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‘Star Wars: Aftermath – Empire’s End’ (audio book review)

Star Wars: Aftermath – Empire’s End
Written by Chuck Wendig
Read by Marc Thompson
Published by Random House Audio
ISBN-13: 978-0451486271
Released February 21, 2017
Price: $50.00

 

Warning: There will be Spoilers

In the abstract, the Aftermath series is reminiscent of the prequel films.

The first installment left a lot to be desired, the second chapter is a curious but rough read, and the finale sticks the landing well enough to earn a place on the podium.

Star Wars: Aftermath – Empire’s End, the third and concluding novel in author Chuck Wendig’s trilogy that takes place following the events of Return of the Jedi and begins building an extended bridge to The Force Awakens.

The attack on Chandrila during the organized peace talks between the New Republic and the Empire looms over the story like a dark cloud. Despite the emotional toll she’s undergone throughout the series, the resolve of Nora Wexley is an enthralling journey to follow. Tunnel vision towards the apprehension of the galaxy’s most wanted war criminal, Grand Admiral Rae Sloan, proves to be disheartening for those closest to Nora. While she’s not seething mad, her inner turmoil demands finality regarding this perilous situation.

Speaking of Rae Sloane, she’s on the hunt for Gallius Rax, who is the real culprit behind the tragic carnage that befell Liberation Day. Sloane is arguably the most popular character created by the new cannon novelizations and believes in her heart of hearts that the version of the Empire we saw in the original trilogy of films enforced an ideology that found peace and security to be paramount. The unflappable admiral believes that Rax’s version, and eventual realization, of a much cruder Imperial remnant is no different than the guerilla tactics of the Rebel Alliance.

It’s weird reading material that paints the Rebel in any sort of antagonistic light. They’re the good guys because that’s what we know. However, Sloan’s portrayal here, and in other cannon material, depicts her as someone who brings honor and duty to being an Imperial Officer, which again, is weird but fascinating. This belief is the core essential aspect of her character and has been handled well across different platforms and Wendig’s use of her is no exception.

Wexley is hunting Sloane, Sloane is in search of Rax, and Rax is tracking down and securing perhaps the most fascinating of all pursuits: the execution of Emperor Palpatine’s last will and testament. It turns out that Gallius Rax and the late Emperor knew each other rather well. In fact, Palpatine entrusted Rax with a secret mission that not even Darth Vader knew of.

All of these elements thrust our new favorite desert planet into the limelight. Jakku is no longer simply the home of Rey. While this is pure speculation, Jakku’s importance along with the revelation of its “cargo” should forge its way into the films at some point. It’s just too important not to.

Chuck Wendig has received a lot of criticism for his writing style as it remains in the present tense in this third outing. Now, I’m not the most grammatically-minded person, however, it made the first book a chore to consume and the audio edition suffered as a result. These factors improved slightly in the second book and even more so in the third book. There are several plot points taking place as they all lead to a convergence on Jakku.

Marc Thompson, with almost forty Star Wars narrations under his belt, finds his footing this time around and made me feel as if I was a fly on the wall who was able to overhear conversations and receive information at the same time as the characters. Wendig’s strength is building tension and then executing its catalyst to its maximum effect. Thompson augments these moments with a seamless interplay of multiple characters such as when Nora Wexley’s crew inadvertently flies right into the entire might of the Empire.

Talk about a way wrong turn!

The story interludes this time around and served the main narrative in a fashion that makes the reader anticipate their return to the norm as opposed to wishing for more time on the detour. New revelations such as what Gallius Rax learned in the Emperor’s throne room on the Death Star will make any hardcore Star Wars fan salivate over its implications in the larger scheme of things.

Third time is definitely the charm for the Star Wars: Aftermath series with Empire’s End. Despite dredging through moments along the way, the book’s titular implications do not disappoint. While Chuck Wendig made some structural improvements with each installment, there are still too many issues. While these issues don’t exist in the majority of the new cannon novels, hopefully, this will be his last visit to a galaxy far, far away.

If this book had to be summed up in one word, the answer is simple and exciting: Jakuu.

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