Chuck Wendig really has one of the toughest jobs in the world of literature at the moment – he is essentially the face of the Star Wars literature relaunch, beginning with 2015’s Aftermath and its newly released sequel, Life Debt. With the second installment of the Aftermath trilogy, Life Debt, Wendig once again strikes gold, offering a sweeping narrative with plenty of insight into both the state of the galaxy at large and beloved characters both new and old.
The Aftermath trilogy follows the exploits of the Wexley family – Norrah, ace Y-wing pilot, and her son Temmin “Snap” Wexley, portrayed as an adult by Greg Grunberg in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. After foiling a plot for a resurgent Empire on their home planet Akiva, the Wexleys become part of a New Republic commando team who bring in high value Imperial targets, ultimately becoming entangled in a plot by Han Solo and Leia Organa to liberate the planet Kashyyyk, homeworld of Solo’s Wookiee first mate, Chewbacca.
Breaking up the action are “interludes”, short stories that captures snapshots of the galaxy-at-large. You’ll see what fan favorite characters such as Maz Kanata, Cobb Vanth (a Tatooine lawman introduced in 2015’s Aftermath, now in possession of Boba Fett’s Mandalorian armor), and Mas Amedda are up to in the post Battle of Endor power vaccuum.
While the first batch of canon novels, for the most part, were stand alone releases that fit into the territory already charted by the six already released television shows and two canon animated series, Chuck’s debut in the Star Wars universe, 2015’s Aftermath, really pushed the franchise into the post Return of the Jedi era previously only covered by the beloved Expanded (Legends) Universe that began with 1991’s Heir to the Empire. His first book was polarizing among fans, to say the least, though that novel and now Life Debt truly inject new life into the franchise.
That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of elements in Wendig’s sequel for Legends fans to love – there are plenty of parallels to the post Return of the Jedi timeline of the original Expanded Universe for dedicated fans to pick up. Fans of Timothy Zahn, Michael Stackpole, Aaron Allston, and Kevin J. Anderson might detect certain echoes (intentional or otherwise) of plot points in classic Bantam-era novels like X-Wing, Heir to the Empire, and Darksaber.
Chuck’s unique literary voice is a point of contention among fans for the first novel; his present tense third person prose with punctual and snappy sentences that drive the scenes was new to many readers who grew accustomed to the usual expository past tense style of prior novels. That said, his style helps bring the characters and action to life, reading not unlike a screenplay and suiting Star Wars’ inherently cinematic storytelling.
Life Debt is, at alternating times, genuinely funny, heartbreaking, violent, romantic, and mysterious – all the proper elements of a Star Wars tale. There isn’t much more to discuss without spoiling the unfolding plot (which seems to offer) insights into Episodes VIII and IX. If you enjoyed Aftermath, you will enjoy Life Debt even more. If you didn’t enjoy Aftermath, give Life Debt a shot anyway.