Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Star Wars Aftermath Life Debt Book Review: I Want an Ewok Therapy Helper

Chucks Wendig’s second novel in the Star Wars universe is a direct sequel to his first. Aftermath Life Debt starts a few months after the conclusion of the first novel. The ragtag crew introduced in the first book has been going on missions to capture high ranking Imperial dignitaries and officers.  The book opens up with one of their capture attempts and does a great job of setting up the rest of the novel. I was letdown by the first Aftermath, but I think it was due to the expectations I had for the book. I was expecting a story about Wedge and the establishment of the New Republic after Return of the Jedi. Instead the first book introduced new characters and told personal stories about how the collapse of the Empire had affected different worlds. I enjoyed the second half of Aftermath once the team of characters met up, but Life Debt was enjoyable all the way through.

One reason why I liked Life Debt more than the first Aftermath is that the characters are already established. Wendig did a good job of introducing all of the characters in the first book, and now you are invested in their stories. They are all interesting, with Sinjir being my favorite of the new characters introduced. He is one of, if not the most, complex character brought into the Star Wars Universe. He has a certain skill set that is valuable to the New Republic, but doesn’t like the way he feels when he uses it. Sinjir doesn’t see himself as a good person because of the things he has done and continues to do. He wants to move away from this life, but he seems to keep getting pulled back in. The complexities he adds to the book expands upon the universe and paints the galaxy in more colors of grey rather than black and white.

This is something which has been happening across many of the new cannon materials. Making many of the Imperials more relatable so you can understand their motivations. Grand Admiral Rae Sloan is a good example of this. I don’t root for her to succeed, but you can understand her drive because of where she came from. You also feel that the Empire may not be as evil with her in charge. It still wouldn’t be the government I would want to live under, but she isn’t inherently evil. Though she was pretty nasty to Wedge in the last novel. The new character who is pulling her strings is interesting. She sees him as bad for the Empire, but doesn’t see a way to beat him. I thought Wendig was going to introduce Thrawn with the way he setup the epilogue in the first Aftermath. We now know they had other plans for Thrawn, but this new character is interesting as well. He is calculating and his history is instantly intriguing. Wendig again in his epilogue tantalized and left me wanting more, because of this character.

One other major aspect Life Debt has over its predecessor is the inclusion of Leia and Han. We don’t get a ton of them, but they are in the novel much more than Wedge was in Aftermath. They tie into the story together nicely. Titling the novel Life Debt and not including much of Han, Leia, and Chewie could have caused unreal expectations again. The way the story is told makes how much they are in the novel a natural progression. Wendig does a good job in writing and portraying both Han and Leia, and I’m interested to see what he will with them in the final chapter of his trilogy. I’m curious if Luke will finally make an appearance in the final installment. If he does it might have some impact on events we see in Force Awakens and in Episode Eight.

The only drawback the novel has was that the conclusion was predictable, and an unneeded love triangle.  It doesn’t take away from the story, but I saw where it was headed. The only other issue I have with the novel are the interludes. I like every single one in the book, but they pull you out of the main story. I want to spend more time with the interludes instead of the small tastes given. It is great to see what the state of the galaxy is and how different walks of life are handling it. I especially enjoyed the story about the news reporter who was imbedded with Republic forces, along with the trooper who lost his leg on Endor and is dealing with PTSD. He is given a therapy droid, and turns down a therapy Ewok. I laughed extremely hard when I read this part of the story. Ewok’s would be perfect therapy companions and good on Wendig with coming up with the idea. It is perfect. The issue with the interludes is that they are too short. They deserve to be short stories in their own anthology book. Some of the best Legends books were collections. They could easily do this again with these stories and expand upon them. Then these stories would be given their due, and the main story of Life Debt wouldn’t be interrupted. My suggestion for those reading is skip the Interludes and go back and read them after you finish the main story.

I really enjoyed Aftermath Life Debt. Wendig’s characters are intriguing and you are invested in them after the first novel. He also writes action extremely well, and he captures the essence of Star Wars battles in both of his novels. The last part of Aftermath left me excited for Life Debt and Wendig delivered. This is a good addition to the new cannon of Star Wars, and I look forward to the conclusion of his trilogy.

What did you think of Life Debt if you have finished it? Comment and let me know. 

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