Retro Reviews: ‘Aftermath: Life Debt’ by Chuck Wendig

October 5, 2020 at 8:24 am | Posted in Books, Random House, Regular Feature, Retro Reviews, Reviews, Star Wars, Star Wars Books | Leave a comment
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Aftermath: Life Debt is the second novel in the Aftermath trilogy written by Chuck Wendig and released in July of 2016. 

When I first read Life Debt, I liked it a whole lot more than the first Aftermath book. I think that this has the effect of being more popular because it includes major characters like Han and Leia, but it also kind of explains what’s happening to the greater galaxy at large. While those are things the first book was lacking, I still had several problems with this book, many of which were present in the first book.

My biggest problem with this book is the interludes. While some of them are interesting, they just don’t belong here. I think the interludes here fit better here than the first book, but they still don’t belong. Del Rey should have done a short story collection of “flash fiction” separately and done the Aftermath trilogy as its own traditional trilogy. The redeeming aspect of the interludes is they may have some ties to the Mandalorian Season 2, which I hope is actually true.

Another major problem of the book is Wendig’s portrayal of Leia. I just don’t think he can write Leia well. Leia had lines that just sounded foreign to the character and her actions were similar to things Leia should do, but it felt like any other writer would have written them differently. Particularly her arguments with Mon Mothma and Admiral Ackbar. I think that Claudia Gray is an amazing Leia writer and Chuck Wendig does a great job with Han, but maybe they still have work to do on the opposite character. 

Regarding the plot, I thought this book had an excellent potential for the plot. “Search for Han”? Check. “Liberate Kashyyyk”? Check. “Political Intrigue”? Check. “Imperial Plotlines?” Check. It checked a bunch of boxes that got me excited. Unfortunately, I don’t think that they were executed well.

The search for Han was so promising…but it was over really quickly. I thought I remembered a lot more of the book being them searching for him, but once they start, they find him almost immediately. It was quite disappointing. The plot about liberating Kashyyyk was the most thorough of the plotlines, but it wasn’t too exciting. It has lots of action, but it was hard to follow the objectives. After they freed Chewbacca, I thought “Great, that’s done” and then they had another objective, and another one. It just felt too tedious and I was surprised when it was over.

The strongest point of the book for me is the Imperial plotline. I loved reading about Rae Sloane and her political fight against Gallius Rax. Their political back and forth was fantastic. I loved the twists and turns of their story and wish more of the book could be devoted to the Empire’s strategy. This lays the groundwork a lot for The Rise of Skywalker, and I don’t even think Wendig was in on any plan regarding Episode 9. 

What the whole trilogy has going for it that works in this book is the vibe. It starts really episodic as the team is in the middle of a mission, and you follow Chuck Wendig’s version of “Rebels” as they go on different missions throughout the book, sometimes splitting up and sometimes staying together. 

Discussing a few of the characters briefly, I thought Gallius Rax was fascinating. He seemed to be a cross between Thrawn (his love of operatic art) and Palpatine (his mysterious machinations). I also really liked Norra and Wedge’s relationship in this. I was kind of sad for the position that Wendig put them in when Brentin returned, and thought that it set the table well for Rebecca Roanhorse to use in Resistance Reborn. Rae Sloane is the strongest character in the whole trilogy and I really hope we get some more books with her in them.

One other thing about Wendig is he is quite funny. I laughed out loud several times during this book, and every single time was in a line by Mr. Bones. I think that Mr Bones is the most Chuck Wendigiest character in the book. Most Star Wars books have good droids, and this series stands head and shoulders over others in that regard. 

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Aftermath: Life Debt. I don’t know if I enjoy it quite as much as the first one, but its still really good and fun. It’s nowhere near the level that the original Heir to the Empire trilogy sits in the hierarchy of Star Wars trilogies, but it’s still a great read. 3.5 out of 5.

My next book is another YA book. Ahsoka, by E.K. Johnston. 

Review Written by Jonathan Koan

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