Life Debt

Chuck Wendig
Life Debt Cover

Life Debt


After I finished Aftermath, I said I was never going to read another Chuck Wendig novel. The problem is that, after making that statement, I later said I was going to read all of the Star Wars books for adults, even the ones that were notoriously bad. And ... well, this is one of them. On both counts. In my defense, though I didn't read this book; I listened to it through Audible.

Now, listening to this book instead of reading it may not have been my best choice. I remember with Aftermath, I was having a hard time tracking what was going on in the story because Wendig put in a lot of irreverent details in it; this time, I was losing even more detail because I was listening. Even when I was forcing myself to pay close attention, I couldn't get a real sense of the story, save for the broadest of strokes.

All you really need to know about this book I can sum up with two points:

1. At one point, a character describes the New Republic as "... snotty noses thick with the mucus of righteousness".

2. Therapy Ewoks. You know, like therapy dogs in hospitals.

If that doesn't convince you this book is terrible, then read on. But don't say I didn't warn you.

Wendig tries to give his characters some depth through their own struggles, but they never make much sense. A mother who's involved with the rebels / New Republic goes on and on about what her son is becoming, which is a rebel working for the New Republic. She believes in what she's doing, but once her son destroys two TIE fighters and kills the pilots, she's suddenly all wracked with guilt. They're inconsistent, and worse, uninteresting.

Like the first book in this trilogy, Wendig's choice of language is questionable. He's trying too hard to relate Star Wars to the real world, using modern slang and terms in a story that's supposed to be taking place in a different universe. I have a hard time thinking that anyone would use the words "gib" or "cop" or "stay frosty" (ugh) in Star Wars. For that matter, there's a whole scene involving a police station that could have been lifted straight out of Law & Order (a highly cliched episode of Law & Order, I should add).

Speaking of cliches, at one point, someone thinks that she loves someone "more than words can say". I mean, really? Wendig is supposed to be a writer, so he damn well ought to be able to find some words to say it. Otherwise, why waste time writing? And speaking of being a writer, which one would seriously use the term "lung meat"?

This book has so. Much. Telling. There are scenes where Wendig could have legitimately had conversations between characters, but instead he just tells us what they're saying to one another. It's ridiculous. I couldn't see a reason why he wouldn't just set up a conversation, except maybe he thinks it's a stylistic thing.

Also: Mercurial Swift? WTF kind of name is that for a Star Wars character? That makes Salacious B. Crumb look downright sophisticated! I swear, this guy is just trolling us.

This is a true audiobook production, as opposed to just one guy reading the book. The book contains sound effects and music, along with voice effects for some of the aliens. It sometimes gets in the way of the story (the sound effects are sometimes redundant, like the time the narrator tells us how something sounds just before we hear that sound, and sometimes the music was so loud in the mix that it drowned out the narrative), but it was a nice touch. Thompson was also good at capturing voices, including a spot-on impersonation of Han Solo (though one character sounded a lot like Patrick Warburton, and another sounded like Bev Bighead).

What I didn't like was how he tried to capture the emotion of a scene in the narrative, so when, say, a character is press himself against the back of a cage to escape a large predator, Thompson was trying to make his voice sound like someone who was trying to press himself against the back of a cage to escape a large predator. Had it been dialogue he was reading, it wouldn't have bothered me, but he was even doing that with the narrative parts. Is that standard in audiobooks? I confess I haven't listened to enough to know. Plus, given that the novel is written in the present tense, Thompson's affectations made it hard to know if someone was talking or if it was just narrative.

I continue to wonder how Wendig got published, much less was selected to add to the Star Wars canon. This book was so bad that I found myself getting angry with the book. If you're tempted to read this book or its predecessor to see what happened between Episodes VI and VII, skip the books and just read the plot summaries on the Wookieepedia. That will give you the highlights, and trust me; that's all you need.