Cover Artist: Scott Biel
Review by Jon Guenther
Del Rey Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781101966938
Date: 12 July 2016
List Price $28.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /
It's my opinion this book should be titled: "A New Hope for SW Fiction!" Aftermath: Life Debt by Chuck Wendig feels more like a Star Wars novel than anything that has come previously in the line of the books considered "official canon" by the story group. I was admittedly not hopeful when I heard all the reviews about the first book in the Aftermath trilogy. Goes to show you never trust a book by its cover or reviews because Aftermath: Life Debt was a terrific read!
The story picks up a few months after Lieutenant Norra Wexley, one of the heroine X-wing pilot who flew into the superstructure of the second Death Star, set off on a mission with her crew to hunt high-ranking Imperials of the fractured Empire. This sort of parallel to Nazi war-criminal hunters after World War II was a good storyline, but in this book Mr. Wendig takes it to the next level.
There's so much more personable about the characters in this book. There's also romance and a number of other elements put into this one that give it that space fantasy feel, and not the same tired old story elements seen in a good many of the previous Star Wars novels. In fact, maybe they are the same elements but they are used in a fresh way.
Grand Admiral Rae Sloane is also a major figure in this one, although she's still being manipulated by the mysterious Gallius Rax. The addition of the mercenary Mercurial Swift acting as a sort of paid-for-hire thug/bounty hunter/bodyguard brings some dimensions not only to the Sloane character, but also depth to the state of the once powerful Galactic Empire. There's also a lot of back-biting and power grabbing that's more prominent in this one and demonstrates just how fast the bureaucracy of such an enormous war machine can unravel so quickly without the Emperor or his close subjects to hold it in check.
Finally, we get to see much more of the iconic characters we love in this book: Leia, Han, and Chewbacca to be more specific. In fact, nearly the last third of the book involves Norra and her crew as they help Han Solo find a missing Chewbacca and liberate the Wookiee planet of Kashyyk! Interestingly, however, Luke Skywalker remains mysteriously absent save for a brief reference. Some other familiar characters are there: Wedge, Admiral Ackbar, and Mon Mothma. But they seemed more there for convenience of setting than as much as actual participants. I also perceived this is a very large story Mr. Wendig has to tell, and integrating all the foreshadowing and vague references sprinkled throughout to build the suspense and intrigue seemed to challenge story flow.
Fortunately, the author keeps us enthralled and makes this one of the first page-turners to come along in this line for quite some time. This book had plenty of action we've come to expect from any great story told in the Star Wars universe. Moreover, there's a lot of scenes filled with familiarity and nostalgia, many clearly intended to be a nod of acknowledgment toward the Han Solo character. This novel also ended very well. I'm eager to read the final entry in the trilogy. I think most fans will agree that Star Wars: Life Debt: Aftermath is a worthy and enjoyable tale, and will be eager for future novels.
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