Judging from io9’s review of the book, I would say most fans would get into Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath: Empire’s End because they’re looking for nerdy tidbits, are confused about the new triology’s canon, or want to immerse themselves in the Star Wars universe just for a little while. As advertised by the magnificent Random Penguin jacket, readers can finally know why there was an Imperial Star Destroyer getting eaten by the sands of Jakku in TFA.
I did not do this. I did not seek out the book for righteously geeky reasons. Yes, I am a casual fan. I do own a Boba Fett action figure. I have a Lego Millennium Falcon. I’m a Jedi in the streets and a Sith in the sheets. But no, I’m not that much of a fan that I have to pore through the literature and know about all the background characters’ histories. That’s what Rogue One was for. But, I still feel strongly enough about this to review EE, so really, I’m going with the Force on this one.
Mainly I picked up Empire’s End because my local library was featuring it (Whaaaaaa…?) and because I really wanted to check out Chuck Wendig’s style. I’ve been following him for awhile and he tweets like the balls. He’s one of those people you figure are the arbiters of liberal culture, always tweeting out horrendous news stories with the appropriate amount of horror, compassion, and what-the-fucks. I was not disappointed, either, because Empire’s End documents the downfall of Palpatine’s rule with an appropriate vicegrip on the political and practical pitfalls in any transitional government. Wendig is talented in humanizing these important concepts with both beloved and original characters, and Empire’s End is well worth a read just to get a sense of who peoples the Star Wars universe. It’s also nicely PG if you have younglings.
As the last of a triology, some of Empire’s End was difficult to follow, but with the supporting bulwark of the main franchise and Wendig’s smooth exposition, EE manages to offer a gripping story anyway. The main thrust of the plot is on Rae Sloane, ex Grand Admiral of the Empire, who unwittingly leads the allies of the New Republic into discovering the last of the Empire’s forces holed up on the dirtball planet of Jakku. The discovery sends ripples into the galaxy as politicians, rogues, and everyone in between scrambles to deal with this disconcerting fact. It might be difficult to grasp the blaster-scarred bulkheads on paper, but the Star Wars tropes are all there: cocky bounty hunters, one-climate planets, and more fan service than you can shake a lightsaber at. Fans looking to catch up with a pregnant Leia or a startling cast of intermission characters will not be disappointed. I, for one, was actually touched by what happened to Jar Jar Binks.
There’s little to complain if you’re a fan of the Star Wars films here. The dead tree medium lets you separate the EE universe from the canon of films if you want to, but if you combine them, you get wonderful scenes like Han Solo dealing with the conflict of being a scoundrel and a father, or the brilliant Sinjir, who infuses some much needed snark, cynicism, and gay into the Star Wars franchise. If I must nitpick, it’s that the book is limited by the framework of the series, so moments that should be cliffhangers like the potential destruction of Jakku or a threat on Mon Mothma’s life are somewhat dulled if you’ve seen the movies. Things get a little darker with the original characters, who are afforded a little more liberty with their personal tragedies and triumphs. At 320 pages, Empire’s End is a welcome weekend trip to the galaxy. Just hire your nearest pile of Corellian garbage and jump into hyperspace already.