All Hyperlanes Lead to Jakku in Chuck Wendig's Aftermath: Empire's End (Spoiler Review) - Star Wars News Net | Star Wars News Net
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All Hyperlanes Lead to Jakku in Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath: Empire’s End (Spoiler Review)

Out of all the reviews I have written for this site, writing the review for Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath: Empire’s End has been the hardest. Wendig provides us with such a treasure trove of excitement, character moments, revelations, Easter eggs and seeds for future stories that it’s hard not to get lost in the minutiae. However, I will try to stick to the main plot points of the story so as not to turn this review into a point-by-point recount – a difficult task when everything seems important – a testament to the richness of the world Wendig has created. I am grateful to Kyle for providing you with spoiler-free review, because I don’t know if I could have ever done so myself.

Before we get started, one last WARNING: this is a SPOILER review and gives away some of the major plot points. Here we go…

 

 

The novel starts several months after the Imperial attack on Chandrila (Aftermath: Life Debt). Our crew (minus Jom Barrel) is still hunting Rae Sloane. The Empire has seemingly disappeared from the galaxy and Norra Wexley is slowly losing patience. She is so driven that even some of her more cynical companions, like Jas Emari, are getting worried.

 

The crew sets a trap for Mercurial Swift, a bounty hunter known for having contact with Sloane. Sinjir has the opportunity to use his more subtle interrogating skills he acquired as the Imperial loyalty officer – namely, he threatens Swift’s mother. Because even the shady bounty hunters and murderers have a special place in their heart for dear old mum, they soon learn Sloane’s destination – Jakku.

 

Norra Wexley

 

After reporting to Leia, at Norra’s insistence, they jump straight to Jakku and right in the middle of the enormous Imperial fleet. In the tense scene that follows, Norra, not willing to give up her chase, decides to use the escape pod to launch herself to Jakku. Jas pushes her way into the pod and, seconds before they jump to hyperspace, Temmin orders Mister Bones to follow them and protect his mother. This way, Wendig separates our heroes. From here on, the story develops on two different stages – with Norra, Jas and Mister Bones on Jakku and Temmin and Sinjir on Chandrila. The former provides us with the information on far-reaching Palpatine’s plan and the role of Gallius Rax in it, while the latter gives us the political situation in the New Republic.

 

And that situation is complicated. The tyranny is easy; the democracy is messy. On Chandrila, the recovering Mon Mothma is embroiled in political struggle. After the attack on Liberation Day, she is seen as weak and her opponent in the upcoming elections, Torwal Wartol, is quickly gaining popularity and obstructing her proposals – including a decisive attack on Jakku. The situation is additionally complicated by the vacuum left after the fall of the Empire and the criminal cartels such as Black Sun and the Red Key which are gaining power and influencing the politicians through bribe and blackmail. With the Senate seat getting transferred from Chandrila to Nakadia, it is up to Sinjir, Temmin, Han Solo, Leia’s slicer Conder and Jom Barrel to try and resolve this conundrum. The spying games and undercover operations ensue.

 

Mon Mothma

 

I was impressed by Mon Mothma, the political player. Mothma is not above using subterfuge and tricks. She also never loses her idealism, while knowing that it is her weakness in the political game. This is why I was doubly impressed and not a little amused when she offered the position of her adviser to a certified cynic – Sinjir Rath Velus.

 

Jakku’s hostile environment got worse after the arrival of the Empire. All of our protagonists have a hard time reaching their goals. Norra and Jas face Imperial imprisonment and bounty hunters. Rae Sloane and Brentin have to make a pact with Niima the Hutt (Niima Outpost, anyone?), who has surrounded herself with a cult of head-shaven, tattooed, lip-sewn and drugged out followers, to get to the Imperial compound that houses Rax.

 

While reading the novel, several things will stand out to you. One is the developing relationships between the characters and their maturing. Whether it is mutual respect between Norra and Jas, deep friendship between Jas and Sinjir or Temmin refusing Han’s help because he is about to become a father, there is a sense that we are witnessing a formation of not just a rag-tag group of friends, but rather an extended family. These often brief moments between the characters – whether they be funny, sad, silly or heartbreaking – are a culmination of the characters’ story arcs across the trilogy. They are earned and deeply satisfying.

 

Sinjir by makeramidying.tumblr.com

 

Also, most of the characters have their moment to shine in one way or another. I never hid the fact that my favorite character that came out of this trilogy is Sinjir and that didn’t change after this book. The sarcastic ex-Imperial remained as entertaining and as effective as before. I have to admit that I worried for his destiny after he ditched Conder in the previous book, but Wendig didn’t disappoint. My only major complaint and the only source of dissatisfaction was the treatment of Jom Barrel’s character – from where we find him at the beginning of the novel to his strangely executed end. It left me empty and I didn’t like that.

