Star Wars Aftermath: Life Debt Book Review
“Star Wars Aftermath: Life Debt” isn’t much better than “Star Wars: Aftermath.”
The title and cover suggests “Star Wars Aftermath: Life Debt” would be a Han and Chewie centric story, but that’s not the case. Instead, much like its predecessor, the post ROTJ story “Life Debt” is all over the place. Without giving away too much, I will say the novel sees the return of the (mostly) Rebel characters from the last book (Wedge, Norra and her son Temmin, Jom, Sinjir, Jas, and Mister Bones) and familiar faces like Leia, Mon Mothma, Han and Chewie. Story wise, expect plots involving Imperial war criminals, the liberation of Kashyyyk, a surprise planned attack by the Empire, General Admiral Rae Sloan investigating the Empire puppet master named Gallius Rax, Norra’s husband/Temmin’s father, Han and Chewie missing, Chandrila (the current home of the New Republic), and a few other surprises along the way.
If you were one of the “Star Wars” fans that were disappointed by the largely underwhelming “Star Wars Aftermath,” I don’t think author Chuck Wendig’s second book in the planned trilogy will be of any relief. While slightly better than the first novel, “Life Debt” still suffers from many of the issues the first novel had.
First and foremost, I still can’t invest in any of these new characters introduced in this series. Anytime the story is devoted to them, it’s hard for me to care about what is going on even if they are developed more here. The book only comes alive in the last third when it focuses more on characters like Han, Chewie, Leia (who is depicted a bit oddly now and then here), and one of the best new canonical book characters Sloane (who first appeared in the underrated “A New Dawn”).
Secondly, Chuck Wendig’s writing style is still oddly dry and jumbled. He struggles with pacing, includes weird elements that don’t feel very “Star Wars” (see the giant spiders), has a tendency to focus on strange details which drags the book down, jumps around from story to story, and includes a plot that mirrors ROTJ a bit too much.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect here is the depiction of the Kashyyyk liberation. This is a plot that has long been discussed by SW fans and to see it unfold in a rather lackluster novel of all places feels like a cheat to fans. This is the type of story that is meant for the big or small screen.
As disappointing as the book may be, there are some elements that work well here. Wendig’s exploration of the state of the Empire post ROTJ turns out to be rather intriguing (especially when he focuses on Sloane and the mysterious Gallius Rax). The same goes for the connections with “The Force Awakens.” The best part of the novel, to me at least, were the interludes which felt like a throwback to the great “Tales of” books from the past. While some fans may find them to be a distraction from the main story, I found them to be a welcome relief from the often dull main story. The stories involving the Pirates, Maz Kanata, Corellia, and Malakili proved to be especially involving.
Overall Thoughts: “Life Debt” is a deeply flawed book, but it’s at least a little better than the first novel. On top of that, the set-up for the final installment (“Empire’s End”) does show some promise at least.
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