Set moments after Return of the Jedi and written by Chuck Wendig, Star Wars: Aftermath is the first novel in the ‘Journey to the Force Awakens’ series, which will lead us up to the point where Episode VII begins. But do we find out anything about the new movie from the book? Be aware this article contains MASSIVE SPOILERS about Aftermath
1. Is the Emperor still alive?!
The main antagonist in Aftermath is Rae Sloane, an Imperial admiral who’s trying to make sure the Empire continues after the supposed death of Palpatine. During the book, Sloane tells a colleague, “The Ravager [a Star Destroyer] is not the last weapon. Nor do I even control it. There is…another.” When asked whether she means what he thinks she means, Sloane replies, “I do mean. He’s not dead.” Hmmmm.
We meet this unnamed man, described by the author as the “fleet admiral”, in the novel’s epilogue and he certainly has all the creepy characteristics of Palpatine,. “The Empire became this…ugly, inelegant machine,” he explains to Sloane. “Crude and inefficient. We need to be broken into pieces…it’s time for something better. Something new. An Empire worthy of the galaxy it will rule.”
Would the Emperor be slagging off his own regime? Probably not, but then who else is there that everyone thinks has just died and isn’t actually dead, other than Vader and Palpatine? It could be Supreme Commander Snoke, who we know is a baddie played in The Force Awakens by Andy Serkis. But how come we never heard about him during the original trilogy? He’s clearly famous and malevolent enough that the top brass in the Empire already know who he is. And if he’s still around for The Force Awakens, that means he’s powerful enough to be leader for three decades.
2. Might we have met Kylo Ren?
In one of the book’s so-called “Interludes”, we visit various other stories that may end up becoming more important later on. One such episode set in the city of Taris features three people buying what they believe to be Darth Vader’s red lightsaber from a thief.
The trio consists of two hidden beneath black robes and a third pale, hunched young woman. She tells the fence that, “We are adherents. Acolytes of the Beyond” and that they plan to destroy the weapon “so that it can be returned to its master in death.” In order to buy it, they hand over a box of currency and the container is said to be marked with “strange sigils”.
Are these the Knights of Ren that JJ Abrams has mentioned? The sect to which Kyle (Adam Driver) belongs and takes his name from? Maybe he’s one of the people beneath the robes?
3. The New Republic and the Imperial Future Council
One of the interesting elements of ‘Aftermath’ is that it shows how destroying the second Death Star didn’t mean the immediate disintegration of the Empire. The galaxy is a big place after all and they still have a lot of manpower as well as the desire to rule.
We learn here that the post-ROTJ Rebel Alliance has been redubbed The New Republic (though ‘Wars’ geeks will know that already). But Admiral Sloane is also head of a small group (which includes a former Palpatine advisor called Tashu and an opportunistic commander-cum-politician called Grand Moff Pandion) who descend on Akiva in a bid to revive the Empire by forming what they call the Imperial Future Council.
Will that play a part in The Force Awakens? Did the First Order from Episode VII – to which the villainous General Hux is associated – emerge 30 years later out of the ashes of the IFC?
4. Han might well have returned to his rogueish ways
In another interlude, we come face-to-face with Han and Chewie, as the former receives a message from an old smuggler friend. This buddy tells him Kashyyyk (Chewbacca’s homeworld) is still enslaved by the Empire, but has reduced Imperial numbers.
Han doesn’t think he can convince the Alliance to divert resources to freeing Kashyyyk, but then turns to his furry mate and realises he’s thinking too much like a soldier and not enough like a hustler. Instead, he tells his friend to, “Get everybody. Every right-thinking scamp, scoundrel, slicer, smuggler – anybody who owes me a favour.” Then he asks Chewie to get in touch with the other six Wookies who escaped slavery to become mercenaries along with Chewie – they’re all going to help Kashyyyk on their own.
This smacks of being a prologue to a future book, but it might also explain the reason for Solo’s iconic new trailer line, “Chewie, we’re home.”
Has he just been off doing his own thing for decades only to be called back into service because of whatever happens in ‘The Force Awakens’.
5. Does a man called Corwin Ballast have a connection to Rey?
From what we know so far about ‘The Force Awakens’, a bunch of it is set on the planet Jakku, which appears to have been part-destroyed by the Empire. We also know that Rey (Daisy Ridley) is some kind of scavenger there, though exactly who she is remains a mystery.
There is a short chapter near the end of ‘Aftermath’ set on Jakku. The protagonist is a man called Corwin Ballast, whose wife and daughter were killed by the Empire spurring him to come to the remote planet so as to be far away from the fighting. Chatting to a bartender, he is told Jakku is a “dead place” where war will never come. We know that not to be the case, but does he matter beyond the novel?
Might Rey be his daughter, a child he has once he has resettled on his new home? It could explain why she appears so happy to fight the Empire, knowing her father’s history. Alternatively, maybe he’s an old friend of someone in the New Republic and if Rey really is Han and Leia’s daughter as speculation suggests, he is the kind of Uncle Owen character who raises her as his own, out of the way of Imperial eyes.
Star Wars: Aftermath is out now and you can see how much it has revealed when Star Wars: The Force Awakens is released on 17 December.