably comes out of this tale most favourably but I still feel like I don’t know her true character – a shame after 379 pages of trying. The less said about “Mr Bones” the better…seriously, was this drawn out of a hat of Kindergarten ideas or is the author merely hinting at a Star Trek cross-over?

Looking back at previous books I found difficult to follow (The Bounty Hunter Wars, for example), I could at least relate to the major characters from the films. In Aftermath, however, I found even these stalwarts loathsome: Akbar is grouchy; Mon Mothma preachy; Wedge is nondescript. Why waste such opportunities to grab the Bantha by the horns and excite the reader?

And it’s not just the characters.

Little subplots raise their heads above the Tatooine dunes but scuttle off to avoid any imperial excitement - I wanted more from the potential rebellion on Coruscant; the seedy deals on our favourite desert planet; and the throwbacks to Vader and the Sith. But like Sy Snootles, Wendig just teases us and leads us up the garden path like a Jawa trader.
When reading a Star Wars book I crave information and back story; the detail is vital. I feel like I haven’t even found the tip of the Hoth iceberg with much of the plot.
But this isn’t the only hope. There is another.

When I first watched Episode I, I felt let down and disappointed. Looking back at it now, I do have an appreciation that it had the difficult job of setting up the whole new trilogy – it may even be my favourite of the second three. I so desperately wanted Aftermath to answer all of my questions that perhaps I built it up too much in my own mind prior to reading it. Maybe, in a few years, I’ll look back at this book and give it another go and it will all make sense but, for now, I feel somewhat flat and cynical about the future of canon Star Wars literature.

I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.

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