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Star Wars New Canon: Aftermath - Tying Loose Ends, Laying New Foundations

I'm taking a break from the chronological read-through of my Star Wars Legends books to further explore the new canon novels (the ones that are fully consistent with the new movies.)  This post will be about the stories taking place in the immediate aftermath of Episode VI: Return of the Jedi:
Cover of Aftermath.  Image from Wookieepedia.
These stories are meant to conclude the story of the original Star Wars trilogy by tying up any loose ends that might exist.  At the end of Return of the Jedi, while the Emperor and Darth Vader were both dead, the bulk of the Empire and its mighty fleets and armies remained largely intact, albeit leaderless.  Countless planets remain in their grip, including Chewbacca's homeworld of Kashyyyk.  These stories help address what happened to the Rebellion as it transitioned to become a new Republic and began governing the Galaxy, while the age of the Empire drew to a close.  Indeed, Aftermath and Shattered Empire were both released under the banner Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

I will note that while these books do not seem to spoil anything from the new movies (except the early origin of General Hux), Aftermath: Empire's End was published within the past year.  While I try to avoid them, there are some spoilers below.

I read the hardcover editions of all three novels, as well as the trade paperback edition of the Shattered Empire comic.  I watched a pair of Let's Play videos of the Battlefront: Battle of Jakku DLC (from Outside XBox and DanQ8000).

Plot:

The Aftermath Trilogy focusses on a small group of characters as they help the fledgling New Republic defeat the Empire.  Norra Wexley, her son Temmin, his droid Mr. Bones, bounty hunter Jas Emari, former Imperial Loyalty Officer Sinjir Rath Velus, and Rebel commando Jom Barell, form an unlikely team that disrupts an Imperial summit on Akiva (Aftermath), helps rescue Rebel soldiers from a secret prison on the Wookiee homeworld and then work with Han Solo and Chewbacca to free that homeworld.  Meanwhile, Grand Admiral Rae Sloane is trying to ensure a future for the Empire, while being manipulated and later cast out by Gallius Rax, a supporter of Palpatine who hopes to reshape the Empire at Jakku, so it can survive the comic age of the New Republic and emerge stronger (apparently as the First Order).

Norra Wexley, one of the main characters of the Aftermath trilogy.  
The trilogy comes to a close with the Battle of Jakku (which is also directly depicted in the Battle of Jakku DLC for the Battlefront video game).  After political intrigue has caused a delay, the New Republic attacks Rax's Imperial forces at Jakku head-on, decimating the.

Around these events are other stories, often told as interludes, taking place at the same time.  Princess Leia and (now-Chancellor) Mon Mothma are figuring out how to govern, while Sith-worshiping cults are forming around the Galaxy.  Pirates and other outlaws are gaining strength in the absence of the Empire imposing its law.  New and old characters are shown doing whatever it is they're doing a year after Return of the Jedi.

Shattered Empire tells the story of other characters' activities at the same time.  A-Wing pilot Shara Bey goes on different missions with Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Luke Skywalker in the early days after the Battle of Endor.  They take over an Imperial holdout base on Endor (with her husband, commando Kes Dameron), infiltrate a secret lab, and defend Naboo from "Operation:Cinder", an Imperial plot to devastate planets following the Emperor's death.  Her duty complete, she retires to help raise her son (who will become Poe Dameron in The Force Awakens).

Cover of Shattered Empire #2, featuring protagonist Shara Bey.  Image from Wookieepedia.


Thoughts:

I really enjoyed the Aftermath trilogy.  The characters were generally strong and interesting, and kept my interest.  I particularly enjoyed Sinjir Rath Velus (alcoholic, gay former Imperial who specializes in torture and is ashamed of that), Jas Emari (Zabrak bounty hunter who inherited debts from her aunt, but wants to do the right thing even if it means less money), and Rae Sloane (Grand Admiral who legitimately believes in the Empire she is trying to save).  I also really liked Mr. Bones (Temmin's violent and humorous droid).

The only character I can't say I liked that much was ostensibly the protagonist of the whole story, Norra Wexley.  After the Empire captured her Rebel husband, she left home to join the Rebel Alliance, but in doing so abandoned her son, and could not understand why he would be upset about that.  Throughout the story she never understands the damage she did when she left.  I do not believe there are causes that are more important than being present for your kids.

The various depictions of the Battle of Jakku were quite interesting.  It was very cool to see the battle from different perspectives in these stories and others.  The characters we have come to know and love are each doing what they do best.  Temmin is in an X-Wing, setting him up as a great Resistance pilot in The Force Awakens.  Jom is on the ground with other commandos.  Norra and Jas are each trying to capture Sloane, who in turn is keen to stop Rax from completely ruining her Empire.  Rax, meanwhile, is putting the last stages of his plan in motion.

Grand Admiral Rae Sloane, the Aftermath trilogy's most compelling antagonist.  Image from Wookieepedia.


The battle itself was fun to read.  Wendig does a good job at describing the fighting on the ground, in the air, and in space.  The final destruction of the Super Star Destroyer Ravagar was particularly brilliant.  I found myself realizing the strategy at the same time as the Imperial commander: too late to do anything about it.

The legacy of this battle is in The Force Awakens; Rey is living in the wreckage of a walker while salvaging from the crashed ships.  She flies the Millennium Falcon through the Ravager's crashed hull.

The Ravager crashing to Jakku.  Screenshot from Battlefront: Battle of Jakku DLC, from Youtuber DanQ8000.


Wreckage of the Ravager, from Star Wars Episode VII.  Image from Wookieepedia.


I particularly enjoyed the interlude portions of the novels.  Wendig recognizes that a lot is happening in the Star Wars universe in those first twelve months after the end of Return of the Jedi.  Battles are being fought everywhere.  Journalists are documenting them.  Societies are trying to rebuild.  Veterans are recovering from the war.  Refugees and orphans are trying to rebuild their lives, including on Naboo (where we get a very nice ending to the story of Jar Jar Binks, depicted as a social pariah who entertains children to keep himself happy).  Chewbacca reunites with his son.  Lando takes back Cloud City.  The Sith-worshiping "Acolytes of the Beyond" were a cool idea.  I was especially interested in the story of Eleodie Marcavanya (the first explicitly genderfluid or trans human in Star Wars) as zhe builds a pirate nation from the basis of a stolen Super Star Destroyer.  I hope we see the Acolytes and Eleodie's pirates in future stories.

I enjoyed the idea behind the Shattered Empire comic, telling the story of one pilot as she flies missions for our heroes.  It adds very little to the lore, and I would suggest that maybe it did not need the "Journey to The Force Awakens" banner (which implied it would have major implications for the later movies).  But much like the Aftermath trilogy, this comic gave us a new point-of-view from a side character.  Shara Bey's story was a good one, with a definitive conclusion.  She could appear in future stories (ideally ones set before Return of the Jedi, to set up why her and her husband joined the Rebellion), but you wouldn't need to.

Next:

I plan to intersperse my Legends reading with New Canon whenever I can.  I'm already very far behind on my Star Wars novels and want to get back to reading them new as they come out.  Catching up will take effort.  Per my Star Wars Reading Order (recently re-posted as a Page on this blog), the next thing to read is the series of short stories called Lost Tribe of the Sith!





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