(Warning - the following may contain SPOILERS for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, and assorted Star Wars tie in books. Proceed with caution and all that...)
Now, with Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens only a few months away from hitting our screens, it's not all that surprising that speculation about the movie's content is pretty much everywhere. Between Internet forums, assorted mainstream news outlets and pretty much everyone we ever went to school with, there's rarely a moment to escape from the rumor mill.
The newly released Star Wars novel Aftermath, then, would seem to be a rare opportunity to put aside the rumors, and focus on an actual, factual, full-canon Star Wars story, free from the teasing murmurings of plot speculation.
Except, of course:
Aftermath Seems to Have Just Revealed That a Major Star Wars Villain Is Much Less Dead Than We Thought
Specifically, intrepid Redditor Lilpanik seems to have spotted (or rather, heard) something rather unusual while listening to the audio-book version of the novel - something which might just mean that one of the most iconic deaths in cinema history was a whole lot less permanent than we all assumed.
It Seems Like Emperor Palpatine Might Still Be Alive
Yup. That's right. THAT Emperor Palpatine.
The one we watched fall to his doom, having finally been betrayed by Darth Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi.
Except, as it turns out, he might just have survived after all. As Lilpanik notes, the audio version of Aftermath includes - at around the 11:37:40 mark - a conversation in which Imperial Admiral Sloane (part of the lingering, regrouping post-Return of the Jedi Imperial forces) mentions that she's not actually the one in charge of a particular Super Star Destroyer. Instead, she suggests, it's someone believed to be dead - at which point the audio-book's music switches to...Emperor Palpatine's theme.
Y'know the one...
What's more, the book ends with that same Admiral Sloane speaking to the mystery man in question, who not only sounds an awful lot like Emperor Palpatine, but is also noticed to be humming a song named 'Sestina of Imperator Rex.'
The reason that matters?
Imperator Rex, in Latin, means King Emperor.
And who else other than Palpatine would be greeted by the Emperor's theme, before humming a song about a King Emperor?
Could It Really Be Him, Though?
It's certainly a compelling logic, after all - and barring the (no longer canon) Expanded Universe fan-favorite Admiral Thrawn, there aren't too many characters who would fit the bill anywhere near as well as Palpatine. What's more, the EU Palpatine had a tendency to be cloned constantly, opening up a whole lot of EU-referencing possibility.
That being said, there's also a pretty solid chance that it's all an elaborate piece of slight of hand - and that the novels will eventually reveal an entirely different villain. A deceased Admiral from an earlier Star Wars movie, perhaps?
What Does That Mean for Star Wars Episode VII, Though?
Well, potentially, absolutely nothing at all - but with the novel in question being billed as part of the 'Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens,' it seems pretty reasonable to assume that events within it could have a significant bearing on the movie(s).
Whether it does truly reveal the return of Palpatine, though - or instead perhaps simply a young Admiral who'll come into play during the events of The Force Awakens, remains to be seen.
But come December 18th, it sure is going to be fun to find out...
What do you reckon, though?