Does the latest Star Wars novel reveal a powerful new Snoke clue?

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Apr 27, 2017, 1:44 PM EDT (Updated)

Yes, Rey's parentage is still the biggest mystery posed by the new Star Wars continuity, and it's the mystery I still get the most questions about whenever I tell strangers that I'm a professional nerd (just let me buy groceries in peace, people), but it's not the only big mystery out there. Star Wars: The Force Awakens also left us with many questions about the mysterious, powerful being we saw only as a hologram: Supreme Leader Snoke.

What do really know about Snoke? We know that he leads the First Order with such authority that he can even make Kylo Ren and General Hux stop their in-fighting and serve his greater purpose from a hologram on some planet we haven't seen yet. We know that he watched both the rise and the fall of the Galactic Empire at some distance, and we know that even Leia Organa is aware of his abilities, to the extent that she's certain he's responsible for turning her son Ben to the Dark Side. Oh, and we know that he's at the very least Force sensitive, if not a Force wielder in his own right (and given his mention of training Kyo Ren, it's a pretty good bet that he's that, too).

The absence of other definitive knowledge about the character has led to numerous theories postulating that Snoke isn't his true identity at all. He's been pegged as everyone from Darth Plagueis to Anakin Skywalker to Jar Jar Binks, but the truth really seems to be that Snoke is indeed a new character who simply made his entrance into Star Wars lore at a time and place we haven't yet seen or heard about. While we might not learn Snoke's definitive origin for a while, the final novel in the Aftermath trilogy just dropped what could be a big scary clue leading right to his hologram throne.

SPOILERS AHEAD for Aftermath: Empire's End ...

Aftermath: Empire's End details the final struggles of the Empire as the New Republic consolidates power and attempts to defeat the last of Palpatine's followers. At the same time, Palpatine loyalists are trying to implement a contingency plan he put in place to start a version of the Empire anew in the event of his death. According to Gallius Rax, one of Palpatine's most trusted servants (who was himself theorized to be Snoke at one point), the Emperor also developed an obsession with the Unknown Regions at the edges of the galaxy, setting up observatories in search of something, attempting to chart a course out there, and even picking up some kind of signal so specific that even Vader couldn't detect it, as Rax explains in the book:

"Before Palpatine's demise at the hands of the rebels, the computers finished their calculations, finally finding a way through the unknown. The Emperor was convinced that something waited for him out there – some origin of the Force, some dark presence formed of malevolent substance. The Emperor called it a signal – conveniently one that only he could hear. Even his greatest enforcer, Vader, seemed oblivious to it ..."

At the close of the novel, Palpatine's remaining followers (among them a very young General Hux) head into the Unknown Regions to rendezvous with a hidden Imperial Super Star Destroyer, which was planted there as part of the contingency plan. Author Chuck Wendig presents this moment as the beginning of the First Order, where the Empire will rebuild far from the prying eyes of the Republic.

So, we have Imperial loyalists rebuilding their military might in the Unknown Regions, and we also have Palpatine's belief that a "dark presence" also waited out there, possibly attempting to reach him, and possibly very ancient. Is that presence Snoke? We don't know. Perhaps Snoke also felt the presence in the Unknown Regions and went to investigate it, finding the First Order when he did so.

This is all still rather murky as it pertains to Snoke, but here's one thing we know for sure: Snoke is in charge. You don't get where he is without some serious power, and we know that he wasn't there at the founding of the First Order, at least not physically. Was he part of Palpatine's plan all along, and we just haven't heard about it yet? Did he show up, prove himself and then assume command? Did he join the Order as an ally before taking power? We don'' know, but a source of dark power in the Unknown Regions and the First Order's formation in those same regions feels like its too big to be a coincidence.

What do you think? Is this dark presence in the Unknown Regions Snoke?

(via Nerdist)