Jay Sherer is the author of Timeslingers, a time travel adventure available now on Amazon.com, and the soon-to-be released comic book, The Standard. He’s also a big Star Wars fan, if you couldn’t tell.
REVIEW SUMMARY: Aligns well with the Star Wars universe and has decent characters and a good plot, but Mr. Wendig’s writing style may kill it for you. A walk through the Forest Moon of Endor for some, Bantha Poodoo for others.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: An unlikely, ragtag group of rebels bands together to disrupt an Imperial plot to reassemble and realign the Empire’s remaining fleet.
PROSE: Solid, diverse characters; an interesting plot; a cool writing style (may be a con for some, read an excerpt before buying), and fun interludes (for the most part).
CONS: Many of groan-worthy moments, bad metaphors, and poor choices of descriptive words; a couple ridiculous action sequences; and very weak connection to The Force Awakens (from what I can tell).
BOTTOM LINE: Read the excerpt to make sure you’re okay with the writing style. Then: 1) Choose to buy it if you love Star Wars and want to see how things are shaping up in the galaxy prior to JJ Abrams taking over, or 2) Skip it if you’re a casual fan or if you’re a die-hard fan with high expectations.
Polarizing. That’s the best word to describe Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig. Some hate it, others love it, and chances are, should you choose to read it, you’ll have an opinion (and it’ll probably be a strong one). Like the Jedi Masters and Sith Lords before you, you’ll have to choose the light side or the dark side. For me, there were things I loved, and things I hated (like, in a “Jar-Jar Binks” kind of way). All things considered, I’d recommend it, but with extreme caution.
There are two building blocks of good storytelling: the characters and the plot. Both are sufficient (and at times very good) in Star Wars: Aftermath. Mr. Wendig has laid a proper foundation for good storytelling. Most of the other reviews I’ve read (and other people I’ve talked to) focus far more on the exterior painting rather than the foundation itself—and to be fair, there are some major issues with that paint job. Those issues distract from the foundation in some major ways.
I liked most of the main characters. Each has a set of strengths and weaknesses and a decent, plausible backstory. There’s Norra, the rebel pilot bent on destroying the Empire while simultaneously trying to protect her son, Temmin, who happens to be more interested in building his illegal business while trying to find his way in the world. Sinjir, a former Imperial loyalty officer who decided to defect. Jas, the skilled bounty hunter trying to assassinate Imperial targets. Mister Bones, Temmin’s upgraded battle droid. And Rae Sloane, an Imperial Admiral trying to build a worthwhile fighting force and resurrect the Empire’s fleet. I liked all those characters. They create a good group of misfits that are thrown into the plot in a way that worked for me.
I do have two exceptions to that rule: Wedge Antilles and Jom Barell. Wedge doesn’t amount to much more than a damsel in distress, and Jom’s character seems completely unnecessary, or maybe even an afterthought. Both were somewhat lacking in purpose and function. And let’s face it, Wedge was probably just thrown in so that it feels like there’s a deeper connection to the original trilogy.
The plot works. Without giving too much away, it revolves around the Empire trying to rebuild and realign its remaining forces while a small, unlikely group of rebel fighters stumbles into their scheming and begins to wreak havoc. It aligns with the feel of the original trilogy in that a ragtag group of diverse freedom fighters takes on the evil Empire in an attempt to foil their nefarious schemes. I liked it and appreciated that Mr. Wendig didn’t try to over-engineer it.
Much has been said (in other reviews) about the style of Mr. Wendig’s writing. And I’ll say upfront, you’re probably either going to like it or hate it. The book is written in third-person, present tense, and it’s very choppy. This happens. Then that. And boom—they got him. In Mr. Wendig’s bio, it says that he’s also a screenwriter, and the style feels a lot like a screenwriter’s style. I loved it, which may not be fair because I also write and read screenplays and have used a very similar style myself in books and stories I’ve written. It can be distracting and difficult to follow, but I had no issues with it, and found myself really liking it. If you’re concerned about it, I would highly recommend reading an excerpt before you buy it.
The Star Wars-iness:
I’m not sure what else to label this. Basically, Mr. Wendig uses a lot of metaphors that rely heavily on Star Wars knowledge (like, you memorized Wookieepedia knowledge). It’s not that unusual (other Star Wars novels have done it), but it does become excessive. It didn’t throw me off too badly, but I did find it annoying on several occasions.
The Groan Factor:
This is my biggest complaint about Star Wars: Aftermath—it’s just too cheesy in parts. I don’t have a better word for it, so I’ll try and give examples. Sometimes, it’s the over-the-top action (e.g., one character jumps onto a starship heading for orbit and somehow manages a feat of superhuman strength to gain access to said ship). At other times, it’s the descriptive words chosen (many of which are made up). For example: “wibbles and wobbles” used to describe the flight path of a TIE fighter. And then, there’s the time that the author uses the term “space diapers.” Yeah. Space diapers. These things make the reader do one thing: groan. It’s my biggest complaint about the book. Does it ruin the book? Almost. But, it didn’t for me. Others I’ve talked to couldn’t stand it, and it did ruin it for them. Just know going in that you’re probably going to groan or shake your head along the way.
Every so often, we’re given a brief chapter that describes what’s happening throughout the galaxy as the war rages on. I liked these. For the most part, they were well done and often times I found myself hoping I would get to one soon. Some of the interludes even hint at what might be coming up in the new movie (The Force Awakens). The large majority of them aren’t really memorable, but several are great. Overall, I liked them.
Star Wars: Aftermath has been marketed as a sort of bridge between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. I think that’s unfair. Sure, there are minor hints here and there at what may be coming, but there’s very little that connects the original trilogy to anything I’ve seen about Episode VII. Since I haven’t seen the movie yet, I may be missing something, but I doubt it. The connection is weak at best, and I think the marketing totally oversells that aspect of the book.
There you have it. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to ask me in the comments section. In the meantime, I’ll be counting down the days to The Force Awakens!