book review: aftermath: life debt by chuck wendig

Aftermath: Life Debt is a canon novel written by Chuck Wendig and published by Del Rey, that is set between Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi and Star WarsEpisode VII: The Force Awakens. It is the second book in The Aftermath Trilogy, which started with Aftermath, and was released on July 12, 2016.

Category:  Fantasy/Sci-Fi

Publisher’s Summary:  The galaxy is changing, and with peace now a possibility, some dare to imagine new beginnings and new destinies. For Han Solo, that means settling his last outstanding debt, by helping Chewbacca liberate the Wookiees’ homeworld of Kashyyyk.

Meanwhile, Norra Wexley and her band of rebels pursue Admiral Rae Sloane and the remaining Imperial leadership across the galaxy. Sloane, increasingly wary of the mysterious fleet admiral, desperately searches for a means to save the crumbling Empire from oblivion. Even as Imperial forces fight to regain lost ground, Princess Leia and the New Republic seek to broker a lasting peace.

But the rebel’s hunt for Admiral Sloane is cut short after the disappearance of Han Solo and Chewbacca. Desperate to save them, Leia conscripts Norra, Sinjir, Jas, and the rest of their team to find the missing smugglers and help them in their fight for freedom.

Review:  If you read my review of the first book in this trilogy, you know that I didn’t find Aftermath to be very exciting.  It didn’t feel like much of a Star Wars book, and that’s sort of the whole point of these books.  So going into this one, I was a little apprehensive about what I might find.  I didn’t want another book like the first one.

I didn’t get another book like the first one.

Aftermath: Life Debt is wonderful.  There is so much at work in this book, from the origins of why the planet of Jakku is important to an assassination attempt that I did not see coming at all to discovering just how far Han Solo will go to find Chewbacca.  There are more characters from the Original Trilogy in this book, chief among them being Princess Leia Organa and Han Solo.  The team from Aftermath is still here, and they’ve been joined by a relatively minor character from the first book, Jom Barell.  Their mission is to hunt down and capture Imperial fugitives, and their first attempted capture is very exciting.  When they return to Chandrila, Princess Leia gives them an undercover mission strictly for her: find her husband, Han Solo, who is missing after a failed attempt to liberate the Wookiee planet Kashyyyk.  And just like that, we’re off on our adventure.

A lot of time is also spent with Rae Sloane, now Grand Admiral of the Imperial Navy and de facto leader of the Empire, but she is being controlled by the Fleet Admiral Gallius Rax, a man with a mysterious past that Sloane is desperate to uncover.  Rax puts together a Shadow Council to rule the Empire while allowing Sloane to remain its public face, and among the members of this council is Brendol Hux, father of General Hux, who is portrayed by Domnhall Gleeson in Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens.  This is the first time we learn of General Hux’s first name, Armitage, and that he is Brendol Hux’s bastard son.  Brendol doesn’t think very much of Armitage, but is determined that he’s going to make something of his weak-willed son.  Given what we saw in The Force Awakens, I’d say he succeeded.

One of my absolute favorite things about this book was the evolvement of the character of Sinjir Rath Velus, my favorite of the new characters introduced in the first book.  Wendig established in a rather nonchalant manner in the first book that Sinjir was homosexual, but in this book, he expands upon that, giving Sinjir a love story with a slicer named Conder Kyl.  I adored this relationship.   It’s not straightforward and it’s not simple, but it made Sinjir feel like a real person instead of just words on a page and I thoroughly appreciated that.

Princess Leia is pregnant in this book, and I really enjoyed all of the parts where she tuned into the Force and connected with her unborn son.  I always enjoy seeing Leia use the Force in any capacity, and reading about her using exercises that Luke had taught her on how to tap into the Force just made me smile.  There’s one scene in particular where Leia tries to reach out to a tree and ends up connected to her unborn son instead, and it’s just beautifully written.

The interludes that I thought were unnecessary in the first book are continued in this one, and I’m starting to see how they progress and connect, giving little pieces of life throughout the galaxy as this struggle between what’s left of the Empire and the fledgling New Republic goes on.  There is an ongoing one about a group called the Acolytes of the Beyond that is becoming interesting.  And the one about Jabba the Hutt’s beastmaster and his life after the death of both Jabba and his beloved rancor Pateesa was entertaining.

Recommendation:  This is a great improvement over the first book in the trilogy, and while it’s not up at the top of the list of all of the books I’ve read in the new Star Wars canon, it’s definitely a good book.  The mission of our main team is more interesting, the Imperial side of things is more intriguing, and the interludes begin to make sense.  Wendig’s writing style seems to have changed a bit from the first book, but it’s in a good way, because this book seemed like an easier read than the first book did.  Perhaps that’s just because I’m used to the new characters and I’m glad to see the characters we know from the Original Trilogy, but it was something I noticed.  I recommend this book to any Star Wars fans, but I am going to say that I think you should read Aftermath first.  Aftermath is not an easy read, but it will introduce you to our new characters, and I think that introduction is necessary for you to get the full emotional impact of Life Debt.

book review: aftermath by chuck wendig

Aftermath is a canon novel by Chuck Wendig and published by Del Rey, that is set between Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi and Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens. The novel is the first in The Aftermath Trilogy and is part of the Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens publishing project.  It was released on September 4, 2015. 

