Below are reviews for both Star Wars: Aftermath and Star Wars: Empire’s End, the first and third (and final) book in Chuck Wendig’s Star Wars book series that reintroduced fans to new canon post-Return of the Jedi.
I did both reviews when each book came out but I’m just combining them below. Yeah, I didn’t write one for the second book but I do think these progressively got better with each book but as you will see there’s close to 7000 words below, so I hope enough context is offered. Enjoy!
That I devoured STAR WARS Aftermath in just over a day probably speaks to how much I was anticipating it and my overall interest in where STAR WARS is going post-Return of the Jedi in the new canon, stepping on and all over Timothy Zahn’s galaxy and mythos expanding and just plain damn good Heir to the Empire from 1991.
Let’s make the jump to light speed and get to this — did Chuck Wendig fill the shoes?
I’m going to skip a lengthy prologue about Aftermath and personal peripherals that I brought with me into the book and just get into what’s actually in Chuck Wendig’s book. If you want to read a bit about where I’m coming from as a STAR WARS fan, in particular in regards to the late expanded universe, you can read some thoughts I had after reading an excerpt released from Aftermath a few months ago. You can also check out my thoughts on previous new canon releases Dark Disciple, Lords of the Sith, Bloodline, and Tarkin on this site. I’ve seen some extreme reaction on twitter and I will let other people sift through that and draw their own conclusions.
First, Wendig’s style is fine. It’s not my preference but because some instances in Aftermath work, I liken it a bit to what Peter Jackson was going through with the frame rate on The Hobbit films. You get used to it, even if admittedly the first film suffers the worst, BUT it will remain topical if you otherwise also didn’t enjoy the film because its an easy target for being different.
I’m not really willing to hang Aftermath for Wendig’s style. I suspect most people picking the book up our adults and when you are grown and read books you will be confronted with numerous styles, narrative, and perspective choices and the truth is most people get used to it, whether they are reading Cormac McCarthy, Gene Wolfe, Mark Danielewski, or Harry Potter. I firmly believe a good STAR WARS novel can be written utilizing any one of numerous author methods and choices.
I am willing to hang Aftermath for the story. I may skip the ceremony and just shoot first.
While and after you are read this novel the thought that presents itself and never leaves is that Wendig should just write interludes. For the first 200 pages I found myself coasting, completely disinterested, because the problem with this book is that the central story and the new characters involved in them are completely boring, happening on a completely insignificant planet, and are doing things both as individuals and later together that don’t matter to us because we really don’t care if any of them survive or not.
This can change as soon as the next book and we could very well be reading the humble beginnings of characters that a decade from now will prove to be new classics in the STAR WARS mythos, but the day after reading it, all these characters feel like those that get out of the way of the plot for more awesome characters, not ones that can carry one, and merely having a mother-son relationship in the midst of it doesn’t automatically add emotional currency to it — and Wendig tried.
For me, the proposed Norra and Temmin emotional core of the story just never had weight, and I actively found myself wondering which one being offed would be preferable to me (I was good with both dying, for the record), because I suspected on would go to drive the other’s narrative. Nope, we are stuck with both of them.
I typically enjoy the “getting the band together” scenarios, and while this is a motley band that has an intriguing mix of talents and diverse background that could star in future stories of interest, what they actually did in this story wasn’t very compelling because I guess the question is… what if none of them survived? How is the story different? What if they did live and simply did nothing?
If in the end they all died and didn’t form a team what have I lost? I wouldn’t get the C-list stand-ins for a disgruntled Imperial, a bounty hunter, an annoying kid on a backwater planet with daddy issues who built a robot friend, and a veteran rebel? I guess the same could have been said of STAR WARS Rebels, but Rebels didn’t have the responsibility that the first post-film new canon novel does.
In fact, if you consider Rebels for a moment, an entire novel, THIS entire novel, feels like what could occur in a single episode of a 20 minute cartoon. The character’s don’t matter. They could in the future but by the end of this novel they do not, and that’s the problem. None of them do.
My issue is that every character, particularly the Imperials, seem like poor man’s versions of what we had before. For example, Moff Valco Pandion doesn’t present the overbearing, sneering, but too far reaching Governor that Disra did.
