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One-Star Wars

Aftermath - CoverChuck Wendig‘s novel Aftermath [Amazon | B&N | Indiebound] came out on Friday, and while I haven’t read it yet, I’m author enough to admit I’m envious as hell. Chuck got to write the canonical follow-up to Return of the Jedi. How cool is that? The only thing I can think of that might come close is if someone approached me to write the official LEGO Goblin Quest video game.

(Side note: LEGO folks, please hit me up on that!)

To nobody’s surprise, the book is one of the top sellers at Amazon, and has already gathered more than 160 reviews over there.

Funny thing about those reviews, though. Almost half of them are one-star.

What the heck? Did Wendig follow through with his threat to make Jar-Jar and C3PO into Sith lords? Did he introduce sparkling vampire Ewoks? Did he give a character a Swiss Army Lightsaber?

Now, there’s nothing wrong with one-star reviews. Heck, if your book never gets panned, it probably means you’re not reaching a broad enough audience. Not everyone is going to like your work, and that’s okay. Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations and all that, if you’ll forgive the genre crossing.

But half of the reviews? I had to know more. So I started reading.

One of the very first one-star reviews has nothing to do with the book. “[P]ublisher when you drop the price to $9.99 where it belongs — you will then earn a FAIR REVIEW for a FAIR PRICE.” While I sympathize and even agree with the reviewer’s complaint here, I wish Amazon had a way to distinguish between reviews complaining about the author’s story and reviews complaining about other things like price, cover, etc.

The third one-star doesn’t hold back:

This book includes 3 gay characters that feel so forced into the story. Disney is stuffing diversity down our throats and it’s taking me out of my suspension of believe because it feels forced. I myself am a minority but when I read star Wars I don’t want to be thinking about racial consciousness or sexual idenitity. I also don’t like the inclusion of so many gay charcters becuase my personal opinion is that homosexuality is not normal; sodomy is not normal and I am tired of the liberal media trying to make me accept this lifestyle.” (Source)

Oh, dear. A galaxy that includes countless species and droids and races acknowledged the existence of homosexuality? WHAT WERE THEY THINKING? Can we PLEASE get back to giant slugs with a fetish for other species, green muppets, blue elephant people, and giant walking carpets? You know, characters who are normal.

Well, maybe this ignorant bigot is an exception. Let’s look at some of the other one-star reviews.

All righty then. So some people are pissed off about Wendig getting teh gay in their Star Wars. Got it.

Other reviews complain about the writing style. Aftermath is written in first person and present tense. Nerdist.com had the following to say about the prose:

“If you’re a fan of Wendig’s writing style, you’ll be happy to know it’s present here. His narration style for this novel is different and won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I like the urgency of it. The tone is snappy but not short, if that makes sense. Each sentence, each description of action, each joke — it all hits you right between the eyes in the exciting head rush sort of way. No space is wasted, and we dive deep inside the inner workings of our lead characters.”

Fair enough.

There’s a third batch of complaints from people who are angry at Disney and angry that the expanded universe Star Wars novels are officially not canon, and are not being continued. Author Michael Patrick Hicks pointed to the Star Wars Books Facebook Page, which is full of comments like:

Looking back at the Amazon reviews, you see a lot of people mourning for Timothy Zahn and the expanded universe. One reviewer sums it up thusly: “Disney already kind of did their slap with tossing the EU that kept the franchise going all these decades.

So from everything I’m seeing, Aftermath‘s barrage of one-star reviews are primarily coming from three camps:

  1. OMG you got gay cooties all over my Star Wars and now everyone’s gonna have PINK LIGHTSABERS and Boba Fett’s gonna be flying around in rainbow-colored armor!!!!!1!11!
  2. Timothy Zahn and his Expanded Universe descendants are the True Gods of a Galaxy Far, Far Away. DEATH TO THE USURPER!
  3. Dude, first person? Present tense? How can you write about a long time ago in present tense?

I have no sympathy for group #1. Group #2 … that’s frustrating. I get that you’ve invested a lot in those stories, and that’s awesome. It really is. I would have loved to see Thrawn and Mara Jade show up in Star Wars VII. But the decision to go in another direction isn’t a Death Star blast to your childhood or anything like that.

