Earlier this week EW.com posted an excerpt from Chuck Wendig’s novel, Star Wars: Aftermath. The novel, set after Return of the Jedi, stars Rebel pilot-turned-spy Wedge Antilles on a mission to the planet Akiva. The novel is set for release on September 4th and will set the stage for readers going into The Force Awakens in December.
Even though the excerpt is short it does give us some really juicy nerf nuggets to chew over.
1. Luke May Have Lied To the Alliance
The excerpt opens with a victory speech by Admiral Ackbar, included in the speech is the following line, “We have reports from Commander Skywalker that Emperor Palpatine is dead, and his enforcer, Darth Vader, with him.”
Just what did Luke tell his commanding officers and fellow rebels about the events that transpired in the Emperor’s Throne Room, the true identity of Darth Vader, and how everything went down?
Given his last name and their interaction with Anakin during the Clone Wars, Mon Mothma and Admiral Ackbar probably know or have figured out Luke was Anakin’s son, but do they know Anakin lived on as Vader or have they assumed he died during Order 66?
Would figures with no familial ties to Anakin Skywalker believe or care about Anakin’s redemption given all the atrocities that Vader committed?
The keeping of secrets and the problems that can cause is very fertile storytelling ground.
2. Coruscant Didn’t Fall Immediately After The Battle of Endor
A very evocative short scene continues the riotous celebration by citizens on Coruscant. We see a celebration at the end of Return of the Jedi and this novel picks up at one of these spontaneous demonstrations which turns to open revolt. This brief passage shows just how brutal Imperial forces can be and are being on Coruscant to attempt to maintain control (opening fire without warning on an unarmed crowd). The crowd picking up chunks of rock and fighting back is very reminiscent of the Ewoks’ use of primitive weapons on Endor. It is of course also very reminiscent of images you could see on television all to often of resistance against military and police forces across our own planet.
3. The Pilot Formerly Known As Red Leader
In the excerpt we are reintroduced to Wedge Antilles as a pilot in a starhopper on a special mission. It is interesting that Wedge is described as follows in the excerpt; “The pilot, Wedge Antilles, once Red Leader and now—well, now something else, a role without a formal title, as yet, because things are so new, so different, so wildly up in the air—sits there and takes a moment.”
Last we saw Wedge he was Red Leader in Return of the Jedi. In the Legends stories Wedge went on to lead Rogue Squadron (which first appeared in The Empire Strikes Back) but it appears that this may not happen or may just not have happened yet in the new canon.
The feel I get for Wedge in this brief excerpt is very Gary Powers vibe to it. (Look up the reference, kids).
In Legends Wedge was the perpetual pilot, a junior officer who continually refused promotions so he could stay in the cockpit. I really wonder where Wendig has aimed this character going forward. Taking Wedge in a little more of the spy direction (a little more like the characters from Wraith Squadron) would be interesting. I could very easily see Wedge emerge as a protegé and agent for Airen Cracken.
4. It’s A Whole New World, Two In Fact
Wedge is making a wide-ranging search of Outer Rim planets searching for Imperial forces and supply lines. While there are many planets he is supposed to check out he has already visited five: Florrum, Ryloth, Hinari, Abafar, and Raydonia. Akiva is a sixth planet which is the one he is visiting as the story opens. Of these planets Ryloth is the longest-standing one, appearing repeatedly in Legends and on the television series, The Clone Wars. Florrum, Abafar, and Raydonia are all creations of The Clone Wars series.
More importantly, Hinari and Akiva are two brand-new planets. The inclusion of Akiva is fairly obvious because it is the central planet involved in our story as the book’s description mentions it. Which makes me wonder why was Hinari included? Is Wendig just making up a random planet we won’t ever see mentioned again? If so this decision would seem odd given his choice of other planets to name drop in the book. Which makes me think this planet will appear again, perhaps in Jason Fry’s Luke Skywalker novel, The Weapon of a Jedi.
5. Only Months Later
The excerpt gives us a good time reference for when the novel is set. Aftermath takes place “…months after the destruction of their second battle station.”
The freshness of the Rebel victory at Endor and uncertainty of events in the galaxy should help create a suspenseful environment for the story.
The other benefit is that the Lucasfilm Story Group is leaving a lot of room on the other end of the timeline closer to The Force Awakens for more stories to fit in.
6. Referencing Rebels
The final two episodes of Star Wars Rebels in season one featured a reference and appearance of the planet Mustafar. Mustafar is where Kanan was being taken, as Hera described the planet as one where Jedi go to die. Wedge ponders Mustafar a potential Imperial base:
“After all, didn’t Mustafar hold some importance to the Imperial leadership? Rumors said that’s where Vader took some of the Jedi long ago. Torturing them for information before their execution.”
Will we ever see stories realized on-screen, in prose or on the comic panel of Vader’s Jedi torture on Mustafar?