And, sure, we can make the same case for many of other expanded universe books when comparing character-to-character but Wendig doesn’t get that privilege — Aftermath is the book that even the fans who passed on the initial new canon novels circled when it was announced. It’s our first new official venture into the STAR WARS universe after Return of the Jedi. It cannot simply be what the previous new canon novels have been, automatic bestsellers by association but average.
Yet this is what Aftermath is.
When you don’t come to care about any of the characters, when you don’t know or care about the setting, there can’t be stakes. We do have Wedge, who was featured in the excerpt, but the character we saw portrayed in Aftermath could have been any random rebel veteran pilot. That he was Wedge never really matters and I think this speaks to where Wendig’s style might be validly critiqued. I have not read his other novels, I know he has his fans, but for me, in this one book, I never felt individuality in any character or place.
We get titles, names of places, and backstory but we never earned them, passed through, or lived it. I don’t feel like anyone got their own shine, and while it can be said there is a large number of new characters in play, we live in a world where George R. R. Martin and Steven Erikson drop novels with dozens upon dozens of characters that all create minor or major space for themselves.
We want to talk about them, we want to know there they come from, we want to know what color eyes their mom’s had. I don’t give a damn about any of these characters and if they got shot out of the sky and killed I wouldn’t be entirely sure that it was supposed to matter to me.
This is a universe where fandom goes full blown ride or die mode for new characters like Ahsoka, Rex, or Sabine. They love Mara Jade. They love Jaina Solo, and you saw Force Friday where people went out and bought millions worth of merchandise featuring characters they have never seen in anything.
Contrary to corners of criticism that think they do but don’t understand real fandom, people WANT to love this shit. They will gladly go into hate mode if you underperform, but their first move is to find something they love, and then go buy whatever that is across dozens of other mediums. It’s how STAR WARS kind of has worked since its inception.
It’s hard for me to not remember how I was instantly, literally from page one, with Pellaeon and Thrawn. Remember that? Remember how the Empire and STAR WARS was completely bad ass again from page and chapter one and it never let up? Remember the new characters we were introduced to that we remembered instantly? Mara Jade and Talon Karrde? Remember that the kids Leia was pregnant with became characters that propelled entire lines of books almost on their own? Remember how much happened in that single book? Even after the original Thrawn trilogy, remember how instantly interesting Tierce was?
And I tried to avoid this feeling because I’m actually not in the dumps about a clean slate. I have those stories still. I don’t need Luke, Han, or Leia to have an excellent STAR WARS story. I’m very open to a fresh start because I’ve done it before — I was #teamJacenSolo.
To write this review right after I read the book, I had to look up everyone’s name. EVERY SINGLE ONE, and I’m used to remembering the name of a random creature mentioned once by China Mieville, or the description of a random passerby in some Paul Auster or Ishiguro novel. I am that guy that notices the hair color of dozens of character in A Song of Ice and Fire.
The only character whose name I wanted and would have most assuredly remembered was kept from us.
I guess there is a valid question regarding even if no matter how well it went over, if Aftermath really is a table-setter and should even be judged as such anyway. The truth is that the post-RotJ galaxy is only going to matter that much for a few months, just until the post-The Force Awakens universe is what takes precedence, with new heroes featured in billion dollar feature films.
I know that for myself, even with no films, I became concerned with the future adventures of Jaina, Jacen, Jagged, Ben, Tenel, Vestara Khai, and even Allana, than I was the old white folks that I loved for years, so I assume a similar and even quicker assimilation to occur with the young and good looking cast this Christmas. Hell, the thing is even branded “Journey to STAR WARS: The Force Awakens”, basically telling us what we really want is coming.
There was also this bit about the New Republic that irritated me. In STAR WARS we seem to always have very stupid people making very stupid decisions in extreme positions of power which have incredible ramifications.
Jar Jar style. I talked about this tangentially regarding the Jedi when I wrote about Christie Golden’s Dark Disciple. Here we have Mon Mothma, who I always thought was, if not a smart person, not a total idiot, talking about cutting back the New Republic military to 10%. NOT reduce it by 10%, but reduce it to 10%. As a socially progressive person in real life (aka simply being a good human being) I still cringe when I see this kind of talk by people who seem to not recognize the circumstances of the world they live in. I mean even cutting the military spending by 10% in our own real world would allow us to fund so many life and earth changing projects.