 

 

The other thing is the feeling that the Aftermath trilogy is a field in which Wendig planted many seeds that will have huge repercussions in the future. The biggest of those is Gallius Rax. As the novel opens, we find Rax on the second Death Star above Endor. The Emperor is sensing a “shatterpoint”. And while he believes in the ultimate victory which includes replacing Vader with Luke Skywalker, he has prepared Rax for his destiny. If things do not go Palpatine’s way, Rax is to implement the Contingency. In another flashback, we see Palpatine teaching young Galli the rules of shah-tezh (dejarik, chess…). Through the game in which the player has the goal to protect the figure of Imperator, Palpatine teaches Galli that the Empire that fails to protect its Emperor doesn’t deserve to exist. Should the Emperor fall, the board should be broken and the new Empire started. That’s what the Contingency is for.

 

Imperialis

 

The mysterious place on Jakku that Galli protected as a child and comes back to in this book to carry out the Emperor’s plan is the Observatory, one of many established by Palpatine. While some Observatories hide the Sith artifacts or powerful weapons, this one has a different purpose – to wipe the board and open the road to the new Empire. Rax is to destroy the planet and both the New Republic and the Empire with it and use the coordinates plotted over time by the Observatory’s computers to reach the Unknown Regions and start again. Things don’t go exactly according to Palpatine’s plan, but enough of it is carried out that we can predict or speculate on the future. More importantly, the speculations that Rax is Snoke are put to rest by the business end of Sloane’s blaster.

 

Ravager crashing on Jakku

 

Empire’s End highlighted something I didn’t notice in the previous books and that is Wendig’s ability to describe environment or simply atmosphere in which the characters find themselves in through a few short sentences. Whether it’s a wasteland of Jakku, dread of pilgrims running from the creatures through crystalline landscape of Christophsis or the chaos of space battle through Temmin’s inexperienced eyes, Wendig puts you in the middle of the action and you can’t help feel what the characters feel. He doesn’t disappoint with the action either, whether planet-side or in space. The destruction and fall of the Ravager (that Super Star Destroyer Rey scavenges at the beginning of The Force Awakens) is magnificent, terrifying and heartbreaking at the same time – for both those in the New Republic and those in the Empire.

 

 

The interludes in this book can be divided in three major types: those which connect to the overall story of the trilogy and have an impact on the future events and our understanding of Star Wars lore, those who tie up older stories from the Saga and those which continue the stories from the previous interludes. Believe me, whether you read about Church of the Force, Acolytes of the Beyond, Chewbacca and his family, Jar-Jar Binks, Lando, the Mandalorian armor-wearing sheriff of Freetown on Tatooine or the non-binary pirate, they are all deeply satisfactory. They gave me the whole gamut of emotions: I was sad, I was freaked out, I laughed and I had a couple of genuine fist-pump moments. Some of the interludes deserve their own stories.

 

 

When the dust on Jakku settles and peace is proclaimed in the galaxy, when our characters take their own paths into the future, Wendig leaves you with a feeling of both great satisfaction and sadness. You cannot help but want to know what happens next with these people. He also leaves you with an enormous ellipsis that clearly leads straight to the events of the current movies. The speculations will last for years.

 

 

After finishing the book, I can’t help but feel that much more planning was invested in this trilogy than what we were led to believe, and I don’t mean just by the Story Group, but by Wendig himself. Aftermath starts with the small story and grand galactic picture. Most of the readers who were disappointed by the characters they didn’t know (we can talk about mismarketing of this book some other time), found some enjoyment in the interludes. Aftermath: Life Debt made the story of our core crew bigger and introduced some of the original characters, while scaling the interludes back. In Aftermath: Empire’s End, our rag-tag group takes part in the events of galactic importance and only the interludes that have bigger personal or galactic consequences remain. I feel that as the time passes and more readers come into these books, the trilogy as the whole will take its rightful prominent place in the Star Wars canon.

 

 

Aftermath: Empire’s End is an impressive conclusion to the trilogy, and I urge our readers not to miss the ride which will reward you handsomely in the end. I enjoyed Aftermath, I liked Life Debt very much, but I shamelessly love this book. And, if I have to put a number on my love…

 

 

… Aftermath: Empire’s End earns four and a half (4.5) downed Ravagers.

 

 

Staff member, comic and book reviewer. Cheers for the Light Side, but would drink with Grand Admirals.

 

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