Category:  Fantasy/Sci-Fi

Publisher’s Summary:  The second Death Star has been destroyed, the Emperor killed, and Darth Vader struck down-—devastating blows against the Empire, with major victories for the Rebel Alliance. But the battle for freedom is far from over.

As the Empire reels from its critical defeats at the Battle of Endor, the Rebel Alliance—now a fledgling New Republic—presses its advantage by hunting down the enemy’s scattered forces before they can regroup and retaliate. But above the remote planet Akiva, an ominous show of the enemy’s strength is unfolding. Out on a lone reconnaissance mission, pilot Wedge Antilles watches Imperial Star Destroyers gather like birds of prey circling for a kill, but is taken captive before he can report back to the New Republic leaders.

Meanwhile, on the planet’s surface, former Rebel fighter Norra Wexley has returned to her native world—war weary, ready to reunite with her estranged son, and eager to build a new life in some distant place. But when Norra intercepts Wedge Antilles’s urgent distress call, she realizes her time as a freedom fighter is not yet over. What she doesn’t know is just how close the enemy is—or how decisive and dangerous her new mission will be.

Determined to preserve the Empire’s power, the surviving Imperial elite are converging on Akiva for a top-secret emergency summit—to consolidate their forces and rally for a counterstrike. But they haven’t reckoned on Norra and her newfound allies—her technical genius son, a Zabrak bounty hunter, and a reprobate Imperial defector—who are prepared to do whatever they must to end the Empire’s oppressive reign once and for all.

Review:  This book starts with a group of people trying to topple the statue of Emperor Palpatine on Coruscant, and when they do, a group of Imperial policemen show up and start firing into the crowd.  Two the characters we’re following in the scene pick up rocks to start throwing at the officers, realizing that the war is far from over.  It’s a good way to start the book, in my opinion, because it shows that while the emperor might be dead, it doesn’t mean that everything just immediately changes overnight.  This scene is there to set the tone, and I think it does a good job.

I knew going into this from talking with people that had already read it that this wasn’t going to be just a continuation of Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, so I wasn’t disappointed about the lack of characters from the Original Trilogy in this book.  Instead, we’re introduced to a new group of characters on a new planet, and I really appreciated that.  I’m always interested in expanding the Star Wars universe, and I was glad to see the new characters and a new planet.

We do have two characters that have been previously known:  Wedge Antilles is obviously well known from the feature films, and Rae Sloane is a character from the previously published canon novel A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller.  Antilles doesn’t play that much of a part, though he is the catalyst for our band of heroes to make their assault on the remnants of the Empire that are on Akiva, while Sloane plays a large part in the story and I really enjoyed Wendig’s take on her character.  Sloane is a badass female character to add to the ever-growing list of badass female characters in the Star Wars universe.  My favorite of the new characters is Sinjir Rath Velus, a former Imperial Loyalty officer who abandoned the Imperial forces after the Battle of Endor.  Before he joins the adventure our heroes are on, he is doing nothing but sitting in bars drinking all day.  Once he learned of the Imperial blockade, he bargains with a local crime lord for safe passage off the planet but instead gets himself imprisoned.  With the help of bounty hunter Jas Emari, he frees himself and ends up joining our ragtag group of heroes.  Another character in here, Temmin Wexley, is portrayed as an adult by Greg Grunberg in the 2015 film Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens.

The mission the characters go on is not very interesting and exciting.  There were some moments that made me cheer and made me gasp, but they were few and far between.  The interludes were okay.  Sometimes I thought they were very unnecessary, but I’m guessing they play a larger part in the trilogy as a whole.  It was very obvious that this was the first part of a trilogy because of the way certain things played out, but there was enough there to make me somewhat okay with how this story wrapped up.  The characters are really the best thing about this book to me.  I wanted to spend more time with them but on a different mission.

Recommendation:  Overall, this book is kinda meh as a standalone story, but if you look at it as the first part of a trilogy, then it might be an okay first installment.  I’m hoping that all of this will have greater context by the time I’m done with the trilogy as a whole, and it’s making me glad that I’m reading these books after the entire trilogy has been released.  The main thing for me is that it feels more like a fantasy/sci-fi book than a Star Wars book, and I really wanted a Star Wars book.  If you’re interested in reading the entire trilogy, then I suggest you read it.  But if not, then this might be one that you might want to skip.