Simply put, in any ecosystem there is going to be an apex entity — it’s always better to be that than anything else in a violent setting. I cannot think of any circumstance in any setting where an intergalactic Rebel faction of a few years ago would disband their military to 10% of its number. It’s the height of patent hipster stupid.
Admittedly she says she wants to initiate the reduction when she can officially declare the end of the war but its still baffling given the history of not only the galaxy, but human and social beings. The goal is not have a universe devoid of power, it’s to put the right people in power and sustain it.
Sometimes those right people need to smash some people who aren’t. It’s the way of things. I wondered if her platform differed from Leia and in the future, the Resistance, as she was absent beyond propaganda holos promising New Republic aid to those that turned on the Empire.
While we the reader understand why the big 3 are mostly absent in Aftermath with The Force Awakens looming, it may speak to the beginnings of something that Leia is not present at high level discussions with the New Republic leadership and speaking a somewhat counter, even if on the same side, message. Han and Chewie are rolling on their own, fringe style, about to do something forbidden by the New Republic, and Luke is totally ghost. These are people who are looking to finish things, not for an exit.
This is not at all an example of bad writing on Wendig’s part though, many such people live in our own world and fiction is supposed to present characters who think and do things we don’t agree with, even if they have the best motivations.
We are also left with the mystery of the whereabouts and current identity of Norra’s husband (Temmin’s father). I might have missed this reveal in another novel, but is it possibly the secret agent feeding information to the Rebels who seemed to have a personal interest in that planet (Akiva)?
So, overall how was Aftermath? We have to change gears for a minute and look at the whole picture to decide. Sometimes a Hail Mary will win you a game
STAR WARS Aftermath: What’s Actually Kind of Cool About It?
I think we all need an interlude from the STAR WARS: Aftermath review and in the spirit of the novel, take an interlude to focus on some of what actually cool happened in our introduction to the new post-film official STAR WARS canon given to us by Chuck Wendig.
We need a place to get away from the central story narrative and character of Aftermath, and talk about the good stuff Wendig dropped on us, or at least the parts that make me happy to talk about.
Or… if you just want to skip the book and get what’s good. Spoilers abound.
Almost all of these instances happened within interludes scattered in Aftermath, offering readers these short vignettes that at least for me became these in-read goals to get to, oases booty I earned for not having given up in between them. These brief cuts were all that I took away from Aftermath.
Almost. But we will, again I think quite aptly, save that for last.
Almost universally, the interludes feel alive, characters claim personal space, environments are not uniform, shit is happening that has tension and at least feel like they matter. These are the STAR WARS stories hidden within a kind of shit Rebels-lite script, and the characters I’d like to see more of in a way I don’t the central cast of Aftermath. This is where John Williams could be heard in the background.
Darth Vader’s Lightsaber and Acolytes of the Beyond?
The legacy of a Skywalker lightsaber seems like its going to be a focal point in The Force Awakens, and in Aftermath we get a scene where members of the Acolytes of the Beyond are purchasing a lightsaber they are being told is that of Darth Vader’s. There is some question to its authenticity, but I suspect there aren’t a ton of red lightsabers lying around in this era and there is a somewhat too on the nose appearance of Vader graffiti in the background as well. I guess it could be Palpatine’s as well. I do think having either of them would feel like a pretty mean trick though given the circumstances of the last time we saw them.
The buyers, a group of three, two in robes, call themselves “adherents” and “Acolytes of the Beyond” and say they wish to destroy the lightsaber so it can rejoin its master in death. I think its worth noting that that the two in robes are concealed, need a translator (the third who is not concealed), and have a box with “strange sigils”. These maybe outsiders even in a setting that is potentially huge — literally from Beyond?
We get a reference to beyond in the central story as well, where Yupe Tashu explains that the Emperor thought his power came from beyond the known galaxy, and that he sent and spent resources to build outposts in the unknown territories. This in many ways mirrors what Palpatine had Thrawn doing with the Chiss — among the best and brightest of the Empire and presumably those Thrawn conquered outside of the known Galaxy. Back to this in a moment.
