Where to begin with Aftermath?
Let's start off with listing everything bad about it, because hey, that's what most of you came for isn't it?
- Hamsters are canon in the Star Wars Universe.
- Did I mention the hamsters?
Yeah, that's really all there is that seriously rustled my jimmies. Hamsters. Now that's out of the way, let's pick Aftermath apart and see what we've got, eh?
First thing you're likely to notice as soon as you pick it up is the narrative style. While it's not completely unheard of, third person present tense is rarely used these days in favor of the classic third person past. During the first chapter, I was unsure as to whether I'd be able to get around it but it turns out Wendig made a good call in breaking the norm. The present tense manages to carry with it a sense of urgency that really drops the reader in the action and the flurry of new characters (and the surprising Wedge-shaped hole in the casting list for The Force Awakens) creates serious tension that's been sadly absent in other canon material. Trust me, while the narrative may seem like a bit of a slog at first, you'll wonder how the story ever flowed without it by the time you're a few chapters in.
Aftermath also treads new ground for the rebooted Star Wars canon by being the first piece of media set after Jedi. It's the first brick in the new Expanded Universe and let me just say it's definitely planted its roots deep. Aftermath reintroduces Admiral Rae Sloane from A New Dawn, opening up that interconnectedness that made the old Expanded Universe feel so thorough and intertwined as well as extremely expensive to follow. Characters that have been sadly lost such as Mara Jade and Kyle Katarn who existed in a similar form are seen echoed in Aftermath by the way it paves the path towards a new universe and it makes me very happy knowing that we're in safe hands.
If it's not already evident, I, much like many readers of Aftermath, am a huge fan of the old Expanded Universe. Wendig is fully aware of his audience and makes sure our sacrifice wasn't in vain as he takes every opportunity to make sure we're still comfortable as we take this new road. Species and planets that made no appearance in the movies but thrived in the EU are referenced and the frequent interludes and several important characters also make brief, and in some cases unnamed, appearances. One interlude in particular will have the fanboys screaming for more acid damaged armor and a desert adventure spin off, perhaps? Come on, Chuck, you know you want to...
While personally, I'd consider this book nothing short of a narrative masterpiece, it seems it's been getting a lot of press for the wrong reasons as well. Every other review I've read, be it professional or just a grumpy troll on Amazon, has in some way criticized Wendig for his portrayal of LGBT characters throughout the novel. Many have accused him of trying to push his own "agenda" and sacrifice story in the name of his own beliefs.
Basically, it's nonsense.
With the exception of Dark Disciple, most of the new Star Wars novels have managed to perfectly craft their characters and voices but have lacked a cohesive plot to complete the set. Much like Dark Disciple, Aftermath manages to perfectly balance the two, giving a full cast of three dimensional characters in a story where the stakes are real and everything counts. The inclusion of multiple LGBT characters has nothing to do with it. Surely in a galaxy so vast and diverse as this, it would have been more unusual to not feature at least a handful? As shown in Tarkin, even the Empire, who in this continuity are still just as xenophobic as the nazis upon whom they were based, are fully tolerant of LGBT officers and soldiers. Just because Star Wars originated in the seventies doesn't mean it has to stay there.
But it's not just minorities getting better representation in Aftermath. Mothers, a rare sight in Star Wars media, are apparently serious badasses in this quadrant, shown by our protagonist, Norra Wexley. When it comes to Star Wars, mothers usually don't have a great track record. Shmi Skywalker let her son fly off to the other side of the galaxy then died on his first visit home while Padme literally had about ten seconds of motherhood before kicking it as well.
Although, towering above all else in this is Wendig's incredible written voice carrying the entire novel. This was my first experience of the author in his natural habitat (not including his writing books and the Terrible Minds blog) and I can safely say that he has not let me down. Managing to balance a decent plot, fantastic characters and have space to piss off the galaxy's loudest bigots while staying true to the essence of Star Wars is quite an achievement and I wholeheartedly recommend Aftermath to any Star Wars or just pure Sci Fi fan.
It's just a shame about those hamsters though...
Star Wars: Aftermath is out now and you can get your hands on a copy HERE.
You can also check out the author's truly excellent blog HERE. Trust me, the man's a genius.