Biweekly Book Review: Aftermath

Well, kids. We’re here. We’ve transitioned out of the late Original Trilogy timeline and have moved into the early Sequel Trilogy timeline.

I realize the next three books take place almost concurrently with the Alphabet Squadron trilogy, so why is it that I mark this as the transition period? While the Alphabet books, in my opinion, have their characters reflect on what the Empire and the Rebellion was, the Aftermath books take a bigger picture look at the resulting chaos (or the…aftermath hehe) of the fall of the Empire.

Another reason I consider these books to be “early Sequel Trilogy” timeline is that I read all three right after The Last Jedi came out, and they helped inform every single one of my theories leading up to Episode IX.

None of which came to fruition. Not even a little.

So I admit that my enjoyment of them did diminish a little in the…aftermath (hehe) of The Rise of Skywalker, knowing that many elements that were set up don’t ever really pay off. I suspect that’s going to be a theme with the rest of the books going forward so apologies in advance.

With that…Aftermath by Chuck Wendig

*Spoilers Below

The Story

Rebel pilot Norra Wexley heads home to Akiva after the Battle of Endor, ready to find her son and leave the war behind. She enlisted less out of a sense to do what’s right, and more to find her husband, who had been taken away by stormtroopers some years earlier. Unsuccessful on that front, she just wants to get things as back to normal as possible.

Her son, Temmin, however, is less willing for things to go back to normal. In the absence of his parents, he’s refined his skills as a droid builder, and modified himself an old B1 Battle Droid into a now somewhat unhinged companion named Mister Bones. He is managing to scrape by on his own, and not particularly trusting of the mother who up and left him.

Also on Akiva are former Imperial Loyalty Officer Sinjir Rath Velus, who is looking to get away from his old life and bounty hunter Jas Emari, who is in town to capture one of the Imperials in town for a summit.

Speaking of that summit. The Empire hasn’t quite come to terms with the fact that they lost the war. They have staged an occupation of Akiva, and are holding a summit with the leader of the planet that promises to not be fair to the leader at all. Though the Empire is operating in secret, it’s not so secret that it hasn’t caught the attention of the New Republic. They send Wedge Antilles to investigate, but he winds up being captured and tortured by the former Empire instead.

Their objective is simple. Get Wedge and get out. Of course, these things never go to plan. And much like the crew of Alphabet Squadron, we have here another group of people who share one key trait: they’ve all got baggage.

3 Things I Liked (and 1 I Didn’t)

1. The Interludes

When I think back to the Aftermath series, the interludes are the parts I think of the most.

Every few chapters, the plot stops and we visit a totally new part of the galaxy, ranging from the central to the far-flung. While there, we see how the events of the galaxy are affecting its citizens. Sometimes the characters or their plots wind up playing a larger part, sometimes they don’t.

But what I like so much about these, and what makes them so effective, is how they show the state of the galaxy beyond what our main characters experience. Often the problem with these large, world-changing conflicts in stories, is that no one spares a thought for the average person who has their life turned totally upside-down.

Some stand out interludes from this include: The POV of young children who unofficially (at least, I hope unofficially) fought for the rebellion on Coruscant; the Empire using a Fake Palpatine for propaganda purposes; underground lightsaber vendors who sell to cultists

2. Larger Plot Setups

Another thing this book does really well is use the main plot to set up how this nascent New Republic crumbles into the First Order by the time we meet up with the movies again in The Force Awakens.

Though this book doesn’t have a ton of time to delve into it, what with having to set up the new characters and all, it does effectively demonstrate that the Empire doesn’t consider itself out of power, that the New Republic is trying to be everything to everyone, and most importantly, that the New Republic wasn’t prepared to win.

The New Republic was only too happy to root out the Empire’s presence on as many worlds as possible, with the aim of demilitarizing as soon as possible. But what they didn’t consider was what do to with those worlds when they were gone. There was no new power structure set up, and the worlds descent into chaos. We see this in the interludes, and in the main plot as well. With this kind of attention drawn to it, it’s not hard to think that if this is what we’re seeing, imagine what we aren’t.

3. What the Characters Represent

The characters are all essentially a ragtag band with a lot of personal baggage.

But what they represent. Ah. That is far more interesting.

Norra represents the person who gave her everything to the cause while she was in it, but who also knows when she wants out. She cannot feel like the ever triumphant hero because she knows she left a life and people behind when she went off to fight and feels guilty. By contrast Wedge is the person who is in it for the long haul. the career rebel who doesn’t envision life outside of the system he helped create.

Temmin represents everyone who was left behind, who didn’t get to go off on the grand adventure to save the galaxy, yet had to make it work somehow. Essentially, he is everyone in the Star Wars universe who doesn’t get a movie made about them, or a book written about them.

Sinjir though, is the most interesting to me. He is a former Imperial, who defected after he began to see in his words “a weakness” in the system. As a Loyalty Officer, his job involved torturing people the Empire decided were threats to their rule or to the order they established. Though he originally complied with the instructions, he left when he could no longer see the point and lives with his guilt. He admits to being a bad person, but is also striving to do better. He wants redemption and I love that this story is willing to give him that chance.

4. Some of the Side Plots

Because this book needed a conventional plot alongside the interludes and larger world building, we hop back and forth between the heroes, Wedge, the Empire and the New Republic.

However, the New Republic’s part of the plot, represented by Admiral Ackbar seemed to serve only to remind us that the government is aware and involved in the situation on Akiva. It otherwise brought everything to a halt. I found myself wishing that that time had been devoted to more interludes, perhaps jumping between New Republic perspectives, because I honestly don’t find Admiral Ackbar all that interesting.

Points Left Hanging

  • Where is Norra’s husband?
  • Is Rae Slone going to pay off in a fun way? We’ve seen her pop up here and there, but this seems like her time to shine
  • Who is the New Republic “Operator” informant? Did I miss it in this book? Possible

Random Thoughts

I have a long, sick laugh every time one of these ancillary books says that Palpatine is definitely dead. We all thought that for a while, didn’t we. Are we even sure he’s dead now?

Wedge defiantly tells his Imperial captors that the New Republic will send someone to save him because “there’s more of us”, which is a sweet, though unintentional reference to his only scene in The Rise of Skywalker.

This is a longer point, but it isn’t really the fault of the book so I didn’t want to list it up top. The bulk of the action is set on Akiva, an uncomfortably hot planet. Women wear face covering veils in public. The place is run by a person called the Satrap, whose palace has blue tiles, bubbling fountains, and girls in see-through scarves who provide him with a fruit that sounds an awful lot like a date. I could be projecting (probably am), but this sounded awfully Middle-East-esque to me. A stereotype, sure, but all the same. Not white people. Hell, the title Satrap is even a Persian word denoting a military rank. Temmin “Snap” Wexley is even described as a tan youth with dark hair. I’m not sure what came first, this book, or The Force Awakens, but I do question the choice to take a character hailing from this kind of background and this physical description and then cast…Greg Grunberg to play him. Don’t get me wrong, Greg Grunberg seems like a great guy, and I can’t even blame JJ for putting him in the movie. If I were directing Star Wars, I’d probably give my best friend a bit part too. I just wonder who it was who decided to connect this particular line and have Temmin be someone we see in the movie who doesn’t really match the description given in the book…

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