Narrator: Marc Thompson
Published by Random House Audio on 12 July 2016
Length: 15 hrs and 37 mins
Genres: Science Fiction
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Set between the events of Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, the never-before-told story that began with Star Wars: Aftermath continues in this thrilling novel, the second book of Chuck Wendig's New York Times best-selling trilogy.
©2016 Chuck Wendig (P)2016 Random House Audio
I read and enjoyed the print (well, ebook) edition of Chuck Wendig’s prior Star Wars: Aftermath novel, but after hearing good things about the production qualities of the Star Wars audiobooks decided I would give this format a shot for the second go-round. Holy moly, have I been missing out! It’s safe to say that from here on out, any Star Wars titles I dive into will be in audio format, especially if narrated by Marc Thompson.
The audio production of this novel is absolutely superb. Random House Audio, in conjunction with Lucasfilm Ltd., put together a fully engaging and visceral listening experience. In print, Wendig’s writing style is short and punchy, but as read by Thompson it takes on a wonderfully dramatic effect. Thompson excels at giving each of Wendig’s characters unique voices, and combined with sound effects and a musical score, this audiobook is more like a one-man radio drama. Listeners are thrust into the heart of each battle (and boy, are there ever some battles!), with the whizzing hum of laser bolts blasting by, the thrum of ship’s engines beneath their feet, and the familiar notes of John William’s score overlaying it all. It’s quite a remarkable work all around.
On the story side of thing, Life Debt picks up a short while after the close of Aftermath, and brings a story element teased in the prior novel straight to the center stage. Serious Star Wars fans will know immediately that the title refers to the bond between rogue scoundrel and smuggler, Han Solo, and his co-pilot and friend, the Wookie Chewbacca. After Solo goes missing, Princess Leia presses Norra Wexley and her band of rebels into service to find them. Wexley and her crew, now hunting down fugitive Imperial officers for the New Republic, find themselves embroiled in a battle to wrest Kashyyyk from the Empire’s control and free the enslaved Wookies.
Life Debt is an epic Star Wars tale, filled with political intrigue within both the fledgling New Republic’s ranks and the Empire itself, as Admiral Rae Sloane squares off against a new opponent vying for control of the Emperor’s throne, and battles large and small. While there are plenty of wars among the stars, it’s the story’s heart and sense of fun that really makes this production so enriching.
Listening to Life Debt reminded me what it was like to be a kid again, lost in these stories of the heroes of the rebellion and the insidious forces of darkness within the Empire. This sucker is just flat-out enjoyable, and while I enjoyed the first Aftermath novel quite a bit, Life Debt is significantly better. Wendig has found his feet with his original characters, and he does a great job bringing in old favorites like Leia, Solo, and Chewie (there’s a series of wonderfully heartfelt moment between these three late in the book that are just sublime). And with Wendig’s occasional Interludes, to show how the war between these opposing forces has affected and disrupted day-to-day life for the galaxy’s citizens, there’s an epic and expansive feel that gives the narrative a much wider context. This is Star Wars at its grandest, and I’m eager to see how Wendig’s story culminates in Aftermath: Empire’s End.
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