7. Chandrila Lace and a Rebel Base
A throwaway line has me thinking about potential locations for a provisional New Republic capital world. As Wedge ponders his mission, “Fly down to the planet to do aerial recon, as was the original plan—or plot a course back to Chandrila?”
Chandrila is an important planet, home of former Old Republic and Imperial Senator Mon Mothma, it is located on the Perlemian Trade Route relatively close to Coruscant in galactic terms. The planet is considered a Core World.
Following the death of Bail Organa, it seems that Mon Mothma may be the leader or one of the senior leaders of the Rebel Alliance. Her home planet would seem to be a great place to establish a temporary capital for the newly formed New Republic. In our own U.S. history the capital began in New York City before moving to Philadelphia then ultimately settling in Washington D.C.
8. Admiral On The Bridge
As Wedge approaches the planet Akiva his ship becomes captured by a pair of Star Destroyers, an unnamed one and the Vigilance. The Vigilance was commanded by Admiral Rae Sloane. Sloane is a character created by John Jackson Miller for his novel, A New Dawn. That story sees a young Rae Sloane receive the temporary promotion to Captain and command of the Star Destroyer Ultimatum. Captain Sloane was proud of attaining such a high position at the relatively young age of 30 and proved herself quite capable.
Admiral Sloane would be approximately 45 years of age around the time of Aftermath and a grizzled veteran of the Galactic Civil War. She may in fact be one of the leading military commanders left in the Navy given the losses suffered at Endor.
What I find compelling in Sloane is something similar to what we saw in the Legends character, Gilad Pellaeon. Pellaeon began as the Watson to Grand Admiral Thrawn’s Sherlock Holmes, but continued to mature and evolve into an honorable and capable man fighting for the Imperial Remnant. Pellaeon was an antagonist and eventual ally to the heroes in Legends, but he was never a cruel or villainous character.
The reason I like both Sloane and Pellaeon is that it reminds us that there are good and bad men and women on both sides of any conflict, as we are reminded in the opening crawl of Revenge of the Sith: “There are heroes on both sides. Evil is everywhere.”
9. The Not-So Best And Brightest
We get some very good world building in very few words from Wendig as the excerpt begins to wrap up. For instance we get an assessment of the quality of remaining Imperial forces from Admiral Sloane:
“Tothwin is an emblem of what’s wrong with the Imperial forces now: Many of their best are gone. What’s left is, in part, the dregs. The leaves and twigs at the bottom of a cup of spice tea.”
Regarding the Stormtrooper corps aboard her ship, Sloane has a similar opinion:
“Rae Sloane stands in the glass-encased balcony, overlooking the gathered battalion of stormtroopers. This lot, like Nils, are imperfect. Those who received top marks at the Academy went on to serve on the Death Star, or on Vader’s command ship, the Executor. Half of them didn’t even complete the Academy—they were pulled out of training early.”
An Imperial military full of leaves and twigs is hardly a surprise, as the impulse would be to put as many ships and troops into service as quickly as possible to bolster forces and prevent further losses at the hands of the Rebels. This phenomenon would likely result in the Imperial military performing more poorly than you would expect and punch below its weight. The Rebel forces, while smaller, would likely have more experience, in some cases better leadership, and almost certainly better unit cohesion.
10. The Not-Yet Shattered Empire
Aftermath will be an incredibly pivotal story and the most important novel to the saga that we have seen since the new canon was established. The stakes are incredibly high for both the Rebels and the Imperials.
“The meeting on Akiva cannot misfire. It must take place. It must have a result. Everything feels on the edge, the entire Empire standing on the lip of the pit, the ledge crumbling away to scree and stone.”
“Sloane wonders when the Empire will truly begin to fracture. Forces doing what they want, when they want it. Chaos and anarchy. The moment that happens, the moment someone of some prominence breaks from the fold to go his own way, they are all truly doomed.”
Will we meet that first Imperial figure of prominence who will break away during the novel? Seems likely. It also seems clear that Aftermath will tie in strongly to the events of the Marvel comic mini-series Shattered Empire by Greg Rucka and Marco Checcetto, which debuts on September 2nd.
As a political, international relations, and history nerd I am incredibly excited to see how the Empire fractures and reacts in the years before The Force Awakens.
Having not yet read any of Wendig’s other books (though I have one waiting on my Kindle) I read this excerpt a few times not only go get at the nuggets of information discussed above, but also to get a sense of his writing style. I am still trying to digest it, but it seems to me that Wendig has a rather unique syntax that I really enjoyed. One line really stuck out to me;
“Everything feels on the edge, the entire Empire standing on the lip of the pit, the ledge crumbling away to scree and stone.”
There is a simplicity to the words yet a skill to which they are deployed that really has me enjoying what I have read so far. I can’t wait until September 4th to read more.