Let it be known: Disney is ready for its Star Wars debut and they really, really want you to know it. Their mark? To hearken back to days of old, but with fresh new insights brought to you by wonderfully sassy and modern writers like Chuck Wendig.
Wendig’s garnered himself a lot of controversy with this book. Yet it’s not the character of the novel many are attacking; it’s the nature of its characters. See, he broke an old Star Wars maxim and, in turn, made the universe more realistic for it.
Send in the Rainbow Stormtroopers.
Not really. His was a more subtle touch. Five characters. All homosexual. One of them a main character (out of a bajillion – technical term) who makes it apparent exactly once, and which has absolutely zero impact on the driving plot. And for this? The internet explodes. Yet the characters weren’t exactly made overt. Like I said: no Rainbow Stormtroopers. They were just going about their lives, while happening to be gay.
Almost like…people! Who could imagine?
Honestly, it’s sad that I even have to take time out of my review to mention it, but given the furor of the fandom over it? I felt need. Serious need.
But since I’m on the subject: characters. Aftermath has a lot of them. Main characters. Side characters. One-off characters. Badass mother characters and less developed, gruff bounty hunter characters. At times it feels like delving into a George R.R. Martin piece, minus the risk of death. (Cue Rains of Castamere)
Norra, the mother figure, is probably my favorite of the bunch. Sloane, the Imperial villain of our piece, is a close second. The former because she is the most developed—a lioness with her own skills and desires who never the less is fiercely devoted to her son: a roving ball of snark and stubbornness who also happens to be a…technological savant? The latter, because it’s a Star Wars villain who isn’t simply possessed by the drive to kill the non-believers. She likes the Empire for the order it brings—not necessarily the genocidal undertones. To achieve that, she will play the game anyway she must.
For the most part, though, what we’re given is a bunch of very skilled characters that, while enjoyable in small doses, are somewhat lacking in the personality department. You’re not going to lose yourself in them, particularly due to the construction of the novel: short chapters, interspersed with “interludes” from around the galaxy, which feature additional one-off characters.
I get what Wendig was attempting to do with these sections—this book, after all, is an ode to the universe at large, trying to show us the breakdown of one society and the restoration of another. These vignettes give hints as to the greater picture…yet they can’t help but feel a bit jarring and out of place. The characters therein aren’t particularly memorable, the events have no immediate impact, and while they contribute to the mood of the piece at large, I dare say the book would have been largely unchanged without them.
The writing? Fast-paced, as I mentioned, with points that reach for depth, but usually end up clawing at the surface. A little stilted in execution.
The plot? Simplistic on the good side of things, intricate on the evil side of things, but since the evil side of things really doesn’t get anywhere with their intricate scheming, and the good carries the majority of our attention throughout the novel, what we’re left with is a somewhat convoluted, but not entirely thought provoking adventure romp. Pretty much all problems can, in fact, be solved by shooting first.
And bucketheads can’t shoot.
What we are left with, for all this, is a somewhat clunky, if entertaining, romp through the side alleys of the Star Wars universe. I’d describe it as a good beach or airplane read, but not something that’s going to enthrall you from start to finish. Certainly not something that deserved all the hype and shouting and angry roars from the community. Calm down, everyone. It’s a book. Judge it on its merits, not on an all too human agenda.
Given to the stars? 2.5/5