Let The Hate Flow?

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Chuck Wendig.

(Sorry if I lost half the audience right there, but it had to be said.)

star_wars_aftermathIf you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can visit the Amazon page for Chuck Wendig’s latest book, Aftermath, and peruse through a few of the reviews. I’d recommend not staying too long, but you get the picture. The book is one of the first big Star Wars books since Disney bought out George Lucas and decided the existing Star Wars fiction (known as the “Expanded Universe”) published over the past 20 years or so would be now branded as “Star Wars Legends.” All the novels and stories written in that universe were now deemed “non-canon” — a move that upset a lot of Star Wars fans.

In fact, as of this blog, the book has 41 percent of its reviews as one-star, and has a 2.6 star average. While book criticism is one thing (I’ve certainly disliked books before), there seems to be outside reasons for a lot of the hate that has very little to do with Wendig.

I’ve read a lot of Star Wars books. My dad made a significant investment in the SW titles as soon as Timothy Zahn published his Thrawn trilogy and I was immersed for a few years. I thought the Thrawn novels were fantastic, and I know I wasn’t alone. More Han, Luke, Leia, and Chewie? New characters, for sure, but a continuation of the stories we fell in love with thanks to the original three Star Wars films. But, thanks to Disney’s decision to now relegate those books to non-canonical works (perhaps fanfiction in many people’s eyes), it soiled anything to come down the pipeline for many.

And so here comes Wendig.

Chuck Wendig has what you might call…a unique writing style. Just from the reviews, here are a few descriptions: “jarring,” “poorly written,” “irritates the reader,” “meh,” “thrilling action,” “Choppy sentences,” ” strange and off-putting,” and “unreadable.”

Ouch.

For every positive reaction, you’ll get four or five negative. His writing style is certainly different than what a lot of people may be used to, but it isn’t bad writing. At least, not in my opinion. I am working through it — not done yet — but I’m probably about a third of the way through Aftermath. While I’ve read some, I’m doing a lot of the “reading” with my ears and listening to the audiobook. Maybe he didn’t intend it this way, but from what I’ve heard, the Wendig writing style is perfect for audiobooks. The immediacy of the action and the sharp, crisp dialogue just jumps through the speakers.

But before I praise Wendig too much, let me say here: I am not a Wendigger. I saw a few commenters slamming the positive reviewers as being Wendig fanboys. I am not. Not to say I won’t be, but Aftermath is the first Wendig book I’ve read. Honest to God. I can’t be a Wendig fanboy without having a history with him. And there is none.

As for other criticisms, let’s just do a bullet list of some of the biggies:

  • Gay character. Um. So what? It isn’t like they made Han or Luke gay (although I’m sure there is some fanfic out there…). Homosexual people exist, and I’m sure in a universe with countless planets and alien species, there are any number of orientations. You don’t want boundary-pushing fiction, don’t read sci-fi.
  • None of the “Main” characters. Somewhat of a valid concern, but it isn’t like Wendig would’ve had much say here. I have NO idea how the deal went down for him to write this transition from Jedi to Awakens, but I can guarantee he wasn’t allowed to have Han or Luke or Leia appear. Frankly, he should thank his lucky stars he got Wedge Antilles. At least with Wedge he is able to tie in character-wise with the established film universe. But if fans were expecting Luke to come in with a squad of brand-new Jedi, they don’t understand geopolitical situations.
  • It’s a Small Story. True enough. BUT…what is Disney doing with Star Wars? They are doing EXACTLY WHAT THE FANS ASKED FOR. “We want more!” so they give us “Rogue One” releasing next year that is a smaller story that includes exactly NONE of the main characters we know. What do you expect from a book that connects the films? Besides, this is just part one of a proposed trilogy. How do you know how big the story actually is?

Ultimately, there are some criticisms that are fair. I totally get the writing style one, but I also think if the fans could get past some of the other aspects, the writing style is something people could become accustomed to. The Hunger Games was also criticized for its writing style when it was released, but you rarely hear complaints about it anymore.

At the end of the day, the true fans are showing themselves to be true trolls. Many of the five-star reviews have multiple comments about how the review is paid for, or a corporate shill, or not a true fan, or something else. They can’t understand how it can loved and appreciated by a whole new generation, and if they aren’t careful, they could alienate the very people who could make episodes 7, 8, and 9 the basis for their own lifelong fandom. Much of it is coming off as spiteful of DIsney and their decisions with the property, or hateful towards homosexuals, or even irrational about a fictional universe that you never had any control over in the first place.

To Mr. Wendig — congrats on the success. I’m working on the book and I’ll post a review when I’m done. If it’s a great book, I’ll say so. If it isn’t, I’ll say so there as well. I won’t base my judgement on previous iterations of the universe or on corporate decisions out of your control. Thanks for carrying the torch between the movies, even if most of the fans would like to turn it on you.

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