Colleen’s Book Corner: Aftermath: Life Debt
Author: Chuck Wendig
Published July 2016
Set after Return of the Jedi 5 ABY
Is Star Wars Getting Saucy?
All right SW fans! Let’s talk about SEX! Finally, there’s another SW novel besides Dark Disciple with some sizzle! Plenty of characters get it on (or try to get it on) in Wendig’s peppy sequel to Aftermath. Characters are pairing off left and right, and their sex lives are in the forefront of many personality developments.
****SMALL SPOILERS HERE ON CHARACTERS PAIRINGS!****
Is That an Imperial Defector, or Are You Just Happy to See Me?
Sinjir was my breakaway favorite character from the first book in this trilogy, and it wasn’t just because he has that fabulous snarky personality. He’s a prominent LGBTQ SW character! Sinjir being gay doesn’t change his personality, but being in a relationship with super-hot slicer Conder Kyl sure does. It makes Sinjir think more about his Imperial past, pushing him toward some difficult conclusions. Then there’s Norra Wexley and our guy WEDGE! They would make such a fricken cute couple, and I’m sure her missing husband won’t pop out of nowhere at any time later in the book or series…And finally Jas Emari and Jom Barrell. This bounty hunter-Rebel Special Forces soldier duo is hysterical. When they’re not fighting, they’re either talking about fighting or having sex and embarrassing their crewmates. Delightful!
Another couple on everyone’s minds: Princess Leia Organa and known smuggler Han Solo. They’re married! And pregnant! And people have OPINIONS about that! Not that Leia cares, because her sex life is no one’s business, but it was really fun to have sassy Leia back in action.
Time for Some Life Debt!
The novel’s main focus is on our Halo/Moth crew trying to find Han and Chewie, who were last seen in Aftermath attempting to liberate Chewie’s home world, Kashyyyk. They get in trouble (shocking, I know) and Norra and her misfits race to help. In fact, “Life Debt” refers to Han’s and Chewie's relationship as well as Jas’s debts left from her family. The book's title also brings to mind Sinjir's debt to the galaxy - after living much of his adult life as a soulless interrogator - and how the crew each deals with what they owe to the New Republic, if they owe anything. Doing the right thing is a major theme for this book. And doing the right thing is, of course, never easy.
She’s Back, Baby?!
Our favorite Admiral Rae Sloane is also back, and she's concerned with legacy, what she owes to the Empire. Rae's ideals are fairly honorable, if misguided. She butts heads with the trilogy's main villain, Gallius Rax, about strategy and how the new Empire should be run. She's a great POV for the reader, making us feel some sympathy for those who remain loyal to the Empire.
Wendig’s Got Style
While I generally liked this book, I did start to notice some interesting writing choices. Wendig has never met a simile or metaphor he doesn't like, and he sometimes drops OUR modern slang into the narrative. This can be a bit jarring, but it's forgivable. His depiction of Leia was spot on, but I couldn't quite hear Harrison Ford's voice when reading Han's dialogue. Wendig has a much better grasp on his original characters. I'm also just not intrigued by Gallius Rax. With stand-out villains like Rae Sloane and Brendol (bag of dicks) Hux, having this cold, calculating villain with not much backstory left me wanting more page time for other characters. The book's ending finally piqued my interest in him, so I'll have to see where the final book goes.
I'm also a huge fan of Wendig's, as he stood up for writing a main character as LGBTQ. Here was his clapback to disgruntled fans who took issue with my main guy Sinjir's sexuality: “You’re not the good guys ... You’re the shitty, oppressive, totalitarian Empire. If you can imagine a world where Luke Skywalker would be irritated that there were gay people around him, you completely missed the point of Star Wars.” All the standing ovations for Chuck Wendig!
Grade: 8/10 Lightsabers
All in all, the novel was deftly-plotted and another quick read. It's fun to spend time with these characters, and I'm looking forward to Empire's End and the Battle of Jakku.