Book Review: Aftermath: Empire’s End by Chuck Wendig
You can read my reviews for the previous installments of the trilogy here (part one), and here (part two).
Warning: Spoilers for the first two books of the series under the cut!
How does an Empire collapse? How do the pieces fall, one by one, pursued across planets and galaxies, till they are scattered and broken, remnants of shadows to fill the pages of history.
How does it rise again?
How do people rebuild? Not just cities and homes, but hearts and hope? How do they set aside their fear and prejudice, their thirst for justice skewed through the longing for revenge? How does one leave behind all those coffins in the sky, like unlit satellites, orbital memorials to friend and foe.
How do they rise again?
In the final installment of the Aftermath Trilogy we see the last tatters of the Imperial banner shredded and scattered to the wind, as former rebels risk their lives above Jakku in a desperate attempt to quell the remaining enemy forces. Meanwhile Gallius Rax continues down a path he set himself on long ago, as a child stowaway on an Emperor’s ship.
But the real force in this story is tied to two women, Norra Wexley and Rae Sloane. Driven by anger, revenge, and a need for answers, they will all descend on Jakku, and their choices will echo forward to a time in the not so distant future, when a girl with a staff will scavenge the remains of a sky battle.
The team is back, this time with twice the anger and rash decision making. I’ve now reached that comfortable yet slightly forlorn place where I feel like I’m friends with everyone in the book. It’s a lonely, one-sided thing, but I know I’m not the only one to form bonds with fictional people, so I will take solace in that. Chuck Wendig is a master at creating characters you would want to sit down and get totally smashed with. And also have at your side when that Chevin you referred to as a warthog last night comes back with seven of his friends.
Personally, my favorite parts involved Jas and Sinjir (no one is surprised, I see). Through memory and flashback we witness how their early lives shaped them, and how they struggle to cast aside the ties that still bind them to that life, whether emotional or physical. Both of them are given spectacular fights, and Sin gets what is quite possibly my favorite action sequence I’ve read in a long time. I loved getting to know these characters and after years of having to turn to manga and anime (with a smattering of fantasy novels) for bad ass gay characters, it’s great to pick up a New York Times bestseller and have this angry, humorous, flawed, lovable man show up. While I didn’t get my Gay Space Chase, I did get a satisfying ending to a character I really cared for, and as a reader, that’s all I can really hope for.
I don’t have many complaints, though dealing with the politics of the New Republic was a bit of a slog. Having much of it seen through the eyes and mind of Sinjir helps, because he mocks and ridicules the maneuvering and lies, mirroring my own disdain for the inner workings of politics.
There were questions that I (tentatively) expected answers for with this series that I never received, but it never detracted from my enjoyment of the story. If you came to the trilogy hoping to discover the truth about Snoke, and how the New Order rose, then you may be disappointed. There are no clear answers to how the Empire rose from the waste of Jakku, but there are hints, whispers of what is waiting somewhere in the distant cold outside the known galaxy.
Final Conclusion: An enjoyable book and a solid ending to the trilogy. Chuck Wendig, for all his goat jokes and pantsless habits, knows his stuff. He gave us a well-paced story with believable characters. He took us beyond the orbital dog fights and blasters and gave us something both tragic and triumphant, approachable and alive. Whether it be in a quiet room while Leia feels her unborn child move inside her, or beside the captain of a New Republic ship as it crashes through the atmosphere. This is a story about choices, about those burdens we chose to carry and those we leave behind. If you like feeling at home with a group of misfit rebels, if you like seeing the stars beyond the war, then give these books a shot. No, there’s no big answers to the universes questions, but there are the tail end of comets as they go streaking away, beyond the limits of our sight.