For group #3, if you bounced that hard off of Wendig’s style, then yeah, that sucks. Wendig knew he was taking a risk there, and sometimes risks fail. Some readers seem to really love the way he wrote it. Others hate it. Fair enough.

Did I say I was envious of Wendig? The widespread publicity and success of this book has put him in some ugly crossfire, a good chunk of which has very little to do with his writing. Every published book comes with the potential for negativity, but Aftermath brings it to a whole new level. In all honesty, it’s a little frightening to watch.

But none of it changes my thoughts about wanting to write a Star Wars novel of my own. I might rethink my plan to do it in second-person future tense, though…

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


( 28 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 7th, 2015 01:44 am (UTC)
Sigh. This kind of thing makes me crazy. (Well, crazier. You know.) I've had one-star reviews on my own books that clearly had very little to do with whether or not the book was well written and much more to do with whether or not the reader somehow approved of something in the story. The first Baba Yaga book had fracking as part of its plot line, and ho boy, did I get a few one-star zingers about the fact that I was forcing my politics down people's throats. (Part of the STORY, people. Fiction. Oh, nevermind.)

And yes, people who objected to the price, or had a problem with it downloading in eBook form, or a dozen other things that had nothing that had to do with my writing.

Chuck, you have my sympathy, dude.
Sep. 7th, 2015 02:08 am (UTC)
I really don't get group 2. It's not like they haven't done that before. Granted, the prequel era is probably not as well loved, but they did decide to do a movie and cartoon that did not exactly pair well with any EU that was set between movies 2 and 3 written before that point. (Not sure it was ever officially declared null and void.)

I love, most, of the Zahn books and my copies have not magically disappeared, so I'm good. Not sure whether to check out Aftermath now I know it's present tense though.
Sep. 7th, 2015 02:58 am (UTC)
Mostly it more-or-less fit. As I recall there was a bit of kerfuffle when the powers that be wanted Karen Traviss to retcon her ongoing Clone series to better fit the show continuity and she refused and left the series unfinished.
Sep. 7th, 2015 09:39 am (UTC)
The whole Anakin suddenly has a Padawan part didn't really.
Sep. 8th, 2015 02:26 am (UTC)
As I recall (and bearing in mind that it's been almost 20 years), EU continuity was something the ptb decided on after the first several novels had already been published. It's why those first several books don't seem to be following the same timeline. They aren't.
Sep. 7th, 2015 02:15 am (UTC)
I might rethink my plan to do it in second-person future tense, though…

A long time away in a galaxy far, far ago?
Sep. 7th, 2015 02:17 am (UTC)
Alternate plan: Yoda narrates the whole book. All 100,000 words, every X-wing battle and lightsaber fight, all of it in Yoda-speak.
Sep. 7th, 2015 03:14 pm (UTC)
snork. I'd buy that. And embroider quotes on samplers!
Sep. 7th, 2015 02:59 am (UTC)
I don't know that it's a whole new level. Star Wars fans have a history of bad behavior -- recall the death threats Bob Salvatore received after publishing his Star Wars novel in '99.
Sep. 7th, 2015 03:53 am (UTC)
Sheesh... I so wish you couldn't leave a review without a purchase on sites like Amazon. These so-called "build the hype" reviews are so useless.

In any event, I am in Group 3. I'm 'reading' the audiobook now and frankly, it reads like someone's very early stab at fanfic. The verbiage is difficult to follow on audio, I can't imagine how mind-bending it must be as text. I've never read anything else by Wendig so I sure hope this isn't his usual style.

While I agree about the pointless but harmful effects of the reviews in groups 1 and 2, I understand the anger that would cause fans to give this book (after reading it) a one star review. In the new Star Wars universe, this is an IMPORTANT book. It's a vital first step to the world of the new films and frankly, it's right into a cowpie.

