The Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens starts with Aftermath

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Last Friday was Force Friday! As part of their build up for THE FORCE AWAKENS, Disney released a lot of new Star Wars merchandise, including boatloads of new toys. One thing that got a little lost was they also released several new novels set in between RETURN OF THE JEDI and THE FORCE AWAKENS, under the umbrella title of JOURNEY TO THE FORCE AWAKENS. There is also a comic mini-series coming out on Wednesday called SHATTERED EMPIRE that falls under this banner.

Over the years, there have been a lot of STAR WARS novels and comics. They have been very hit or miss. There have been some great books like the HEIR TO THE EMPIRE trilogy, SHADOW OF THE EMPIRE, TALES OF MOS EISLEY CANTINA (which was the first STAR WARS book I had ever read). But, there were also a lot of bad books as well.  But it didn't matter all that much. For years, Lucasarts' policy was “these books was not canon, and we can contradict them whenever we want.”

One of Disney’s major initiatives when then took over the STAR WARS franchise was that all licensed material would be canon. Any comic series published by Marvel, animated series like CLONES WARS and REBELS, and any novels will all be part of true canon. That makes these new books the only STAR WARS books that count. 

Over Labor Day weekend, I decided to check out JOURNEY TO THE FORCE AWAKENS, and we will be rolling out our coverage over the new few days. We will get started with what seems to be the flagship novel, AFTERMATH.


Hardcover - $28
Kindle - $13.99
Published by Del Ray (Penguin Random House)
400 Pages

Warning! This review contains quite a few spoilers!

AFTERMATH is set in the months right after the Battle of Endor. The Second Death Star has been destroyed, killing Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader. The Rebel Alliance is working on setting up a New Republic, with the first Senate meeting about to happen. Running parallel to this, several high ranking Imperial officials have gathered on the planet Akiva in order to figure out how to regain control of the galaxy. An unlikely band of heroes comes together to stop the Imperials including Norra (a rebel pilot), Sinjir (a former Imperial loyalty officer who went rogue after the Battle of Endor), Temmin (Norra’s estranged son), and Jas (a bounty hunter sent by the New Republic to capture or kill an Imperial money lender).  Interspersed between the action on Akiva are a wide variety of shot interludes showing what life is like all over the galaxy. We see how the war tore families apart; we see the attempt to reclaim Cloud City; and we learn about the “ankle biters” a children’s army who worked to help the Alliance reclaim the capital of Coruscant.

One of the biggest surprises about AFTERMATH is that it doesn’t feature the main STAR WARS characters. Luke, Leia, Lando, C-3PO, and R2D2 are completely absent. Han and Chewbacca only get one brief interlude chapter with them trying to rally other scoundrels to help retake Chewbacca’s home planet of Kashyyyk…seemingly without permission or support from the New Republic. We get some cameos from Admiral Ackbar and Mon Mothma. Really the only “know” character who has a major role in this story is Wedge Antilles, and even Wedge spends most of the book as an Imperial prisoner.

Disney took a bit of a risk here doing a big STAR WARS book without using a lot of familiar characters. The premise of JOURNEY TO THE FORCE AWAKENS seemed to be to fill in the time between RETURN OF THE JEDI and THE FORCE AWAKENS, and so far, Disney has been real coy about telling us what the main characters were up to in that time period. Even in the shorter novels that feature Luke, Leia, Han and Chewbacca on the cover, most of the events of those books happen DURING the Original Trilogy with framing sequences set in the JOURNEY TO THE FORCE AWAKENS timeframe. It is possible SHATTERED EMPIRE focuses more on the main character, but we won’t know for sure until it comes out on Wednesday.

But, I will say that this risk worked very well. AFTERMATH is an excellent book. We see the effects of war on many different levels. There is plenty of the action and adventure you expect from STAR WARS, but also a lot of perspective on what a Galactic Civil War would really look like.  I liked that most of the Imperials we see here are real complex characters. You have military heroes, leaders who want to use military force, lowly functionaries who want to prove themselves, along with someone who worships the ways of the Sith. The book really makes you think about the Empire in a very different way.  Many of the Imperial characters never quite feel like villains, just people loyal to the Empire’s ordered way of seeing the galaxy. This doesn’t give us a clear villain like the Emperor or Darth Vader (though the end of the book does suggest there is one out there pulling the strings). For me, that gave this book a very grown-up feel to it. In war, it is rarely good vs evil; things are a lot more complex.

The heroes were also real well done. We get a wide variety of perspectives, and that ensures you see the Star Wars galaxy through fresh eyes. I also thought the story was real compelling, and had a lot of great suspenseful moments. They did telegraph some of the plot twists a little too obviously, but that didn’t take away from the strong writing.

One thing I did notice was a strange “overcorrection” in trying to build more diversity into the STAR WARS universe. This book featured the first homosexual STAR WARS hero in Sinjir. But, it seemed like all the relationships we discussed in the book involved homosexuals. Norra’s sister is married to a woman. We see an orphaned character who talks about losing both his dads. The only male/female relationship in the book I remember being discussed was Norra and her husband, who was arrested by the Empire years before the book started.

My only other criticism is there might have been a few too many interludes. While I enjoyed most of them, as we got towards the end of the book, I found some of them distracted from the main action of the book. Also, many of them were done without a lot of context, so it was hard to figure out how important they were or if they would ever be followed up on. They never quite disrupted the flow of the book, but they did cause me to put the book down a few times. It’s always a hard balance to interrupt the narrative that way, and they might have been a few too many distractions in this one.

All that said, I really enjoyed AFTERMATH and look forward to the other two books in this trilogy. No announcements have been made on release dates yet. The author seemed to suggest to ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY that it would not be out until late next year. This was one of the best STAR WARS books I have read in a long time and gets JOURNEY TO THE FORCE AWAKES off to a real strong start.

4.5 / 5.0