What is exciting is speculating who these buyers are and how they tie into the force or the First Order from The Force Awakens. Are they the Knights of Wren or a branch of the same organization? A rival or precursor? This exchange occurs on Taris, which does have quite the history under the now Legends stories, but has been name dropped in both new canon Tarkin and Dark Disciple.
Boba Fett Alive?
Well at least his armor might have made it out intact. On Tatooine where we last saw Fett alive we get a scene with some Jawa goods, including a full set of acid tarnished Mandalorian armor. Some pieces of a Hutt sail barge are also in the inventory to add to the probable vintage of the armor.
If Fett is alive, somebody else has his armor because a Sheriff shot another man over it in this chapter.
Seems like a cool character too though I can live very well never having to go back to Tatooine again. The trailer park of the universe inexplicably was the childhood home of two of the most famous men in the Galaxy’s history. Enough already.
Han and Chewie
I just wanted to mention it because of the magnitude of two characters. I don’t really care about smugglers joining up to liberate Kashyyyk. Sounds like the plot of a boring STAR WARS novel.
Han Solo’s status seems to be not so great in from what we may know of The Force Awakens, this might be the start of his fall back to social and political mediocrity if that’s how it turns out in the film.
At the very least, a return to fringe.
This was the part that wasn’t in a interlude. Let me first start with Admiral Rae Sloane.
Sloane, a female Imperial Admiral, is the only semi-consistently semi-interesting character in the main narrative. Even though she’s Pellaeon-lite you find yourself enjoying Aftermath when we are with her almost specifically because we admire her for agreeing with us that everyone around her, members of remaining Imperial elite, are not worth spending time with.
It’s like we survived a life trauma with her in having to be exposed to these characters.
At the end of book, we have this shared fact, both of us wasting our time, pretty much confirmed to us by a mysterious character described as simply the “Fleet Admiral” — who was thought dead by the rest of inner Imperial circle we meet in Aftermath. He, in fact, was held back with the remaining Imperial Super Star Destroyer, and is Sloane’s commanding officer. What should be noted is that he is not revealed to the reader but he is someone who was known to, or at least known of, by the other Imperials.
I do include this in the “good” happenings within Aftermath but truthfully I’m conflicted.
This happens at the very end of the novel and is supposed to be what makes all of this seem worthwhile and leave that final taste to be the best one. And it feels like its supposed to. It’s hard to explain because as a reader when you enter an epilogue you kind of prepare yourself to be moved that extra bit that only the final pages of a book can. It’s something so honest of a tactic that films now try to emulate it with post-credits all the time.
This one went through the motions, and while we still have the mystery and the obvious toying with fans who want Thrawn, if you survived to get this far in the book, you aren’t really in the mood for mystery, you finally want something of substance. Instead it served as this final notice that you really aren’t going to get shit in Aftermath from the actual main plot line unless it is Thrawn, and it feels most likely it is not — otherwise just by his mere presence Aftermath becomes actually good and Wendig is my squad. Thrawn is life. See how strong yet easy fandom is?
Instead, for now, he makes us recall Thrawn. An Imperial Admiral who outranks at least one other admiral, ala a Grand Admiral, talking about beyond known space, ala where Thrawn and Chiss were from and where he in the EU mapped expansive new territory for the Empire, was introduced with music (Thrawn’s vice was art), and who knew the value of not fighting just to fight. We are given no physical description of him, but we certainly are led to believe we are dealing with a calculating, refined, mind.
That his command ship, The Ravager, is described to us as the last remaining Imperial Super Star Destroyer, it makes one wonder if it’s the one we see crashed on Jakku in the The Force Awakens trailer.
I also felt like this epilogue was, while still not fantastic, the best written part of the book along with interludes. Involving the one character that mattered and a mystery character, for the first time Aftermath slowed down and breathed, and real dialogue that has something to do with the big picture was uttered.
I want to know what these two talk about — no one else matters, something that the Fleet Admiral basically confirmed to us and Sloane. Readers, you have wasted your time until now, you’ve been tested and, yes, if got here, we are the survivors of an average novel and story.
