I approached this novel with a mix of anticipation and concern. On the one hand, I know that it is the first step in rolling out the new “canon” story of the Star Wars universe after Return of the Jedi, moving ahead toward The Force Awakens. That's a big deal. On the other hand, I've had mixed feelings about many of the new Star Wars novels published since the Disney takeover, and that made me hesitant. I kind of forgot about September 4th being the big day, but after work on Friday curiosity won out and I went to Barnes and Noble to buy it.
The fact that I'm ready to review today, Sunday, should be an indicator of how much I enjoyed it. It's been a while since I plowed through one this quickly.
Aftermath is set, of course, during the time following the Battle of Endor. Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader are dead, the second Death Star has been destroyed, and the New Order is reeling. The action focuses on an Outer Rim planet called Akiva, but also provides glimpses of the greater galaxy (as detailed below). Rather than being centered on the heroes of the films, this novel's protagonists are a band of Rebel sympathizers and fringe types who come from or ended up on that world. This alone is a refreshing change from the other novels, since there are no expectations of how it should develop based on knowing who survives.
The action starts with Captain Wedge Antilles conducting an exploratory mission to Akiva, where he finds an Imperial presence much stronger than what he expected. He is captured. The gathering, it turns out, is a meeting of Imperial loyalists seeking to consolidate power and determine the direction in which the New Order will head. There's also a strong criminal presence on the planet, one with connections to some of the heroes. What follows, then, is a complicated story as different parties react to the Imperial presence, complicated by prior history and old business.
Author Chuck Wendig does a good job of keeping the action moving. The novel is divided into thirty-eight chapters, along with a prologue and epilogue. Inside each chapter there is movement between disparate characters and scenes, along with cliffhanger moments that build tension and anticipation. The characters are well crafted, too, with interesting personalities and motivations to which one can relate. It's also good to see Admiral Rae Sloane, the Imperial officer introduced in A New Dawn.
Another feature of the novel that I enjoyed was Wendig's use of interludes—short quasi-chapters mixed in with the main ones—that provide glimpses of the rest of the galaxy. Some of these are directly connected to the main story, while others are more like vignettes that show what else is happening in the aftermath of Endor. As a source of inspiration for RPG adventures, they provide plenty of material. One even features a familiar Human and Wookiee duo, on the verge of a story that I'd like to see told, and another introduces a world that I expect to see in Episode 7.
All told, this novel does a good job of telling an exciting story, as well as introducing what is becoming an exciting time period in the Star Wars universe.