In Review: Star Wars: Aftermath: Empire’s End

If this is the future of Star Wars novels, fans are doomed.

Star Wars: Aftermath: Empire’s End by Chuck Wendig

Published by Del Rey on February 21, 2017. Jacketed hardcover of 430 pages at $28.99. 

The cover: A Star Destroyer has suffered many fatal hits and begins to nose downwards to its doom. It’s accompanied by a pair of TIE fighters that are smoldering. Behind the falling ship is the Star Wars logo, with the title below that in black, then author Chuck Wendig’s name in gray. All of this is against a white background, allowing every element to stand out strongly. Nice cover by Scott Biel. Knowing what this book is about, I’m assuming this to be the Star Destroyer that featured prominently on Jakku in The Force Awakens. Overall grade: A

The premise: From the inside front cover, “The Battle of Endor shattered the Empire, scattering its remaining forces across the galaxy. But the months following the Rebellion’s victory have not been easy. The fledgling New Republic has suffered a devastating attack from the Imperial remnant, forcing the new democracy to escalate their hunt for the hidden enemy. For her role in the deadly ambush, Grand Admiral Rae Sloane is the most wanted Imperial war criminal — and one-time rebel pilot Norra Wexley, back in service at Leia’s urgent request, is leading the hunt. But more than just loyalty to the New Republic drives Norra forward: Her husband was turned into a murderous pawn in Sloane’s assassination plot, and now she wants vengeance as much as justice. But Sloane, too, is on a furious quest: pursuing the treacherous Gallius Rax to the barren planet Jakku. As the true mastermind behind the Empire’s devastating attack, Rax has led the Empire to its defining moment. The cunning strategist has gathered the powerful remnants of the Empire’s war machine, preparing to execute the late Emperor Palpatine’s final plan. As the Imperial fleet orbits Jakku, an armada of Republic fighters closes in to finish what began on Endor. Norra and her crew soar into the heart of an apocalyptic clash that will leave land and sky alike scorched. And the future of the galaxy will finally be decided.” My expectations are for the three characters named to meet up during the Battle of Jakku and one or more of them to die. How long it takes to get there will depend on how interesting Wendig can make the build. Overall grade: B

The characters: Rae Sloane is a fence rider in this book. She’s sympathetic in that she doesn’t want Rax to lead the new Empire, but that’s only because she wants to. She goes through may indignities for one of her, albeit formal, position. Sloane is a smart character, but one is always reminded, she is an Imperial. She’s accompanied by Brentin Wexley, who follows her to redeem himself for his actions of the previous novel, Aftermath: Life Debt. He is useless and contributes nothing to this book, but to provide motivation for his wife Norra to follow. Norra is consumed with finding Rae, after the last novel. She will forego raising her son Temmin, aka Snap Wexley, so that she can find her prey. She’s a vaguely interesting character, but incredibly unsympathetic when she abandons her son, not once, but twice. Leia is very pregnant, and due in any chapter, so she’s out for much of the action. Han comes off as very unintelligent when it comes to Leia’s needs. He says the wrong thing often, while giving inappropriate advice to Snap. As a father-to-be I found it incredulous that he agrees to help Snap. He was comic relief in this book. Sinjir Rath Velus has some fairly meaty scenes, along with boyfriend Conder Kyl, but both are down at the bottom of importance for characters contributing to the battle. Gallius Rex is the boy seen briefly in the previous novel that is picked up by Palpatine and raised for a mysterious task. That task is to preserve the Empire should the Emperor die. Rex does that, but the minions he uses to replace stormtroopers is ludicrous. In the climax, Rex becomes a cliche villain, doing everything but twirl a mustache. Chewbacca has a needless cameo showing him reunited with a family member, with Lando having a pointless moment, but the Jar Jar Binks chapter is irrelevant to anything in this book. The original characters are cliches or unsympathetic and hold no interest when compared to the familiar characters. When the original characters appear, their actions are muted in favor of the new characters. A woeful collection of characters. Overall grade: D+

The settings: The majority of the action is on Jakku. It’s just as one saw it in The Force Awakens, though Han does tease other areas of the planet that aren’t visited. The descriptions are fine, but there is nothing new for fans. Overall grade: C-

The action: Everything is building toward the Battle of Jakku. The characters confront political battles or obstacles in their paths to discover what’s going on there. It’s difficult to make one’s way through these pages; been there, done that — but in much better books. The worst possible inclusion to a Star Wars novel, bounty hunters, are brought in to try a spice things up, but if Dengar is the recognizable name of the group, things can’t be too exciting. The Battle of Jakku is okay, but if one has read the title of the book, one knows the outcome. The possible threat then is what the climax will bring. Action occurs, but it creates no excitement. Overall grade: C- 

The conclusion: Who cares? Some new characters live, some do not, with the survivors possibly to appear in future novels. I hope not. Leia has Ben and the surviving protagonists hope for better days, but those who’ve seen Episode VII know this outcome. A lot of build with no payoff. Overall grade: D-

The final line: Save your money and purchase a Legends Star Wars book. It won’t be cannon, but it will be better than this hot mess. If this is the future of Star Wars novels, fans are doomed. Overall grade: D

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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