Saturday, November 28, 2015
I just finished this much maligned and generally panned book, while waiting for my reserved copy of "Darth Plagueis" to become available at the library. I read a sample chapter awhile back, and thought I would skip this one entirely, based on the jarring nature of the prose contained therein. But Nate loaned it to me, and I was caught up on everything else Star Wars, had a hole in my reading schedule, and, frankly, needed to see where this tale led.
I have to say it wasn't as bad as I feared. There are many issues I have with the style and execution, and I would still consider this work a candidate for the worst Star Wars novel ever written, but it was an action adventure tale with at least a partial, although sometimes spotty, Star Wars veneer.
First, the good.
A new Star Wars tale. A chance to see some old friends (Ackbar and Wedge), and to meet some new characters. As I mentioned, it was a generally fast-paced tale with some important post-Jedi implications (if you are willing to 'buy' the new Disney-fied canon. The jury is still out, with me.)
Now, the bad.
Those old friends seem cookie cutter and one-dimensional. I guess Ackbar seemed the most like himself. As for the new characters, I don't fully like them. They are, by design, 'complicated' individuals with lots of baggage. Ugh.
Much about the book seems rushed. There were at least a dozen typos inside. Not sure if that's far outside the bounds of normal SW fare, but it seemed excessive. All were, as far as I could tell, correctly spelled but misused words (e.g. saying "hale" to describe frozen precipitation) and not straight up typos. I think it may be related to the general style...
...The choppy writing style and present tense made it difficult to read, at times. I found that the story (and the book, in general) was more agreeable in the rear view mirror. That is to say, once I had read a passage and understood the content, the method of delivery didn't matter as much. My building recollection of the tale in progress was not affected by the jarring sentences and off-putting punctuation...once I had struggled through the first pass. I don't know if that makes any sense. At times, this book read like a word salad, with extra punctuation drizzled on top.
I fear the author did not know much about the ins and outs of writing in a shared universe setting, like Star Wars. There are a few classes of mistakes poor SW authors make, in my opinion. "Aftermath" features examples of all of them:
1. Make your story bigger than the OT or worm your tale into the OT in a ham-fisted way.
("Aftermath" examples: The bounty hunter Jas Emari was about to shoot Leia on Endor? The same Endor that was a top secret Imperial facility? The same Leia that a lowly bounty hunter could not have known would travel incognito to this top secret facility? OR small-time fringer gang scum Surat Nuat "taught the Empire how to freeze someone in carbonite?") These are pitfalls of many EU novels, from basic offenders like when "Shadows of the Empire" needlessly explains the Leia Boushh costume or places Xizor just off-screen during hologram exchanges between the Emperor and Darth Vader, to the dramatically bad, like a better-than-the-Death-Stars-Death-Star called Sun Crusher, featured in the Jedi Academy trilogy or the also-a-Death-Star-weapon owned by Hutts in "Darksaber". It looks like "The Force Awakens" is primed to go down this weird road with a Starkiller Base. Oh, please. No.
2. Poor use of in-universe slang and/or poor knowledge of universe.
Well written in-universe slang is a treat that deepens the shared world. Poorly written attempts are either funny or just plain sad.
("Aftermath" examples: Admiral Ackbar would almost certainly refer not to "...free-thinking people across the galaxy..." but rather to "...free-thinking beings across the galaxy...". It sounds very strange to think of little starhoppers being "...favored by...bookies." (sounds like a problem for 1970's New York City). Dengar the bounty hunter actually mentions "space diapers". Someone else uses the 'catch-phrases' "Darth Obvious" and "Emperor Palpable". Someone else claims they're just playing "...Imperial Advocate." Like 'devil's advocate', I guess, except it was an Imperial who said it. A brand new game, called chatta-ragul, is described in detail: it is EXACTLY like chess. Finally, the geographic oddity that states that the five closest worlds to Raydonia (O-6, Belsmuth Sector) are Mustafar (L-19, Atravis Sector), Geonosis (R-16, Arkanis Sector), Dermos (new to this book), Akiva (new to this book), and Tatooine (R-16, Arkanis Sector).
3. Wrong tone.
This is partially due to the direction of Disney canon as of late. Star Wars is not supposed to be a gritty, realistic war movie, in my opinion. It is also not meant to be unfriendly to young readers. ("Aftermath" examples: the quote "Even if your crooked human nose is dark with excrement." and everything about a psychotic battle droid. Excessive and graphic violence: more head shots, broken bones, internal injuries, leaking blood, blood-spattered corpses, etc. Star Wars isn't about moral ambiguity or realistic anything: including depictions of war, emotional struggle, or physical injuries. You are not supposed to sympathize with the Empire. Don't dwell on the "they're good people, too, just trying to do their jobs" line of reasoning. This is fast and loose Space Opera. The good guys only shoot bad guys who fully deserve it.
I am a bit surprised that this book is the first in a trilogy. I guess I will read them, if Nate lends them to me. We'll see how the "Force Awakens" goes, first.
Admiral Ackbar says in the Prelude: "Our rebellion is over. But the war...the war is just beginning." This is the fundamental flaw in the entire Journey to the Force Awakens idea, to my thinking. It is the hallmark of the new Disney canon and a method, I guess, to enact a new state of eternal conflict (as I have mentioned elsewhere). The good guys not winning, and indeed winning not even being a possibility, is definitely NOT Star Wars.
Now on to a happier book, I suspect: "Darth Plagueis". The heart warming tale of how Palpatine was trained in the dark arts. I doubt I'll see any moral ambiguity about how Dath Sidious is just misunderstood.