It’s fairly obvious to most of us that the revival of the Star Wars franchise has been a carefully managed affair. Disney’s control of a galaxy far, far away has been extremely pleasing so far, with all of the major steps being carefully considered ones. This explains why the indomitable and intrepid Chuck Wendig was given the grand task of writing the books set between Return of The Jedi and The Force Awakens. The shift in canon and style was never going to please everyone, but Wendig is proving to be very good at navigating the brave new Star Wars world.Like many, we rather liked his first Star Wars book, Aftermath, but it had a bit of a rough ride with a sub-section of the fans. Some didn’t particularly like the idea that the old Thrawn novels weren’t canon anymore (not that they every really were). Others simply didn’t like Wendig’s darker, grittier style . Both made their displeasure felt on social media. Those readers, alas, will continue to be disappointed with the latest instalment, Star Wars Aftermath: Life Debt. This is excellent news for the rest of us, because it builds on the momentum of the highly enjoyable previous novel to deliver the goods.
Star Wars Aftermath: Life Debt is an action adventure novel with some key thriller style elements carefully laid through. The bulk of the drama focuses on a little team of misfits lead by Rebel pilot Norra Wexley. They’re an odd bunch; Norra’s son, Temmin, is a technical genius who regards his rather frightening and heavily modified pet battle-droid, Mr Bones, to be his closest friend. They’re assisted by a former Imperial interrogator (and supplier of sarcasm) Sinjir Rath Velus. We also have a conflicted bounty hunter and hardcore soldier on the team. These misfits throw the ‘war’ aspect of the Star Wars universe into sharp focus. They’re the sort of team that has plenty of soul searching to do, but always gets the job done.
Which is probably why Princess Leia comes along and recruits them to help out her husband, Han Solo. It seems that the old smuggler has rather messed up an attempt to free Kashyyyk, with Chewie in Imperial custody and Han barely escaping with his life. Meanwhile, the Empire is still licking its wounds. A conspiracy grows, and those with the real power are building up to something very sinister indeed. Wendig leaves the big revelations for just the right moment, delivering some rather powerful punches along the way.
Chuck’s writing style is rapid and accessible; the pace is steady and accelerates at a good page, making this a pretty quick read. The tone is darker than some of the previous Star Wars books, but that’s not a bad thing; the setting is flexible enough to cope with more than a little blood and some of the darker moments are very well played.
Star Wars Aftermath: Life Debt is a great addition to the growing body of work that forms the new Star Wars world, and is full of some delicious hints about the future of the franchise. Great fun.
STAR WARS AFTERMATH: LIFE DEBT / AUTHOR: CHUCK WENDIG / ARTIST: CHRISTOPHER M. ZUCKER / PUBLISHER: DEL RAY BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW