Welcome to Book Reviews. In this series I will look to review any canon books that come out in the Star Wars galaxy as I work my way through them. I am no expert book critic or expert in writing (as you may be able to tell), so this is very much from a fan’s point of view. In each review, I will also try to point out a few “Moments in Canon” – moments that link into the wider canon and references to other canon stories. Today I will be looking at Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath: Life Debt.
Released in 2016, Aftermath: Life Debt became the first adult novel sequel in the new Star Wars canon, being the second book of the Aftermath Trilogy.
Set a couple of months after Aftermath, this story picks up from where the last book finished. The heroes we got to know in the first book are now working together to hunt down hiding Imperials with the intention of bringing them back to the New Republic to face justice, until Leia asks them to take on a new mission: finding Han Solo, who has gone missing. On the Imperial side, with Moff Pandion out of the way, Rey Sloane is the figurehead for a large section of the Empire, but she is actually working on the orders of another more shadowy figure…
With the Emperor gone, who was to hold it all together?”
Like Aftermath, the novel shows a number of different points of view – including all of the hero group, Leia, Sloane and Gallius Rax – and the interludes continue to show more of the story of what is happening around the galaxy.
Like the first book, Life Debt has the challenge of telling a grand, overarching story from a number of points of view, which I understand can be difficult for some people to keep track of at times. However, I did not really find this an issue, perhaps due to having read a number of other stories that use a large number of viewpoints like The Lord of the Rings and George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. What I find that Wendig does well is making each of the main POV characters feel very different, so that I could quickly establish which character we are now following. If anything, I think it works better in this book than the first as the characters are already established and can now be expanded further. Similarly, now that I am very used to Wendig’s writing style, I really enjoy it and the way it helps feel like we’re in the character’s head, experiencing everything with them.
Sadness shines in her eyes. Not sadness for her. But sadness for him. Because this will be hard for him. She knows that. He won’t admit it. But saying goodbye might kill him.
Sinjir was a character who stood out to me in Aftermath and by the end of this book, he had established himself as my favourite character in the trilogy due to his snarky personality, while he also goes through a great journey as he tries to figure out who he is now that he is away from the Empire. Jas is a close second as we see her developing from a bounty hunter who is motivated to stick with the group by money, into someone who wants to do the right, with the mental comparisons between her and her aunt Sugi – who has left her with debts due to only doing jobs that felt morally right – a great way of showing how she changes. Nora had the largest emotional dilemmas of the group in the first book due to her relationship with Temmin, and while that is largely sorted by the time of this story, I like how she has moved on to become the clear leader of the group, but is also given legitimate emotional dilemmas once again. As for Sloane, I really like the way that her character is changed. Aftermath suggested that she was fighting for control of the Empire until a hint at the very end, whereas this shows that she is just a figurehead, but I really enjoy how she will not simply go along with it and instead tries to second-guess Rax’s intentions and find out more about him. I also need to take a moment to mention Mister Bones, who is arguably the most unique droid I have ever come across in canon and brings great personality for a droid designed for battle.
“I ENJOY EVISCERATION.” Bones offers ever-so-helpfully, “I TOO AM ALONG ON THIS FOOLISH ADVENTURE.”
I really enjoy this story and think that it is a great way of expanding the universe after Aftermath, which was largely set on Akiva. I think that the book does a really good job as well of bringing in more recognisable characters by introducing Leia, Han and Chewbacca, while they all feel very realistic to what we have seen – although I will say there were a few moments where Han sounded more like the older version we see in The Force Awakens compared to the younger Han for Return of the Jedi (which is less than a year before this). The story does a great job of moving forward and keeping me gripped, while a number of the twists and turns were definitely unexpected.
Should I read it?
As I mentioned in my review of the first novel, I’m going to hold off giving my full thoughts until I have completed the trilogy, especially so with this novel as it is left so open to continue into the 3ʳᵈ book.
“Don’t worry.” Han smirks. “I’ve done this before. What could go wrong?”
What I will say though is that due to the main characters now being established and able to be developed much further, along with the more progressive story, I enjoy this book much more than the first, though that is no slight on the original
Moments in canon
War has come to Jakku.
- There are tales and rumours of Palpatine hunting children – we know that the Inquisitors were sent to find Force-sensitive children
- Han & Leia married on the Endor moon
- Starhawks are the New Republic’s new capital ships, made from disassembled Imperial craft
- BB units are a new design of astromech droid
- Some Ewoks left the Endor moon to become therapy Ewoks to help veterans
- Yendor (from Lost Stars) has left Corona Squadron to help liberate Ryloth
Have you read this book? What were your thoughts on it? Thanks for reading. May the Force be with you…