Thursday, May 4, 2017

James Review -- Star Wars: Aftermath: Life Debt

This week I decided to review Star Wars: Aftermath: Life Debt by Chuck Wendig. 

The story begin not long after the first book in the trilogy ended. Nora Wexley and her team, including her son Temmin, are continuing to hunt Imperial war criminals but there's some discontent within the team as bounty hunter Jas Emari feels they are bypassing opportunities to help victims of criminals and oppressors in favor of focusing on their assigned targets. And shortly after one of their targets dies while in custody, Wexley is contacted by Princess Leia, whose husband Han Solo is in trouble. After the New Republic Senate refused to launch a mission to liberate the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk, Solo and his Wookiee co-pilot and best friend Chewbacca received information that would allow a small force to liberate the planet. Solo put together a team of smugglers, pirates, and Wookiees who had escaped the Empire's grasp but something went wrong and most of the force, including Chewbacca, was captured during an Imperial ambush that Solo escaped. But Solo was again under attack when he last spoke to his wife and contact was lost. Leia asks Wexley's team to undertake an unauthorized mission to locate Solo.

Meanwhile within the upper ranks of what is left of the Empire, Grand Admiral Rae Sloane, the face of what's left of the Imperial Starfleet begins to distrust Gallius Rax, her adviser who is running the Empire in all but name. This distrust grows worse when Rax begins issuing orders in Sloane's name, including orders that lead to destruction of the Star Destroyer Scythe sent to ambush Wexley's team but got caught by New Republic warships. Sloane launches an investigation to discover more about Rax's past even as they work together to plan an attack on Chandrila, the current New Republic capital.

Wexley's team eventually catches up with Solo as he is working to capture Golas Aram, a retired Imperial prison designer involved with the creation of Ashmead's Lock, a prison on Kashyyyk where Chewbacca is being held. They join forces with Solo to capture Aam then move on to Kashyyk to seize Ashmead's Lock, in reality an ancient AI-run prion ship that crashed on Kashyyyk thousands of years ago and keeps its prisoners in stasis while using them as a power source, which is now being used by the Empire. Among the prisoners they rescue is Nora Wexley's husband Brentin, whom Nora long believed lost forever, and they, their son, and many of the prisoners set out for Chandrila even as the pending Imperial surprise attack grows closer. Meanwhile, the rest of her team joins Han and Chewbacca in forming and launching a new plan attempting to liberate Kashyyyk.

The book also includes a number of interludes showing what is happening elsewhere in the galaxy as well as the short story "Blade Squadron: Kuat" by David J. Williams and Mark S. Williams which focuses on its namesake B-Wing unit during the New Republic' campaign to claim the world of Kaut, the Empire's largest ship and weapon production center,

I give the main novel 7 out of 10. It has an interesting mix of action and political scenes but there are a few key flaws I find in it. First, I feel that the battle against the Scythe should have been covered in more detail rather than ending with the New Republic reinforcements opening fire then that plotline jumping to the battle's aftermath. Also, I find some of the nods to other stories, both fellow Star Wars tales and non-Star Wars stories, to be heavy-handed and unnecessary. In particular, the Nora Wexley, Brentin Wexley, and Wedge Antilles plotline has far too many similarities to the Wedge Antilles, Iella Wessiri and Diric Wessiri story from the Legends continuity for my taste. And on the interlude front I feel that the idea of a pirate band capturing a Super Star Destroyer is stretching credibility to the breaking point at best. The idea of a pirate band managing to maintain and provide a crew for a Super Star Destroyer while manning other ships is absurd in my opinion. I give "Blade Squaduron: Kuat" 6.5 out of 10. I feel it is far too short and would have benefited greatly from another ten pages in length. Also there are some parts that I feel either don't make sense given the conditions at the time the story takes place or don't fit with what is shown in other canon sources, including Return of the Jedi.

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