So I just finished Empire’s End even earlier than I initially thought I would, though I’ve always been a quick reader. Whether that’s a positive reflection or not is something I mentioned in my previous post about the first book in Wendig’s series but to summarize Empire’s End almost feels like a practice in repetition, as the same qualities inherent in the final chapter of Chuck Wendig’s post-Return of the Jedi Star Wars new-canon trilogy also aptly describe my feeling of the series as a whole.
It’s kind of all momentum. It will, in the end, give something to make people happy but not with what I think most wanted and readers will have to decide whether it was all worth it or not. Before you go on understand that I will be spoiling this novel, so stop if for some reason that offends you, I’m not here as a public service, I’m only here to relay my experience.
You know that common stereotype of a reader who reads the end first to see what happens? I always thought that was pretty silly and just something people wrongly thought was cool to say in conversation but never actually did, but I’m starting to see applicable uses for it. Not all of this is Wendig’s fault no matter how we try to keep and judge these novels, particularly the sort of public mandate put on this particular book series, as entities that exist on their own.
We WANT some things out of this series that have something to do with billion dollar films that Wendig has nothing to do with. We WANT things out of this novel because Zahn’s books were taken away from us and we, either optimistically or just here for a pound of flesh, have our judge robes on in ways we didn’t when other truly awful EU or even new canon books (yes, Heir to the Jedi is truly and uniquely awful – sorry, I don’t get off on saying so but it was memorably bad) were released.
Wendig, being a functional human being of the planet earth, is aware of this and because of this the endings of each of these novels tries to placate us. Sure, mystery is more an excuse than actual craft in these cases but I dare say it’s enough (barely) to keep us sated. That’s what crazy fandom is. We will make you a bestseller for promises and chum.
In Empire’s End Wendig gave me something in the end that made me happy but still left us at the doorstep of true revelation. In three books, we have yet not been able to breach that door. He switched up the messenger on us but he didn’t give us the message. In three books. Of course, we were given no promises, our expectations were completely our own devices but if looking at it logically we have almost nothing that checks off questions I think most people had coming into this series.
And this brings me back to the idea of reading the end first. I’m not sure if this an internet-age thought but this book gave me that feeling I have much more now where I’d find the wiki about the book better than the actual experience of reading it because all I really got here was that Sloane, a character I really enjoy, was to be our avatar to unknown space and our probable in to the First Order we see in the the new films. I like Sloane, I’m happy she survives, I was not expecting it. But…
It’s a bait and switch. It totally just shuffles her in for Gallius Rax who is just some guy. The mystery of Rax, the “fleet admiral”, is fruitless, wrapped up and written off by a creation of Wendig involving a remark by the Emperor and two game pieces. He does not earn the mystery and he wasn’t one because there was an actual one there, he was there exclusively so the book could end on a cliffhanger or talking point that doesn’t actually matter. He’s just a guy.
Look, it sounds interesting, right? That the great Emperor had planned everything out, even made serious preparation for the demise of the galaxy but even for me, a Palpatine fan, it feels really like a device to give this trilogy reason and not something that makes a hell of a lot of sense.
I mean if you’re that calculating and smart, with that many resources, hey brother, just stay the fuck alive and not confront the son of the goddamn chosen one and his pop alone in a room in a battle station that’s the #1 target in the galaxy whose location YOU leaked. This dude literally was like if it didn’t work ruling this galaxy he was going to find another one to rule and had that contingency plan set in motion. He really sucks at chess, which by the way, I think became canon in this novel. Instead, Sheev was sitting back the whole time like “fuck yo demense!”, the thought of which almost makes me like Empire’s End.
Yet, I’m at a crossroads. I’m a lore fan. I’m a guy who would read Dungeons & Dragons manuals but not play the game.
When I was in middle school I’d get in trouble so I’d have to be sent to the library (a kind of during school time detention) so I could pick up Tolkien’s History of Middle Earth tomes and read the hell out of them. I’m a guy who looks up obscure DC Comics weapons or cosmic entities on wiki and have no desire to actually read the stories they appear in. And Empire’s End feel like a lore manual with a perfunctory story featuring uninteresting new characters wrapped around it with some cameos of familiar faces. Excluding the couple of revelations we’ve been waiting for, whether we liked them or not, again, in the interludes is where the best Wendig can be found. I went into REAL length about this when I discussed the first Aftermath book.
