Most of the stuff that annoyed me in the first book (the style being so omnipresent it pulled me out of the story, the occasional colloquialism that shouldn’t be in Star Wars, etc.) is gone. Either that or I didn’t notice. Either way, same result. The POV is still in first person present tense, and Wendig’s voice is still very much present, but as long as it doesn’t overwhelm the story, that’s no bad thing. I like when authors have voices, but those voices shouldn’t make me stop reading to go, “Really?” as it occasionally did last time. With Life Debt, Wendig seems to have sunken comfortably into the Star Wars universe, and you can see it in the writing.
Life Debt picks up several months after the first book. Norra, her son Temmin, Jas, and Sinjir are now a crew, and they’ve picked another guy, Jom, who’s knocking boots with Jas. They track down Imperials in hiding and deliver them to the fledgling New Republic for a bounty. They’ve got a good thing going, so of course events occur to shake that up. Two things happen: Han Solo, having resigned his commission and gone on a rogue mission to free Chewie’s home planet of Kashyyyk, has gone missing, and the New Republic refuses to sanction time or troops. And behind the scenes of the fracturing Empire, a new player has made himself known and is very carefully and deliberately pulling the puppet strings of a great many people, who of course have no idea they are puppets. And nobody, not even Grand Admiral Rae Sloane, the nominal head of the Empire, knows what he’s up to.
Like Aftermath, the book starts out a little fractured, with multiple POVs in addition to interludes every second chapter or so with snapshots of what’s going on across the galaxy. As long as you know it’s all going to come into focus, this works well. We get our characters’ journeys, and we get a real idea of the global galactic scale of what’s going on. We’re not just told that the Empire is splintering, that the New Republic is still scrambling to bring order to the galaxy and yet retain its identity as a fair government entity, we’re shown it, and we’re also shown things that plant the seeds for eventual conflict. The acolytes of a strange new order, dedicated to the memory of Darth Vader. An independent government, free of both Empire and Republic, growing slowly on Tatooine. And a strange something or other buried in the deserts of Jakku . . .
Wendig also handles existing characters nicely. His Han and Chewie and Leia are pretty spot on, although to be fair I would have praised them more had I not just read Bloodline which absolutely nails Leia and Han as characters. I thoroughly enjoyed everything to do with Kashyyyk here. Wendig’s own original characters add something to the narrative as well, and don’t feel out of place, particularly Sinjir, who makes me laugh, and who needs a hug.
All in all, a success.