Sometimes things don’t go according to plan.
The fall of the Emperor, the death of Darth Vader, and the destruction of the second Death Star at the conclusion of Return of the Jedi were supposed to mark the end of the Empire, and for a generation, we believed that. With J.J. Abrams Star Wars: The Force Awakens returning to the galaxy some 30 years later, we’re about to find that the celebrating was premature.
Chuck Wendig, a sci-fi/fantasy novelist known for the books Blackbird, about a woman who can see how people will die simply by touching them, and The Blue Blazes, about a turf war between the criminal underworld and the supernatural realm, is penning a new trilogy connecting Jedi and The Force Awakens.
The first installment, Aftermath, hits stores on Sept. 4, and an employee at the publisher mistakenly posted an excerpt of it today, revealing Wedge Antilles, an X-wing pilot familiar to fans of the original trilogy, hunting for hotspots of Imperial activity after the demise of Vader and Emperor Palpatine.
That’s not the opening of the novel, however. It actually begins with a victory speech from the crustacean-like Admiral Ackbar, followed by a scene we see briefly at the end of the revised “special edition” of Return of the Jedi, with a mob of revelers tearing down a massive statue of Palpatine on the planet Coruscant, the center of the galactic government.
In the movie, crowds cheer, fireworks burst, and all seems to be right with this world – not to mention countless others.
The opening of Wendig’s novel reveals the disturbing moments that actually followed, when the Imperial police, still trying to maintain their grip on the population, surge forward and make a desperate, gruesome choice.
We also get to catch up with Rae Sloane, an Imperial navy officer first introduced in last year’s A New Dawn novel by John Jackson Miller. That book, a prequel to the TV series Star Wars: Rebels, featured her as captain, but by the time of Aftermath she has been promoted to admiral, commanding from the deck of the Vigilance.
This re-introduction to the Star Wars universe also sets up the coming films: It’s not many wars, but just one, drawn out again and again, cut up into slices so it seems more manageable.
Here’s EW’s exclusive look at the opening of Aftermath:
“Today is a day of celebration. We have triumphed over villainy and oppression and have given our Alliance—and the galaxy beyond it—a chance to breathe and cheer for the progress in reclaiming our freedom from an Empire that robbed us of it. We have reports from Commander Skywalker that Emperor Palpatine is dead, and his enforcer, Darth Vader, with him.
“But though we may celebrate, we should not consider this our time to rest. We struck a major blow against the Empire, and now will be the time to seize on the opening we have created. The Empire’s weapon may be destroyed, but the Empire itself lives on. Its oppressive hand closes around the throats of good, free-thinking people across the galaxy, from the Coruscant Core to the farthest systems in the Outer Rim. We must remember that our fight continues. Our rebellion is over. But the war … the war is just beginning.” —Admiral Ackbar
NEXT PAGE: A prologue on Coruscant, after the fall.