It’s like when the short is better than the feature movie it leads into but this isn’t PIXAR where that can be true but the feature is still a classic.
The interludes are dramatic, atmospheric, full of tension, legitimately engaging with character in tactile situations we touch on only briefly but want to know more about, while the main cast of Norra, her annoying child, his robot, some bounty hunter, an ex-Imperial (who an arc is attempted to be given to at the last minute in a haphazard political subplot that just never really matters to us – pitting him and Mon Mothma against very poor man’s Borsk Fey’lya for old EU fans) are literally mind-numbing pages we wished didn’t exist as we search and yearn for a hotlink to get to the wiki entry they will lead us to that does.
We have two characters, one hunting the other, who are simply out for vengeance. We have another character trying to save her mom. We have another character trying to find another character who found them earlier. None of it matters because all we want to know is which dot is going to connect to the dot that will eventually connect to the films.
These characters exist but their lives, at least for me don’t much matter outside of Sloane, and while I like her character, and while she succeeds, she fails the reader because we don’t know who she meets at the end. Thrawn is name checked in Empire’s End but in a manner by Rax that almost seems minimized. Either that or, and this would be interesting, Rax himself didn’t know the extent of Palpatine’s trust in Thrawn. At this point we simply just don’t know but will probably learn in the upcoming Zahn novel focused on Thrawn. It hasn’t been so great for those in what amounts to be in Palpatine’s inner circle. I wonder if Thrawn will be the exception.
In the end it didn’t matter if it was Sloane or Rax who survived and took us because we didn’t get to see or meet anyone. If you didn’t read this novel, and some brave good person took the bullet for you and aided the information being put in a wiki this is where you’d stop and be like.. .that’s it??? Three books? The big mystery that built up again is just some dude.
The real mystery where that dude was going to lead us, we don’t get that either. Instead we are left just to be pleased that Sloane survives because we know the original cast already does from the films and we don’t care about any of the other new characters. Instead we are left with interludes that we try to connect to things we haven’t seen much of but think are cool like The Knights of Ren or who Del Toro might be playing, and sweet Sith masks and why I want one (like now). Yes, I’m bringing masks back. It’s literal lore. Like do I get +3 STR from that mask or what? Give me the +6 Charisma mask, because I’m going to the club tonight.
I want to be clear I’m not attempting flippancy in writing this, I literally do not recall their names, something I usually don’t have an issue with as I must have hundreds of names of characters from Tolkien, Erikson, Peter F. Hamilton, or GRRM locked in my brain, ready to go with their best known quote and favourite colour.
These people simply don’t matter. And it’s odd because in the aforementioned interludes are people who matter. People who have stories I may want to read so it’s truly baffling reading the main story, where it’s arguable that this series is about Norra Wexley whom I began and left this series not giving a shit about. And what that does is that it makes Empire’s End about stuff not story or character. The most interesting characters in Empire’s End to me are the characters at the end we don’t get to meet with Sloane.
I never really had an issue with Wendig’s writing style. And that’s not me being insincere in hindsight, I said as much when the excerpt for the first novel was released. I’ve read enough books and author of all kinds to know that there are dozens of ways to approach and tell a story but what did strike me as the momentum of this novel was reaching the point we had been waiting for it… it just doesn’t nail it.
Unlike the interludes the ending, much like the much talked about one in the first novel just kind of happens. I know, I know, I already see the people who liked the first novel or even didn’t like it but enjoyed the ending and reveal of the Fleet Admiral are rolling their eyes at me but I implore you to read it again. I have. That entire scene’s weight is given to it by you the reader.
We want to know if that’s Thrawn or Snoke and when you take that away it’s a pedestrian scene. It’s not Luke and Mara finding Thrawn clones, it’s not Jacen’s showdown with Mara, it’s not Vader stepping through in Hoth. It just doesn’t sing, it merely occurs, offered up to us almost in apology but not even a sincere or heartfelt one.