I applaud authors taking risks, experimenting with genre styles and expectations. But this was NOT the book to experiment with.
Sep. 7th, 2015 04:24 am (UTC)
That's okay. I was looking through Goodreads reviews the other day and was very, very confused by a bunch of people reviewing books that not only aren't officially published, yet; they aren't even written, yet. (As in, I know the author is currently in the process of writing the book before the one with the reviews.) And I can't figure out if that's a Goodreads thing where you give a star review to a whole series and it somehow applies it to all books in that series even if they don't exist, yet; or if someone has actually gone through and deliberately rated them. There also seems to be one guy who just goes around 1-star rating a bunch of stuff, except for a tiny handful of things which he gives 5 stars. (I think his reviews were something like 140 1-star reviews, 15 5-star reviews. Nothing in between.)
Sep. 7th, 2015 05:02 am (UTC)

I've heard of Goodreads people doing that and going back later after they're published and read and doing them over. It's their way, apparently, of using it as a TBR shelf instead of putting them in the to-read queue. Or so I've heard.

(no subject) - shehasathree - Sep. 7th, 2015 06:38 am (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 7th, 2015 06:53 am (UTC)
I might rethink my plan to do it in second-person future tense, though…

Hey, it worked for Charlie Stross.
Sep. 7th, 2015 12:26 pm (UTC)
I stopped reading SW books before EU started and considered Zahn's and Alston's works to be the best of the lot. I wouldn't normally plan to buy a new Star Wars book, but since the sale might help to put the panties of the Puppies in a bind, I think I can afford it.

But I probably won't read it until after the movie comes out: I have the final Terry Pratchett that I'll be starting today, plus two from Scalzi, one Weber, homework, travel, and 15 billion ebooks that I've gotten from the various Bundle sites.

I've never understood people giving things one star when they're quibbling about price or a shipping problem. It has nothing to do with the product, so why ding the product?
Sep. 7th, 2015 05:11 pm (UTC)
Because people are idiots and computers are hard. See also: people who buy used copies of a book, and then use the review area to leave complaints about the transaction, instead of the purchase feedback area.
Sep. 7th, 2015 06:29 pm (UTC)
I'm of a similar mind. The only read 4 Star Wars novels[1], but given the character of the people who are bashing this one, I'm seriously considering buying (and then reading, because I can't afford to buy books I don't read) this one.

[1] The novelization of the first movie, 2 books about Han Solo that came out in the mid-80s, and the one that explained the origin of the Sith's "there can be only two"[2] policy.
[2] Which I thought the book was taking wrong and/or too literally. I had taken Yoda's statement "Always two there are" to mean "Sith always travel in pairs," not "there are only 2 Sith ever." I mean, that's just a bad way to run an evil organization. What if the master dies before the apprentice has learned everything? What if they're both killed at once? Is it forbidden for a Sith lord and his apprentice to ride in the same starship? Surely I'm not the only one who thought "there can be only two" was a stupid policy?
Sep. 7th, 2015 01:27 pm (UTC)
It's been known for years now that Zahn's books aren't cannon, which is why I stopped reading them in the first place. (Which is a personal choice. I certainly don't blame Zahn for it.) Read it if you want to and enjoy the story. The movie is just a different story.

I'm still mad at Disney for the whole Kermit Piggy breakup, but that's another topic. I'll be sure to yell and wave a stick or something about it.
Sep. 7th, 2015 02:20 pm (UTC)
Oh my goodness, yes! Who breaks up Kermit and Miss Piggy???
Sep. 7th, 2015 09:35 pm (UTC)
I might rethink my plan to do it in second-person future tense, though…

I think it might end up sounding like a very bad attempt at Irish. "I will be after being your father..."
Sep. 8th, 2015 01:27 am (UTC)
Or Scottish! My grandfather used to talk like that.
Sep. 8th, 2015 01:26 am (UTC)
I've been reviewing the tedious abuse apologia that is the Fifty Shades trinity, chapter by chapter, for 3.5 years. That's over 1600 pages. I've also edited more books and novellas than I can count that were also first person, present tense, or both because both seem to be popular style choices right now in commercial fiction as well as fanfic. As a result of all this, I honestly don't care for novels in the present tense or first person and wouldn't buy Wendig's book because of this. But I wouldn't trash the book based on qualities that I don't happen to care for...at least not without reading it first.

