After more than a month on a library waiting list, Star Wars: Aftermath finally arrived. This long-awaited book can be summed up in a single word: disappointing. This book was highly anticipated by Star Wars fans because it is the first story in the new Expanded Universe (EU) that takes place after Return of the Jedi and it was thought that this novel would bridge the gap between the original trilogy and The Force Awakens. While Aftermath does technically accomplish this, it is not very effective in doing so. The portion of Lost Stars that takes place in the same time frame was much more informing than the vast majority of this book. Aftermath did a few things rights, but it mostly did things wrong.
The old, pre-Disney EU had a lot of good points, but it was too convoluted. After more than two decades of an almost countless number of novels, comic books, video games, and other materials, Disney did the right thing by hitting the reset button. That being said, this book mostly did not do what readers expected it to do, which was to let us see what happens after Return of the Jedi. With the exception of Wedge Antilles, this book features an entirely new cast of protagonists and antagonists. The protagonists are an unlikely group who come together for various reasons and end up, pretty much by chance, in a position to stop an Imperial plot. But the whole “evil Imperial plan” seemed pretty inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. The antagonists are a bunch of random people who are important to the Imperial cause and have little character development beyond that.
Honestly, the best thing about Aftermath was the interludes. Throughout the book, we see random places across the Star Wars galaxy where much more interesting things are happening due to the Empire being fractured following the events of Return of the Jedi. Some of the interludes feature familiar characters, such as Dengar, while others are random civilians and/or military individuals. The Rebels are now more or less waging open war against the shattered Empire instead of using guerilla tactics and it is interesting to see the repercussions of those actions. However, this still does very little to advance the plot of the series as a whole. Most of the interludes end on cliffhangers implying that something more interesting will happen later, just not within the contents of Aftermath.
Apparently this book is meant to be the first in a trilogy, with the second book coming out next year and the third coming the year after. Maybe things will be different in those books and make the complete and utter randomness of this book more relevant; as a standalone novel, Aftermath fails to deliver. Granted, seeing everyday people in the Star Wars universe is nice compared to nothing but Jedi all the time. When every single crisis is only ever solved by the Jedi, and the Sith are somehow almost always behind it, the series gets a little stale. Maybe this is just Chuck Wendig’s writing style, but if that is the core of the problem then he is not the man to contribute to the new Star Wars EU. Anyone interested in reading this should save themselves the trouble and hunt down a three-paragraph summary that includes spoilers instead of wasting time on the book itself.