It’s undeniable at this point that the newly refreshed Star Wars franchise has turned into an unstoppable engine of space opera fun. The Disney reboot has shed decades of continuity whilst keeping some of the more interesting ideas and the core ‘feel’ of Star Wars alive. Though this shift in approach is practically unnoticeable in the movies, it’s extremely obvious in the new books, and it’s very welcome. This brings us to the final book of the Star Wars Aftermath series, the flagship of this brave new line of novels. Star Wars Aftermath: Empire's End is by no means perfect, but it is a very good sign of things to come. If they’re all this good, we are in for years of fun.
Empire’s End is, essentially, the big pay-off at the end. Aftermath’s big thing is that it fills in the gap between The Return of The Jedi and The Force Awakens, and so far we’ve been getting a steady build-up of plot. We know that the remnants of the Empire will fight back, and we know that they’re cunning and clever. We also know that the heroes of the movies have other concerns (functioning as supporting cast in the series but nothing more). We also know the small team of jaded fighter pilots, redeemed spies and conscientious mercenaries we met at the start of the series have become heroes in their own right.
The result is a high octane and swiftly paced affair. It isn’t tight; this is an explosion of events as the key characters find themselves fated to visit Jakku, and the challenges that await them there. Though every character gets their arc, and we get some nice scum and villainy action with the addition of another Hutt to the mix, this is really a battle between two complex and interesting women, one Rebel, one Imperial, both desperate to enforce their will on an ever changing galaxy. Strong stuff. Highly skilled geek and very experienced writer Chuck Wendig has weathered heavy criticism to produce the Aftermath Trilogy. The old Star Wars tie-in books had their own cult following and some heavy investment from the fans. Add to this Wendig’s inclusive and sensible approach to world building, and the series got much more than its fair share of flack.
Empire’s End is the best book in the Trilogy. It’s very engaging, the reader’s investment in the cast is very strong and the story is good. However, it suffers from being a little clunky at key moments; in an attempt to make the book more accessible, quality is lost. The various shout outs to the wider Star Wars worlds is a treat, but they are sometimes laid on a bit strong. Wendig has woven his characters deeply into the new galaxy, sometimes at the expense of the flow of the tale.
On the other hand, some of the little scenes and asides are perfect, and function not only a poignant meta-narrative on the key themes of the book (such as the corrosive effects of power) but also as commentary on the fandom itself.
A great ending to a good series, with plenty for anyone who likes cinematic fun.
STAR WARS AFTERMATH: EMPIRE'S END / AUTHOR: CHUCK WENDIG / PUBLISHER: CORNERSTONE DIGITAL / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW