Home / Music & Arts / ‘Star Wars: Aftermath’ reveals never-ending battle: review

‘Star Wars: Aftermath’ reveals never-ending battle: review

'Star Wars: Aftermath' begins as the dying embers of the second Death Star burn away over Endor and the galaxy celebrates the Empire apparent defeat.

‘Star Wars: Aftermath’ begins as the dying embers of the second Death Star burn away over Endor and the galaxy celebrates the Empire apparent defeat.

The journey to “The Force Awakens” begins at last, with a New Republic rising from the ashes of the Empire.

“Star Wars: Aftermath,” the first of a trilogy by Chuck Wendig, opens with the familiar image of celebrating crowds on Coruscant toppling the statue of Emperor Palpatine, in our first glimpse at the galaxy after “Return of the Jedi.”

However, we see that the Imperial threat is far from over when the regime’s police open fire on the defiant people, creating a stark contrast with the jubilant ending of the Original Trilogy as the conflict continues.

The novel then flashes forward to a few months later, with former Rebel Alliance pilot Wedge Antilles arriving at the planet Akiva on a mission to cut off Imperial supply lines.

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The roles of Empire and Rebellion have been reversed at this point, with the Imperial leaders forced to sneak around the galaxy as the New Republic takes the first steps to restoring democracy.

Wedge has unknowingly arrived at Akiva on the eve of a secret Imperial summit and he quickly comes under fire from the forces of Admiral Rae Sloane, who is providing security for the meeting.

Sloane will be familiar to readers of “A New Dawn,” having been introduced there as the ambitious captain of a Star Destroyer. Here, she fears that the Empire will fracture with its surviving leaders battling for supremacy.

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Despite her ruthlessness, Sloane’s professionalism and dedication to order make her the novel’s most admirable and best developed character. However, the Imperials she is charged with protecting represent the less admirable aspects of the Empire bullying, greed and a cult-like devotion to the dark side of the Force.

Facing off against this group are an all-new crew of former rebels and rogues.

Norra Wexley was among the pilots who flew into the second Death Star with Wedge and Lando Calrissian, but she has been left traumatized by that experience. She has returned to her home planet of Akiva to find her son Temmin, only to discover that he and her old life have apparently moved on in her absence.

Wendig’s effective description of her psychological state, with the call of duty hurting her efforts to reconnect with her teenage son, makes her the novel’s most sympathetic character.

Less likeable is Temmin, who is a typical teenager (and genius mechanic) with a chip on his shoulder. His reaction to his mother’s long absence is understandable, but his attitude is tiresome until his character develops later on.

Imperial defector Sinjir Rath Velus isn’t impressed with the regime’s attempts to gain a foothold on Akiva. He is the most interesting of the group, since the reader is never sure exactly where his loyalties lie. His old role as a Loyalty Officer for the Empire adds to this intrigue, since he was trained to gain people’s trust and betray them. His dialogue contains plenty of Wendig’s trademark snark, but his character’s complexity means it stops short of being annoying.

Jas Emerus, a Zabrak bounty hunter, is the most straightforward of the group; she lives for the hunt and her pragmatism is a refreshing change from the idealism around her.

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Rounding out the heroes is Mr. Bones, Temmin’s customized Battle Droid. This killing machine serves mostly as a deus ex machina, saving his allies from certain death.

However, his scenes are always fun to read and many “Star Wars” fans will be reminded of HK-47 from the “Knights of the Old Republic” game and Triple-Zero from Marvel’s “Darth Vader” series. Bones is also one of the many clever shoutouts to the prequel era.

Also worthy of note is Surat, Akiva’s resident crime lord. Wendig imbues him with a sadism to rival that of the late Jabba the Hutt and his carbonite office desk is one of the novel’s most striking images.

The main story is punctuated by interludes that reveal the state of the galaxy beyond Akiva, resulting in some surprising cameos and two very intriguing possibilities that will delight both fans of the movies and the old Expanded Universe continuity (now known as Legends).

These scenes reveal the scope of Wendig’s trilogy, jumping from the New Republic leaders re-establishing the Galactic Senate and a variety of other characters on different adventures. The common thread between the characters in the main story and those in the interludes is they are unsure of their place in this new galaxy.

Some of these side stories also subtly reference upcoming “Star Wars” media, such as the “Uprising” and “Battlefront” games.

Wendig’s writing is noticeably different to other “Star Wars” literature, since he tells the story from the third person present tense. Many fans will find this jarring initially, but it’s quite easy to adjust to and the style makes for a refreshing change of pace.

The use of short, snappy sentences gives much of the novel a staccato rhythm and proves particularly effective in the action scenes. It proves less fruitful in descriptive moments and sometimes bleeds into the dialogue, making characters sound a little sharp.

The narrative succeeds in striking a balance between the heroes and villains throughout the novel, integrating a largely unfamiliar cast into the galaxy. Since these characters’ fates are unknown (none have appeared in “The Force Awakens” trailers), there is a constant sense that anyone could be killed and this is exploited on a regular basis.

If the opening chapter of the Wendig’s “Aftermath” trilogy is any indication, the “Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens” will be every bit as exciting as the movie.

“Star Wars: Aftermath” by Chuck Wendig, published by Random House, hits shelves Friday.

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Music & Arts – NY Daily News

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