Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig – Review
by Roger Crow
I read the first Star Wars movie adaptation five times between 1978 and 1982. It was a cracking book, and a great story, even if you hadn’t seen the film. Which I had. A lot.
I skirted the spin-offs: Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, Alan Dean Foster’s account of what happened when Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa went off in search of a powerful crystal. Then there was Han Solo at Star’s End by Brian Daley, and then another.
In the decades since there have been so many novels inspired by George Lucas’s universe, it’s seemed rather crowded on the bookshelves when once it was rather special. Of course, the resurrected franchise has inspired a new wave, and with decades between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens to fill, little wonder writers such as Chuck Wendig have been given plenty of scope for their own tales, such as Aftermath.
He seems to know how to tell a good tale, balancing the inevitable politics of Imperial rulers and their power struggles with feisty rebels determined to bring them down. Though the second Death Star may have been destroyed, there are still plenty of bad guys out there to tackle, and Wendig has no shortage of improbably named antagonists and protagonists as his main cast.
Sci-fi names can annoy me if too ‘out there’. Like classic novel Dune, which formed a chunk of inspiration for the Star Wars saga, Aftermath could do with a glossary of names and places to ease the reader in. There are enough old school references to cling to for fans like me, but good luck to anyone who’s never seen a Star Wars movie.
“Avatars sent from A-to-B by Wendig’s literary joystick”
There is some colour when Dengar, the podgy faced bounty hunter from The Empire Strikes Back shows up, but as he never spoke a word in the movie, Wendig has no reference for the style of speech, so creates some risible patter. A cross between a London gangster and a Bronx teenager. And let me be clear about this. No Star Wars spin-off, movie or otherwise, should ever feature the phrase ’space diapers’. Ever.
As I plough on I realise I don’t care about many of the new characters. They’re avatars being sent from A-to-B by Wendig’s literary joystick. I also grow bored of the endless comparisons with things I have no clue about. “The fruit reminded him of a bimbam blingetty jabbit,” is a sentence I just made up that’s as coherent as anything in Aftermath. No point of reference for the comparison? No point. Full stop.
Okay, Star Wars aficionados who have watched every episode of the cartoons, read all the comics, played the games, and read the spin-off novels could no doubt get obscure cross references, if there are any, but they just get in the way of what could be a good story.
There are huge chunks of dry dialogue, the odd action scene (which seems to lift inspiration from countless blockbusters) and characters more at home in a Z-list sci-fi movie than this classy universe. And using dialect like “What say you?”. No Wendig. Bad dialogue. Stop it.
“Too little story here for the generous 410 pages”
The plot: following the battle of Endor, (from Return of the Jedi), the Empire, what’s left of it, is preparing to strike back, again. So they collect for a secret meeting above the planet Akiva to launch a counter assault. Former rebel fighter Norra Wexley returns to her home on Akiva. She intercepts a distress call from Wedge Antilles (Luke’s old wingman) who gets wise to the Empire’s plans, but is captured before he can alert the rebels. With the aid of her wiz-kid son, a bounty hunter and an imperial defector, Norra takes the fight to the empire.
The dialogue captures some of that Saturday matinee feel of Lucas’s saga, with undertones of Shakespeare (as with Jedi). But with monikers like Arsin Crassus (yes, really), you wonder whether Wendig is seeing how far he can stretch the stupid names, or maybe he just ran a bunch of ideas through some Star Wars name generator app.
However, I do like the battle droid Mr Bones; he’s worthy of graduation to the big screen. Apparently there are two more books in this saga. I feel Wendig spread himself too thinly, like what’s left of Jabba the Hutt after he’s been run over by a sand crawler. There’s too little story here for the generous 410 pages.
To paraphrase Ben Kenobi: “This isn’t the Star Wars spin-off you’re looking for. You don’t need to see the literary sequels. You can go about your business. Move along.”