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It's official: The Empire survives Return of the Jedi and then starts murdering

Darth Vader and the Emperor are dead. A galaxy far, far away heralds the end of tyranny and celebrates a new hope. But in the space between an empire's end and a new republic's beginning, there is uncertainty … and death.

This is the post-Return of the Jedi world of Aftermath, the first novel in author Chuck Wendig's upcoming trilogy. Set for a Sept. 4 release, Entertainment Weekly published an excerpt this week, which shows us that, from its first words, Wendig wastes no time in surrounding readers with familiar characters from the original trilogy.

"But though we may celebrate, we should not consider this our time to rest," Admiral Ackbar says in a victory speech. "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."

Aftermath's prologue continues in Monument Plaza on Coruscant, the capital city-planet of the Empire. The last we saw Coruscant on film was in Return of the Jedi's Special Edition, as crowds cheered and fireworks exploded in the sky after the defeat of the galaxy's dastardly duo.

In Aftermath, Wendig begins with images of celebration turned chaos.

Chains rattle as they lash the neck of Emperor Palpatine. Ropes follow suit—lassos looping around the statue’s middle. The mad cheers of the crowd as they pull, and pull, and pull. Disappointed groans as the stone fixture refuses to budge. But then someone whips the chains around the back ends of a couple of heavy-gauge speeders, and then engines warble and hum to life—the speeders gun it and again the crowd pulls—

The sound like a giant bone breaking.

A fracture appears at the base of the statue.

More cheering. Yelling. And—

Applause as it comes crashing down.

The head of the statue snaps off, goes rolling and crashing into a fountain. Dark water splashes. The crowd laughs.

And then: The whooping of klaxons. Red lights strobe. Three airspeeders swoop down from the traffic lanes above—Imperial police. Red-and- black helmets. The glow of their lights reflected back in their helmets.

There comes no warning. No demand to stand down.

The laser cannons at the fore of each airspeeder open fire. Red bolts sear the air. The crowd is cut apart. Bodies dropped and stitched with fire.

Lucasfilm announced the Aftermath trilogy in March, saying it would include a "sweeping new cast of characters, along with a fan favorite from the films."

Aftermath will be part of Lucasfilm's "The Journey to The Force Awakens" initiative, which will include about 20 books this fall that span from children's books to comics and novels. These are all part of Lucasfilm's retooled Star Wars canon. For decades, artists and writers contributed to the Star Wars Expanded Universe, with stories generally set after the events of Jedi. That didn't pose any particular problem, given that those stories took place after the final chronological Star Wars film.

"The Empire’s weapon may be destroyed, but the Empire itself lives on."

Series creator George Lucas sold his empire of companies to Disney in October 2012. Alongside that news came the announcement that Lucasfilm would produce a new trilogy, starting with Episode VII, later revealed as The Force Awakens. Given that a host of products told stories set after Jedi, which was Episode VI, Episode VII's existence created a canonical crisis within the Star Wars universe. What do you do with all of those stories?

In April 2014, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy announced the formation of a story group that would oversee Star Wars canon that spans comics, games, TV, films and more. The Expanded Universe was rebranded under the "Legends" title. Aftermath is part of the newly codified canon, consistent with the events of the original trilogy, the prequel trilogy, the Clone Wars cartoon and the upcoming trilogy.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is scheduled for a Dec. 18, 2015 release. Watch its second trailer for the hundredth time below.

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