I'm not really surprised about the rage involving the EU being erased from continuity. That angered a LOT of fans. I imagine that they feel that a new EU is now being shoved down their throats by Disney, and they don't want to hear it. I'm sorry that Wendig is the one being attacked, though. He's effectively caught in a war that isn't of his making.

The first group can sit on Princess Leia's double-bladed rainbow lightsaber. I'm thrilled that LGBT characters were included in Wendig's book. If I could get past the style issue, I'd read the book for that alone.
(Deleted comment)
Moonlight Reader
Sep. 8th, 2015 05:29 pm (UTC)
You know, I usually love your posts
But I looked at all of those one-star reviews and I think you are being inaccurate about something important. By my count, 4 out of 124 (a whopping 3%) one-star reviews mention the presence of LBGTQ characters. Your post insinuates that (a "camp" of) the Star Wars fandom is homophobic as an overall explanation for the plethora of one-star reviews.

I don't think that this assertion is well-supported by looking at the actual reviews. So, maybe you owe the fandom in general (of which I am not a member) a bit of an apology here by suggesting that there is a homophobic "camp." I don't think that 3% of a group of more than 120 individuals constitutes a "camp" of anything. It constitutes 4 statistically insignificant individuals who also happen to be jerks. Any large group of people will contain jerks - that doesn't make them a "camp."

I guess I don't understand the point of this post.

Edited at 2015-09-08 05:29 pm (UTC)
Sep. 8th, 2015 06:06 pm (UTC)
Re: You know, I usually love your posts
Why would anyone think there's homophobic backlash?

At least four people explicitly complained about the gay content in their Amazon reviews. There's a *lot* more grumbling and complaining about it. I think the camp upset about the EU going away is probably larger, from what I've seen, but let's not minimize the number of people pissed off at Wendig for daring to be more inclusive.
Sep. 8th, 2015 07:50 pm (UTC)
I don't like reading novels in present tense; I have too many flashbacks to reading Virginia Woolf when I read novels with that in place.

That said, I'm fine with the inclusion of gay characters in the (revised) EU. And, let's be honest, there's a lot of mediocre-to-bad SW novels out there in the old EU. If nothing else, I prefer the Dark Horse comics to the EU novels, as they had better writing and production values than a lot of the EU novels did.

So what I'm getting at is that it's fine to like or not-like Chuck's novel, but come on: the old EU wasn't all that; and making a galaxy with trillions and trillions of life forms strictly hetero makes no sense.
Sep. 9th, 2015 05:15 am (UTC)
You haven't read the latest SW book yet?
Understandable, but I was hopping for more of your insights into what you thought of the book, and not what you've gotten from the reviews.

I might just give this one a pass until it hits the local library - and then pick it up to see if its worth buying my own personal copy.
(up until the New Jedi Order ended ... not including the Clone Wars era, the newest published books - not just Star Wars - has been . . . lackluster.
Or so I've been feeling, whenever I pick up a fairly recent (published within the last five years) book, and then go back to one from the early 1960s to mid1990s, I've been much more enthralled with the older books.
Don't know why I've been feeling this way lately.

Maybe I need a new hobby beyond reading books during my ample spare time.
Or I could do a comparative analyses of book elements from the various eras and see if there really is a cultural trend in the books, and looking at how society has influenced both the authors and the writings still-in-demand.
(Though, that second option sounds too much like work).

I normally love all things Star Wars, but I've been having second thoughts ever since I learned George Lucas sold the rights. (Maybe I just hate change).

Thank you for sharing how negative reviews of the site SELLING the books are not necessarily reviews of the CONTENT of the material.
And reminding us that first impressions can be wrong.
Sep. 10th, 2015 06:14 pm (UTC)
I checked in when there were only around 15 reviews. The proportion of single stars was about the same, but they were mostly about quality and style of writing at that point with a few comments on the extended universe issue. I don't think there were any on price or on the gay characters, at that point. Good on Wendig and Disney for that latter. I probably won't read it myself because present tense gives me hives as a reader even though I've occasionally employed it as a writer. It always feels kind of straight-jacketing to me.
( 28 comments — Leave a comment )


Jim C. Hines


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