It’s not a flourish one expects out of a scene like that and the only thing more disappointing is that by the end of Aftermath we understand why because the reveal was without meaning. Rax is just a game piece. When I say that I mean we literally read about him realizing he is a literal game piece. It didn’t sing because the author knew then there was nothing there to sing about.
One part that had had tension and emotion, minus some of the interludes, involved Mas Amedda. Why? Because we can understand where this dude is coming from. Here he is, his team recently took a giant L, he’s the boss in the capitol and has been minimized by the Republic, Rax and Sloane. He’s a symbolic target for the Rebellion and merely a symbol to be used by the other Imperials. He was there with Palpatine when he took control of the Republic and here he is on house arrest.
He has to accept the aid of CHILDREN of the rebellion, straight out of some Dickensian neighborhood on Imperial Center, just so he could surrender. We feel him. We feel the kids. And this scene somewhat mirrors another where the vantage of children are highlighted and it works…
It’s already been much publicized already, but Wendig’s handling of Jar Jar is damn near perfect. It’s on the nose, but that’s how it has to be treated. It’s perfectly stated. It also doesn’t preclude that Jar Jar might still be a Sith master who just found a new apprentice. Ha. Just sayin‘.
If Wendig pens a novel about the Artful Dodger of Coruscant I’m IN.
I want to refrain from bringing up Zahn and the Thrawn trilogy and follow-up duology much because I do believe in the concept of “all good things…”, read some really atrocious original EU novels w/o a platform to complain about them, and am on board for a wipe and relaunch in general.
I do think the one thing that is applicable in comparing these two though is that while Zahn did have the benefit of writing what happens next without films looming in a climate where Star Wars is gigantic again and social media is instant access to a cesspool I think just on a fundamental level what he accomplished was writing what, yes, first had to be a continuation and companion piece to the original trilogy but coming out of his new additions, his new characters, merited dozens of others novels to star in.
Thrawn, Mara, Karde, Pellaeon… his later throwaways were like Tierce and Disra which IMHO are better characters than Jax (and if you think about it the plot is almost exactly the same – contacting Imperials Palpatine sent out into unknown space charted by Thrawn), who was not an interesting character, instead we were sold on the POSSIBILITY that he was and what occurs as we approach the end of the novel and series and start thinking to yourself what could really bring it home and it’s not anything Wendig has done… we are hoping to see Sloane get to her destination with baby Hux and meet Thrawn, or Snoke or even Ezra. Like Sloane we are looking for salvation and hope after what we just had to go through.
Instead we are forced to surrender like Mas or shuck and jive like Jar Jar. And the joke isn’t that Wendig makes Jar Jar a home(r)town clown, and it isn’t that we are even the adults who don’t pay him any mind, or the kids that laugh at him for what he was and is, it’s that he makes us the damaged survivor who follows him. Oddly, I’m still more interested in their future adventures than those of the family Wexley after 3 books.
So in short: Interludes good, kids good, Sloane survives yay! Sweet masks! I can do without the rest. Empire’s End is not awful, it’s SUBSTANTIALLY better than the first novel in the series and if you liked Life Debt (which I did but with very similar reservations I had here) this isn’t a gigantic step down once you realize you aren’t getting anything of substance or a giant Star Wars moment to conclude the trilogy. There is no bold period or exclamation, it’s ellipsis. Nothing here comes near challenging Lost Stars though as the crown new-canon Star Wars novel though.
Also, Lando is the shit. My man.
And look, if you love the crew Wendig has put together it’s a must read for sure. I just can’t even wrap my head around that possibility though.
Maybe I’m just a rook with tunnel vision and too much freedom but the content of these 3 books feels like something that could have been a truly interesting single 500 page+ page novel centered in the Imperial remnant and the interludes because the Republic material and that crew just add nothing for me and seem present simply because they had to be but I think an opportunity is missed because they really didn’t since Luke is obviously mandated off the board anyway.
I will say that this novel and series, even at its lowest depths, are never worse than some of the crazy shit reaction I’ve seen, especially of the first novel. It’s just a book, it’s just Star Wars. One thing Star Wars may have taught us all is that it’s never too late for redemption and join everybody at the rad tree fort party and drink until we see ghosts. For some of you it won’t help, you’re just awful people we unfortunately have to share this with even as you miss every lesson it offers.