Han Solo is Back – Aftermath: Life Debt Review

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What did Han Solo and Chewbacca do after Return of the Jedi?

Apparently, if you’re a former smuggler about to become a father, you deal with it in the way you know the best – you run away. When, unsurprisingly, you end up in trouble, your pregnant wife has to send others to the rescue.

This is the premise of the second book of Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy. It picks up from where the first book ended, even though I assume you could, theoretically, read it without knowing anything about the previous book. It would be a pity, however. Aftermath is a good story and the major characters – Norra Wexley, her son Temmin and his murderous droid, Mr. Bones, the ex-Imperial interrogator Sinjir Rath Vellus, the zabrak bounty hunter Jas Emari, even the grumpy soldier Jom Barell – are all introduced there in a way that will make you care about them even as you progress through Life Debt. On top of that, the “interludes” in the first Aftermath – various seemingly unrelated scenes featuring common and less common people throughout the Galaxy – lay out certain background for what we see in Life Debt. In the first book, they for example pictured how Han Solo and Chewie left to liberate the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk. Life Debt‘s story shows us where it had gone wrong.

Many Points of View

So, Han Solo is lost. Because the New Republic and senator Mon Mothma are trying to consolidate order in the chaotic post-Imperial Galaxy, the rescue of Han Solo cannot be officially sanctioned. That is why Leia turns to Norra’s team, known for their recent success on Akiva, to search for lost Han who got lost in search for lost Chewie who got lost in search for his captive kin. At the same time, the Imperial remnants have their own plans how to return from the ashes, and unsurprisingly, their efforts somehow end up meddling in our heroes’ mission.

Aftermath: Life Debt retains everything that was good about the first book and adds some stuff of its own. The multiple points of view include not only Norra’s team, but also people “left behind” in the New Republic like Leia or Wedge Antilles, and last but not least, the Imperials, including Kashyyyk’s psychopathic governor or, more importantly, Grand Admiral Rae Sloane and her shady ally, Gallius Rax. Personally, I consider Sloane’s story arc the best part of the book. Unlike Aftermath, where she was still just one of the Imperial leaders, here she becomes the protagonist you follow and the book makes you like her and sympathise with her. She is an idealist desperately trying to resurrect the Empire she believes in, while her allies are either thinking only about themselves or trying to take the Galaxy back by methods she does not approve of.

How Can an Ex-Soldier Live a Normal Life?

The other characters are facing their own demons in this story. Life Debt is very much about the question “how to continue one’s life after the war has (sort of) ended”, and that concerns not only Han (who is suddenly faced with a stable future, a home and family – terrible prospect for a free smuggler!), but also Norra (who has found her son, but not her husband who was lost to the war, and is faced with the conflicting prospect of starting a relationship with another person), Sinjir (who abandoned his Imperial past, but realises interrogating people is the only thing he’s good at) and basically everyone.

I also don’t know what it is, but (almost) all the characters in Life Debt seem to be pairing up. When you get third “new couple” scene in the course of two chapters, you begin to wonder. Not that I am complaining. It is interesting and makes us see other sides to the characters, especially the ways they approach their relationships. What I did not need to see was Jas’s first impression of Han Solo (fortunately, that was merely an off-handed comment). Concluding that if given the chance, the former smuggler’s charms would make her “mount him like a turret” was one of the most shocking lines in the whole book. And that includes the fact that there are some shocking plot twists in the story as a whole.

Good Standard for a Story

Overall, Aftermath: Life Debt is very good. The story is perhaps a bit less focused than the first Aftermath, but it goes deeper into the characters’ personalities. If you liked the characters in the first book, you’ll love this. There is a good deal of trivia, too, like an elaboration on the fate of Palpatine’s blue advisor Mas Amedda, or we can witness firsthand the recruitment of certain Brendol Hux, the leader of the best Imperial Academy and, as we learn, a father. His little boy will surely count among the “future of the Empire”, which the children of this generation are meant to be. And I should probably not forget to mention that Chuck Wendig’s writing of Han Solo is very much realistic, one thing I am always wary about whenever film characters appear in books.

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Rostislav Kurka
Rostislav is a Protestant theologian and a self-trained Sith, counting Jan Hus, Darth Revan and Darth Traya among his main influences. He hails from the hundred-towered city of Prague, where he had spent a large part of his life creating worlds and inspiring young generations to roleplay. His involvement in organising children's camps led him to accidentally writing a Lord of the Rings musical, which made him temporarily famous, and a Three Musketeer-Jedi fanfilm, which didn't. He has recently moved to the frozen waste of Finland, because that's it, the Rebels are there.