The first book of Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy forged a new path in the Star Wars universe. Set in the tumultuous period after the Battle of Endor in Return of the Jedi, Aftermath showed what had become of the Empire and the Rebel Alliance–now the New Republic. It introduced new characters such as Norra Wexley and her son Temmin (a.k.a. Snap in The Force Awakens) and revisited old friends like Wedge Antilles and Han Solo. And now, the next installment of the trilogy, Aftermath: Life Debt, is here and it’s doing the same. We’re spending more time with Norra, Temmin, Sinjir, and co. as they go on a clandestine mission for Princess Leia Organa: Han Solo and Chewbacca attempted to free Kashyyyk from the Empire, but Chewie was captured and Han went missing. Norra and her team are tasked with finding them.
Chewbacca swore a life debt to Han because the smuggler saved the Wookiee from slavery. Kashyyyk wasn’t freed the instant Emperor Palpatine died, and the tale of how the Wookiees escaped the Imperial grasp is sort of a legend in the Star Wars universe. Wendig said bringing it to the page was tricky. “The challenge is, it’s a big thing. It’s epic. It’s something people have expected and also seen or imagined in a variety of ways. Plus, it’s also just one part of the story–it isn’t the entirety of the novel, and so the goal is to make it awesome while also not allowing it to dominate the book,” he said. “Plus, we told a ‘planet liberation’ story with the first Aftermath (re: Akiva), and I had to ensure that we weren’t telling the same beats reiteratively, just for Kashyyyk.”
Another part of drafting Life Debt was more straightforward than Wendig expected. He had the chance to explore a new era for Han and Leia. Their marriage is still relatively new, and Leia’s pregnant (as we know from this excerpt). Wendig was able to find their voices; he said, “It was a lot easier than I thought? In part because these movies and these characters have lived in my head for decades. It was like, ‘Okay, just turn my skull upside down and let them spill out.'”
Besides writing for characters we know and love, Wendig got to continue developing the people brought into the galaxy in Aftermath–like Norra, Temmin, Sinjir, and Rae Sloane, just to name a few. Aftermath saw Norra wrestle with the notion that even though she thought she was ready to give up fighting after Endor, she’s drawn to action. She likes being a pilot and being in the thick of things. Since she has reunited with Temmin, she also has to deal with guilt over bringing him into a war. Their relationship has changed a bit. “Norra and Temmin are closer. Temmin’s a little older and he’s out in the field with Norra—which leads her to become more protective of him. He has no father in his life anymore, and I think her idea is to shelter him a little. And as she watches him become what she was, in part, I think that scares her,” Wendig said.
Since Temmin/Snap appeared in The Force Awakens, part of Life Debt is devoted to setting up his pilot status. Wendig pointed out that Snap’s appearance in Episode VII is a couple decades away so he didn’t need to be married to the man he becomes, but… “We do know that Snap becomes a pilot, and part of this book and the follow-up is helping him get there.” And about Temmin’s nickname, Wendig said, “I just ran with it. Snapping my fingers nervously the whole way!”
Looking away from the heroes of the New Republic to the remnants of the Empire, Grand Admiral Rae Sloane is never going to give up. Her ambition was apparent in the first book, and it’s not going anywhere. But she was being reined in to some degree by a mysterious adviser. Wendig teased how their relationship will evolve: “I don’t want to say too much, because that dynamic plays out across the entire breadth of Life Debt. She is a dangerous figure, and so is the mysterious character. Are they enemies? Are they allies? Is it both, or is it something else entirely? The evolution of that relationship, and what it means for the entirety of the Empire, is honestly pretty huge. Everything hinges on these two characters. Everything.”
Star Wars Aftermath: Life Debt is available July 12. Jump to the comments and let us know if you’ll be picking it up.
Images: Del Rey