I want you all to think I’m really cool and intellectual so I was going to start off this second, much more topical review with a really pretentious Shakespeare quote like “I have come here to bury the Expanded Universe, not to praise it,” but I actually want to do both at the expense of Aftermath. The fact that my lame quote has two parts is important since it allows me to divide the rest of my thoughts into 2 different categories and say what I want to say about this book and the movie that follows it compared to the previous 30 years of my Star Wars fandom.
To Praise the EU
I love Star Wars. Of all the things that would allow my nerd flag to fly high, this is the topic that raises said flag the highest. Don’t get me wrong, I am also a Trekkie, a Browncoat, a fan of comic books, whatever you call someone who loves A Song of Ice and Fire but is tired of waiting (this is about to become one massive ASOIAF run on if I don’t stop), and taking an extremely close second to Star Wars…pro wrestling (I was at WrestleMania XVII, nuff said!).
However, I can speak some Huttese, I at one point owned and have read every single book, have the movies memorized to the point where quotes appear absentmindedly in my daily speech and have an original movie poster hanging in my children’s toy room because I want them to love it too and because it’s the only room in my house where my wife would let me hang it up (love you baby).
I saw The Phantom Menace 6 times in the movie theatre! Why? Because it was a new Star Wars movie! In a movie theatre! I was a senior in high school and I had a ton of free time and disposable income!
Every day that I was home sick from school growing up I watched the original trilogy if I was physically capable. I have clothes, comic books, and a limited edition Star Wars: the Clone Wars Risk (love you sis!). I love Star Wars, and as someone that is an obsessive, I was pretty bummed out when I found out that the entire backstory of books, comics and video games was going to be wiped out for the new trilogy.
What? The entire expanded universe that they had (mostly) created in harmony was about to be wiped away? I was sad. That meant no more Mara Jade, Grand Admiral Thrawn, or Corran Horn. Han and Leia’s children are no more. Luke’s son Ben is a ghost, just like his namesake. All the members of Rogue and Wraith Squadron (shout out Garik “Face” Loran) were “legends.” General Crix Madine was never killed off by Kevin Anderson in Darksaber. Brave, noble Chewbacca was never crushed by a giant planet courtesy of the Yuuzhan Vong, R.A. Salvatore and some dumb editorial mandate to get a headline for that really long and really terrible series of books…
To Bury It
…and that was the point where I gave up on reading Star Wars novels. I got tired of my heroes’ happy endings being ruined over and over again for the sake of more money.
Listen, I get that all of our franchise heroes have to keep going out and having more adventures for the sake of money, but there is a point where, from a storytelling standpoint, these stories will collapse underneath this never-ending weight.
One of the great unproduced comic books stories was written by Alan Moore about the end of the DC Universe called Twilight of the Superheroes. He was writing this because he believed that the one thing missing from the myth of modern superheroes, in this case the DC universe, was an ending.
King Arthur’s story has an ending. Robin Hood’s story has an ending. El Cid, the Song of Roland, and Sherlock Holmes all have stories with definitive endings. Yes, I know that Holmes comes back to life, but there was a period where the public had a definitive end to his career and it was at the Reichenbach Falls.
What does this have to do with Star Wars or Aftermath (which I haven’t mentioned and I’m 650 words in)?
The endlessly crappy things happening to my childhood heroes are now gone! Han and Leia’s children might not exist anymore, but at least the stories about them dying, turning to the dark side or murdering their twin brother don’t exist anymore! Chewbacca? One of the greatest sidekicks of all time? Alive! General Crix Madine, who I only wanted to bring up again because I like the name Crix? As far as I know alive!
I want Luke, Han, Leia, Lando, Chewie, the droids, Wedge, Admiral Ackbar and the rest of the Rebel Alliance to defeat the Empire, restore order to the universe and then ride off into the sunset. I don’t want to learn about how slowly life wears Han and Leia down through the death of Chewie and 2 of their children.
And I know what you are saying. Doesn’t your dream scenario sound like a fairy tale?
It does. It definitely does.
But that is okay because Star Wars is a fairy tale.
It is a fifties sci-fi, samurai, western fairy tale. The good guys are good, the bad guys are bad and evil is vanquished in the end. End of story.
Do I think the new movies will finish this story? Yes, for our original heroes they will because there are only so many more years the actors can play the roles. Do I think the movie will be good? Yes I do. Do I think it will replace all the stories that were wiped out to create it? I don’t know, but at least the possibility of more fun, cool Star Wars movies exists.
So Aftermath? It’s awful.
You get like 5 pages of Han, a mention of Luke, and some mentions of Leia. It’s a rough start because if you wipe away everything I just wrote about in the previous couple paragraphs and give me a bunch of bland characters that aren’t any of the main characters, I’m not going to care.
The book takes place right after Return of the Jedi, but it all feels like a scam and a letdown because The Force Awakens is obviously set further into the future than that, so you don’t learn anything of consequence about anyone you care about.
Okay that’s not totally true, Wedge does spend most of the book either injured or tied up.
If the goal of the book is to get you excited for the movie, it’s a complete failure. If the goal of the book is to set the bar so low for the movie that there is no way you will be disappointed, then it’s a rousing success.
But let’s be honest. For real Star War fans, the only way this movie is a disappointment is if it’s really just the life of Jar Jar Binks prior to Qui-Gon and Obi-wan’s arrival on Tatooine.
I could come up with other terrible scenarios, but why bother? Skip this disappointment of a book and just go buy more movie tickets, and yes kids, this is one of the few times the movie will be better than a book. What did you expect me to say? My alter ego is a history teacher, all I do is show movies.