Review: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig

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2.5Stars

Rating: 2.5 Stars

The second Death Star is destroyed. The Emperor and his powerful enforcer, Darth Vader, are rumored to be dead. The Galactic Empire is in chaos. Across the galaxy, some systems celebrate, while in others Imperial factions tighten their grip. Optimism and fear reign side by side.

And while the Rebel Alliance engages the fractured forces of the Empire, a lone Rebel scout uncovers a secret Imperial meeting…

I didn’t know how to write this review–how to critique part of a universe that comprised the most amazing and beautiful parts of my adolescence.

Aftermath doesn’t live up to its status as a Star Wars product. It doesn’t even stack up if you compare it to other Sci-Fi publications. I wish I were saying something else, anything else, especially since Aftermath is steadily receiving vomit-filled bucketloads of hate from all sides.

This novel may not be the mass cesspool of ignorance and idiocy that some claim it to be, but it is indeed representative of mediocrity–worse, mediocrity that’s practically catapulting off the shelves.

It doesn’t help that Disney proclaimed all material in the previous Star Wars novels to be non-canon, which reduces those successful books to mere works of fanfiction. Fanfiction. Years upon years of work, from dedicated writers and hackjobs alike, have been thrown out the high-rise window by pasty corporate leaders on the hunt for their next cash cow. Aftermath is now the only Star Wars publication with the official seal of “truth.”

Yeah… bad move.

Perhaps you can now understand why some hardcore fans are basically chasing Chuck Wendig’s social media accounts with pitchforks, torches, and plenty of wailing. I can understand their vitriol. And even with the thousands of scathing reviews, Aftermath has earned a place on the NYT bestsellers list for three consecutive weeks.

Without its classification as a Star Wars continuation, Aftermath wouldn’t stand a chance. It is boring, containing stupid, undeveloped characters and absolutely none of the Star Wars movies’ epic spirit.

Spoiler-Free Summary:

The war is not over–it’s just beginning. Famine, crossfire, and anarchy run rampant. After the death of Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine, and the Imperial battle station, the Rebellion renamed itself the New Republic and has since started to occupy key planets. But the Empire isn’t finished yet. As these two groups grapple for control of the galaxy, they continue to leave death and destruction in their wake.

Admiral Rae Sloane and her Imperial cohorts are planning a secret meeting in the scummy crime-ruled planet of Akiva on the Outer Rim. They hope that their council will go unnoticed by Rebellion forces. Admiral Ackbar is flying in nearby space on a scouting mission. And on Akiva, an alien bounty hunter, Imperial deserter, Rebel pilot, and the pilot’s 15-year-old smuggler son join up in the hopes of self-preservation and financial reward.

Little do they know that the fate of the Rebellion rests in their hands.

The Skinny:

I came into Aftermath with an open mind and a welcoming heart. Unfortunately, my good wishes were eclipsed by astonishingly lazy writing, poor character development, and a lack of anything and everything that made me love Star Wars so very much.

The writing style in Aftermath would make dead grammarians everywhere turn in their graves. Although creative fiction allows for the stylistic use of improper grammar, Wendig’s writing is splattered with fragment upon fragment. Instead of using sentence fragments to increase the power of a statement, he’s decided to use them as if they’re interchangeable with actual sentences. That is not okay.

He also employs the em dash (–) regularly. This combination of chopped up sentences and unfinished, simplistic phrases has instigated a disaster:

The sound like a giant bone breaking.

A fracture appears at the base of the statue.

More cheering. Yelling. And—

Applause as it comes crashing down.

The head of the statue snaps off, goes rolling and crashing into a fountain. Dark water splashes. The crowd laughs.

And then: The whooping of klaxons. Red lights strobe. Three airspeeders swoop down from the traffic lanes above—Imperial police. Red-and-black helmets. The glow of their lights reflected back in their helmets.

I might have been more forgiving if I’d bonded with the characters. Unfortunately, they were so numerous that Aftermath quickly became saturated with too many protagonists. A more skilled writer could have pulled this off, but not Wendig.

We have Norra: pilot extraordinaire. We have Jas: vicious bounty hunter. We have Temmin: son of Norra and smuggler with a heart of gold. We have Sinjir: Imperial deserter with a penchant for strong alcohol. Oh, and we have Admiral Rae Sloane: military leader and hardass.

Although the protagonists are clearly different when it comes to their careers, genders, ages, etc., most of them demonstrate a similar style of speaking in their dialogue that comes from the author himself. It was difficult to differentiate. Only a few personality traits set them apart, which was just enough for me to classify these characters as a group of cliches.

Both the writing and character development were so lazy that I felt like the author barely even bothered with this novel. Sadly, that made me not want to bother with any of Aftermath’s dull-as-dishwater heroes.

And the most damning part: Aftermath features absolutely no Jedi whatsoever.

There are maybe three mentions of Luke and one scene with a lightsaber (and no one around to wield it). Yeah, yeah, Luke’s the only Jedi left during this time period–since that’s the case, why the hell didn’t anyone think to make HIM the main protagonist and not a bunch of nobodies with blasters and a junkyard droid? None of them are even Force-sensitive.

Also, “frag” is used as a dirty word. It’s so stupid. Characters were like, “What the frag?” and “Oh, frag! Frag!!!” while I just sat there like this: -_-

The world fell in love with Star Wars not because of galactic gunfights with bounty hunters and smugglers. We fell in love with the Force and its two-sided beauty. The societal issues and cultures were centered around the main idea of the Force as it flowed through all living beings, especially the Jedi.

Aftermath is an insult to that concept.

This novel has no merits of decent writing or intricate character development to stand on. Aftermath utilizes concrete knowledge from the Star Wars universe, but it contains none of the spirit or the truly important concepts from the epic franchise.

It’s a simplistically written letdown and just another moneymaker for people who don’t care about good writing.

If you still want to read it, go right ahead. Star Wars fans like me can’t resist. I’d recommend this book to anyone who loves the universe; perhaps you’ll find something of worth where I did not.

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