Retro Reviews: ‘Empire’s End’ by Chuck Wendig

November 25, 2020 at 11:19 am | Posted in Books, Random House, Regular Feature, Retro Reviews, Reviews, Star Wars, Star Wars Books | Leave a comment
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Aftermath: Empire’s End is the final book in the Aftermath trilogy, written by Chuck Wendig and released in February 2017. 

It seems like each Aftermath book has a different genre or story style, while still having the same underlying themes and tones. Aftermath is a kind of a heist book where a ragtag group comes together to rescue someone. Life Debt is more of a traditional star wars book with a hint of political thriller added to the mix. Empire’s End is more of an epic war book with some smaller stories happening inside it. I like those aspects of all three, but because they are each so different, it makes it harder to like Aftermath as a cohesive trilogy.

The best part of Empire’s End is the broader themes and scopes that it introduces. As each story gets bigger in scope, so too do its implications for the future of the galaxy. This book answers why the Empire “goes away” in between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens and how it goes away. I thought that it was fascinating revisiting Palpatine’s plan, and it’s ironic how Chuck Wendig did not know where J.J. Abrams would take Episode IX (as J.J. hadn’t written it yet or even signed on at this point) and yet Wendig actually nailed some predictions and set up for Palpatine and the “Final Order”. I feel much better about the book now in 2020 than I did when it came out simply because it happens to fit into the wider narrative perfectly. 

One of the first major problems I have with this book (and the trilogy as a whole), is it tries to do too much. Aftermath was a small story with a small scope and it worked really well. Life Debt got bigger, but overall kept it’s structure. This book tries to tell the story of Jakku and subsequently tell this story on Chandrila/Nakadia as well as focus on all of the little characters that have been introduced. I completely forgot about Jom Barrell and his death at the end of the book had no weight with me. Likewise, I didn’t feel anything for Wedge and he was billed as a character we’d follow more in the trilogy. He is the fulcrum of the first book, and has a major role in the second book, but he gets sidelined here and it doesn’t work. When he shows up, the reader naturally gets excited, and then he’s gone, and you wish you had more. In that same vein some characters like Sinjir and Jas seem to get a little too much in this book. We already got a lot of development from them in the previous two books, and while it was nice, I didn’t think their subplots were necessary. It seemed to muddle the main story, which was pretty awesome.

This brings me to my biggest gripe about the Aftermath trilogy as a whole: style. I just don’t like Chuck Wendig’s style. This problem manifests itself in two parts; writing style and story style. When it comes to verbiage and language and diction, I feel that Wendig’s style is terrible and not built for Star Wars. He is way too crass and his descriptions match better with a horror novel than they do with a space fantasy. He is vivid, I’ll give him that, but he is vivid in a way that I don’t want to read. This book is no different than its predecessors in that regard. 

The second issue with his style is his story style. His A-plots are great. The Empire going to Jakku to destroy itself and Rax running to the observatory to escape with the remnants is fantastic. However, with the side plots regarding Niima the Hutt and the Senate vote (don’t get me wrong, I love politics, but it has to be done right) just drag the overall story down. I almost wish those would have been separate books or short stories.

Also, I thought that the interludes here were the best in the trilogy, mostly because they fit better to the overall narrative, but I still hold that they should have been their own short story collection and Aftermath should have been a trilogy in and of itself.

If I can add in a few more positives, I’d like to point out that Wendig actually did a really good job with Rae Sloane and this trilogy (along with A New Dawn) make me really want to read more about her, which is the goal of all writers. Wendig also is surprisingly good at writing Han Solo, who has some funny lines in the book. His writing of Leia however, is still really bad and doesn’t fit at all.

If I can add one final note on the trilogy as a whole I’d say that the artwork really pops out and distinguishes itself from all of the other Star Wars book covers. I hope that Del Rey considers going back to this style.

Overall, I believe that Aftermath is a solid trilogy and Empire’s End is a solid addition to that trilogy. All of the problems I mentioned above make it impossible for Aftermath to stand up there in the Star Wars hall of fame with the Heir to the Empire Trilogy or the Darth Bane Trilogy. However, it is not the pile of garbage that some people make it out to be, for it has some really redeeming factors. I’m happy we’ve gotten it, but I won’t shed a tear if Chuck Wendig never writes a Star Wars book again. I still think Aftermath is the best book of the three for it’s plot, but Empire’s End has the best connections to the greater universe at large. I give Aftermath Empire’s End 3.5 out of 5. 

My next book is Thrawn by Timothy Zahn, which is one of my favorite books in Star Wars.

Written by Jonathan Koan.

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