This ain’t your mama’s Expanded Universe, that’s for sure.
Being a fan of Chuck Wendig’s previous work, I was definitely interested to see what he would do with the Star Wars universe, and was definitely interested to see how Lucasfilm would transition to the new film series.
I suppose that books must be read as products of their time, and this is a very modern take on the Star Wars universe, bringing a great deal of the modern experience of war into a semi-allegorical tale in parts. That did get me a little worried that it was going to be more about real world politics than just a good old Star Wars tale, but I found that it settled down after a while.
The book is largely unlike pretty much most of the other Star Wars books I have ever read, and I have read most of the EU books set after the battle of Yavin. Instead of focussing on a few “big” people – such as Han and Leia, it stars some smaller people who are dealing with the aftermath of the fall of the Emperor at Endor. Admiral Ackbar, and Mon Mothma are the main big names in the book, although Han Solo makes a very random appearance near the end, whose sole purpose seems to be to set up the next book.
The novel centers around a series of events on the planet Akiva – following an Imperial Pow-Wow to decide on the future of the Empire. There are former rebels, former imperials, smugglers, bounty hunters, kids with dreams who build droids, droids who know martial arts… All of the ingredients are there for an interesting story, but… somehow much of the novel is devoted to the kind of nonsense Lucas inflicted on us with the Trade Federation and Old Republic Senate discussions in the prequel movies.
Every now and then the story is littered with “interludes” which are basically excerpts from occasionally more interesting people and storylines the novel could be following. There are brief flashes of violence and action, but it quickly reverts to a bit of a gabfest.
I guess it is probably a more realistic look at the aftermath of the downfall of the emperor, which would inevitably create a power vacuum, like Iraq after the fall of Saddam. My recollection of the early post-Endor novels from the previous canon were pretty bad, and probably unrealistic looking back. Kathy Tyers’ Truce at Bakura involves the Empire and the Rebels teaming up with each other to take on an existential threat for instance. Probably unrealistic.
What I would say is that the novel does a good job of looking at the broader consequences for the galaxy, and that there is more to the story than the story of the movies.
I am looking forward to the rest of this series, hoping that the characters and story pick up soon. There have been some really ordinary Star Wars novels before, and in fairness the other “official canon” novels released so far are not all that great, but I am willing to give this author and series little latitude.