Review: Aftermath’s Prose

AftermathI usually hate reading present tense prose, at least in professional fiction.  It’s always lent itself to fanfiction in my mind for some reason, so when I read the first excerpts of Aftermath when they were released, I wasn’t impressed.

Boy, was I wrong.

I read Aftermath in between feedings and diaper changes of our new little Jedi-in-training, and every time I set the book down, I looked forward to picking it back up again, and had the book come out before Little Jedi’s arrival, I probably would have read it all in one sitting.

Many of you know that I am, by trade and training, a professor of literature.  So while the rest of our staff has reviewed Aftermath based on its content, I want to focus on the style and why it works so well for this novel.

Wendig’s prose being “unreadable” has been one of the major complaints leveled at Aftermath, though in the grand scheme of things, I realize that this is a statement being used as a tactic by the Bring Back Legends crowd. I admit, when reading the excerpts, I thought it was going to be unreadable as well.  But that was before I realized precisely what Wendig was doing.

This book is about war, pure and simple.  And though glorious as war may seem when viewed through the lens of the Star Wars movies, nothing could be further from the truth, and Wendig takes that on.  This book literally is the aftermath of the Death Star’s destruction, complete with the chaos and upheaval throughout the galaxy.

Past tense is, by its very nature, distancing.  It removes the reader from the action, no matter how well written.  Present tense, on the other hand, provides a sense of immediacy to the action, plunging the reader into the events taking place.  The present tense gives the reader the sense that this is happening right now, rather than a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.  As the characters live through the events taking place, so do the readers.

Wendig manages to underscore this immediacy of war through other methods as well.  His chapters are very short, making the action move even more quickly.  And there is a lot to keep up with in this book.  There are a lot of characters involved–many of whom are either only mentioned once or who don’t survive, showing how war leaves no one untouched and drags in even the unwilling.  The few non-rushed moments of the book are ones where planning is taking place, and even then, there is still a sense of urgency.

There was quite a while during my reading where I wondered if our main characters were ever going to meet one another.  That too, showed how war works–lots of little battles in the context of a greater conflict, a few people making small differences here and there, stirring up into a greater societal upheaval, reminiscent of the Arab Spring movement, in which the people take power themselves, despite real costs in lives to do so.

Another complaint I read about Aftermath was the fact that there were very few recognizable characters.  But again, I think it works here for the cast to be made up of almost entirely new characters.  Once again, it shows how ordinary people get sucked up into a war, even if they had no intention of fighting in it, and how those who were already in the war deal with being out of it–even for a short time–and then dragged back in.

So while I was skeptical about Wendig’s prose when I began, it very quickly sucked me into the novel, and I enjoyed Aftermath more than any other Star Wars book I’ve read since Vision of the Future.  They’re two entirely different books with two entirely different styles (and now in two entirely different timelines)–and they were both fantastic.  Wendig has made me a believer, and I’m looking forward to seeing what else he–and others–come up with in this new timeline.

But first, I need to go change a Little Jedi.




9 thoughts on “Review: Aftermath’s Prose

  1. I'm so sick of the god damn BBL movement. Every time I tell Star Wars fans I prefer the old canon they get hostile and this group is why. I agree wiping the canon was the right move but so far the new material (in my opinion) has been horrid and pales in comparison to the best of the EU. It all feels like the filler and literary garbage people felt was cluttering up the EU. This book is one of the worst novels yet along with A New Dawn and Dark Disciple. And I do think Wending's prose is terrible. Preferring Legends and wanting certain elements of it back does not make one part of this organized group. Many of us just said the book was bad because, well, it was bad!

    • So, actual person with a doctorate in literature does a critical analysis of the prose and says it's well executed. You insist his prose is terrible.

      I think I'm gonna go with the person who has the doctorate in literature. Seriously though, if the prose just isn't your cup of tea that's fine. But it's totally disingenuous to say it's terrible for all of the reasons pointed out above.

      (Also your whole comment appears to be a giant case of "methinks he doth protest too much")

      • If you'll look carefully at the review, I did not say that all of the negative reviews were from the BBL movement. I said that leaving negative reviews and using the prose as an excuse was one of the tactics being used by that particular group.

  2. Obviously Emily is well educated and her opinion carries weight. That doesn't mean her analysis is the be all end all of opinions on this book. I myself am a writer. A damn good one too, or at least I like to think.

    And guess what? I didn't like the book. And for me to say it's terrible is no more unreasonable than for Emily to say it was well written. How can I be disingenuous by stating the findings of my own analysis? The only thing that is disingenuous is the assertion that most of the negative reviews were the BBL movement, which is what my original comment was about. Although I can hardly blame Emily for associating any negative reactions about new material with BBL since the group is, speaking generally, filled with terrible people not to mention hugely vocal.

    I also complained how criticizing any of the new material immediately garners a negative and mean spirited reaction from people in the Star Wars community who assume I'm one of these whack jobs. You proved my point. I just didn't like the book. Go be a jerk somewhere else.

    • I kind of run this blog, so it'd be hard for me to go somewhere else, but you know, whatever.

      You might be a writer, but you are seriously conflating subjective taste with actual worth. It is totally fine if that prose just doesn't work for you. It did work for me. It worked for someone who has a doctorate in literature. It worked for lots of folks. Protip: declarative statements like the ones you're using really are going to need some serious backup.

      And you know, it might not be criticising new canon material that immediately garners you a bad reaction. It might actually be HOW you're criticizing it. I gave Lords of the Sith and Heir to the Jedi very negative reviews, but I didn't get pushback for it. Why? Because I didn't have a fraction of the vitriol your initial comment did.

  3. The guys on Collider's Jedi Council disliked "SW: Aftermath". And they were really looking forward to it.

    • It's definitely a polarizing book for a few reasons. I think a big part of it is that expectations in general were unrealistic. There wasn't going to be much of major film characters showing up in this book, for no other reason than it's important to keep the wraps on what they've been up to in the years between RotJ and TFA.

      Then of course there's the prose, which has never been done before in Star Wars literature. The book really can be summed up as being something no one has seen, and that can either be a surprise or a disappointment depending on where you're coming from. I definitely don't begrudge anyone who didn't like it, because it IS different. While it hit pretty much all of my buttons and I loved it to pieces, I can totally see why someone else wouldn't dig it.

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