Chris takes a look at one of the new Star Wars novels: Star Wars Aftermath by Chuck Wendig. It's not very good.
One of the worst parts of the Star Wars Expanded Universe novels, before the great Disney purge, was that most felt like fan-fiction at best. It is unfortunate that Sci-Fi series can sometimes attract sub-par talent, which in turn diminishes the legacy of the brand. I'm unsure if this is a "lower bidder" kind of thing, or if companies just figure the license can and will sell itself, that they are unwilling to invest in a major talent to produce books for their heaviest hitters.
Which brings me to Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig. I, a professional bookseller with lots of science fiction experience, had never heard of Wendig before this novel. Upon further research, he appears to being a very Internet-savvy kind of guy, and probably grew up with Star Wars, just as I have. Apparently, he used his Twitter account to rally his fans to petition Disney to allow him to write a Star Wars novel. And as we all know, only good things happen when you listen to the Internet.
Star Wars: Aftermath commits the ultimate sin: it is boring as hell. I went from being literally giddy with anticipation for this novel, to slowing forcing myself to finish it over the course of two weeks. So many new characters, planets, spaceships, droids, slang, and whatnot are introduced so frequently, and so poorly fleshed out, that everything jumbles together into one big mess that you won't care about.
Aftermath is the first in a planned trilogy that will establish the new canon of the Star Wars universe following the events of Return of the Jedi. The Empire has been dealt a crushing blow, the Rebels have formed into a new Republic, and everyone is trying to pick up the pieces. It is a damn shame that these themes, which have the potential to be incredibly exciting, are slopped together into a seemingly random jumble of chapters, sentence fragments, and both boring and confusing action sequences. The reader never knows where they are, who the characters are, and what anything has to do with anything else.
Wendig has taken the lazy way out and chosen to place most of the "action" on the remote Outer Rim planet Akiva, which is totally NOT Tatooine, except in the way that it totally is. There's so much possibility in the freshly de-cluttered Star Wars universe, and the author chose the least exciting route. How many times do we need to see a desolate planet, full of scum and villainy, drunk cantina patrons, and junk scavengers?
The inhabitants of these new locals feel like different versions of the same character, and Wendig is never able to break himself out of his own tone enough to establish a personality for any of them. Everyone is witty, in a snarky kind of way, and everyone is deceptively clever and skilled in confrontation with enemies. A kid is a skilled pilot (just like Anakin), his mother is protective yet strong (like Anakin's mom) there's a confrontation in a cantina (just like in A New Hope) and a good guy gets caught in an Imperial ship and has to sneak around the base (just like The Phantom Menace.)
|The forthcoming sequels.|
If this series is to truly continue to all three planned parts, serious intervention is needed. A co-writer should be brought in, a new editor assigned, and far more hands-on work from the Star Wars Story Group needs to be applied to whatever skeleton of a plotline this series is supposed to have. Wendig has severely tarnished his reputation with Star Wars fans with this bargain-basement book, and after the release of The Force Awakens this winter, it will be hard to get excited for another book written in this time period again. At least I've heard good things about the YA novel written by Claudia Gray.
Follow Chris on Twitter @LinendollC