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Literature / Aftermath: Life Debt

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The Emperor is dead, and the remnants of his former Empire are in retreat. As the New Republic fights to restore a lasting peace to the galaxy, some dare to imagine new beginnings and new destinies. For Han Solo, that means settling his last outstanding debt, by helping Chewbacca liberate the Wookiee's homeworld of Kashyyyk.

Meanwhile, Norra Wexley and her band of Imperial hunters pursue Grand Admiral Rae Sloane and the Empire's remaining leadership across the galaxy. Even as more and more officers are brought to justice, Sloane continues to elude the New Republic, and Norra fears Sloane may be searching for a means to save the crumbling Empire from oblivion. But the hunt for Sloane is cut short when Norra receives an urgent request from Princess Leia Organa. The attempt to liberate Kashyyyk has carried Han Solo, Chewbacca and a band of smugglers into an ambush resulting in Chewie's capture and Han s disappearance.

Breaking away from their official mission and racing toward the "Millennium Falcon"'s last known location, Norra and her crew prepare for any challenge that stands between them and their missing comrades. But they can't anticipate the true depth of the danger that awaits them or the ruthlessness of the enemy drawing them into his crosshairs.

Life Debt is the second novel in the Star Wars Expanded Universe's Aftermath trilogy by Chuck Wendig, taking place a few short months after the Battle of Akiva in Star Wars: Aftermath. Norra Wexley and her band of rebels are busy hunting down high-ranking Imperials with Admiral Rae Sloane at the top of their list. Sloane, increasingly wary of her commanding officer - the mysterious Fleet Admiral - desperately searches for a means to save the crumbling Empire from oblivion. Meanwhile, out in the Unknown Regions and the Outer Rim secret plans are being made and the foundation being laid for the Empire's rebirth as the First Order.

It is followed by Aftermath: Empire's End.

The novel contains the following tropes:

  • Addled Addict: A couple of examples, both of them Imperial. Vice Admiral Perwin Gedde is a spice addict while Grand Moff Lozen Tolruck prefers a narcotic tree sap called hragathir.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Sloane's reaction to having to kill her treacherous aide Adea Rite does this, although Adea's actions don't inspire enough sympathy for even reader to feel the same.
  • The Alcatraz: Chewie is being held in one of the Empire's most secure prisons, Ashmead's Lock.
  • Almost Dead Guy: Chorn, the stormtrooper with an infected arm whose the last one left at the Ryloth garrison when the Rebels role in.
  • Ambiguous Gender: The pirate Eleodie Maracavanya is referred to as male, female and the gender neutral "zhe" or "zher". The author has stated Eleodie is Human with a non-binary gender (the first such character in a Star Wars work).
  • Badass in Distress: Chewie is captured by Imperial troops before the start of the book.
  • Bastard Bastard: We find out that General Hux, who's a war criminal by the end of The Force Awakens, was born out of wedlock to Brendol Hux and an unnamed mother.
  • Beard of Barbarism: This has become a common style among the officers of the Imperial Military's Kashyyyk Garrison. It started when Grand Moff Tolruck grew out a wild beard because he considered Kashyyyk to be a wild place and a sizable chunk of the garrison followed their commander's example.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Cobb Vanth and Issa-Orr saving Malakili from Red Key thugs.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Kashyyyk is liberated from Imperial control, and the Wexley's are finally reunited as a family after the family patriarch, Brentin, has spent an untold number of years as a prisoner in Ashmead's Lock as a living battery for the prison, BUT it was all part of Fleet Admiral Gallius Rax's Evil Plan to cripple or damage the fledgling New Republic by using the newly freed prisoners as Manchurian Agents to assassinate several of their key political & military leaders, whilst also solidifying his own control over what's left of the Galactic Empire, which results in Chancellor Mon Mothma being wounded, former Imperial General (and rival) Jylia Shale being murdered, & the escape of Yupe Tashu from New Republic custody, with everything pointing toward Grand Admiral Rae Sloane as the architect behind the atrocity, and it worked thanks to Adea. WHELP!!!
  • Blatant Lies: There are still Imperial splinter factions who continue to insist that the Emperor is alive despite the events of the last six months.
  • Born into Slavery: We find out that Gallius Rax was born a slave on Jakku.
  • Call-Forward:
    • Rax makes sure that Brendol Hux takes his young son, Armitage, with him when he evacuates to the Unknown Regions.
    • BB droid units were made as comfort pets for Rebel veterans with PTSD. It's apparently a better choice than 'therapy ewoks', whatever those are.
    • Sinjir announces to his disbelieving conspirators that Leia is pregnant.
  • The Cavalry: Leia, along with Evaan and others, arrives just in time to save Kashyyyk.
  • Canon Immigrant: Phantom Squadron was a one-off group from the Legacy Roleplaying Campaign, made in the image of Wraith Squadron from the X-Wing series. Like in Legends, Phantom Squadron is made up of washouts and misfits, but they replace Wraith Squadron's place in the new canon, since the Wraiths don't exist here.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Jom Barell gets captured by Tolruk's forces and gets interrogated personally by Tolruk, which involves amongst other things, getting one of his eyes cut out and tossed into a campfire.
  • Contemplative Boss: Rax is certainly fond of standing with his hands clasped behind his back while he listens to classical music.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Ryloth has been abandoned by the Empire, and Cham Syndulla is mentioned.
    • Brendol's Academy of Evil has fallen.
    • The same technology used on the clones for Order 66 is used on Norra's husband, Brentin, and many others in an attempt to assassinate Mon Mothma.
    • Tagge's flagship, the SSD Annihilator, shows up. It's now in pirate hands.
    • Mas Amedda dismisses the rumor that Palpatine is alive and using droids to deliver messages instructing the Imperial military to attack certain star systems. He's half-right, as anyone who's read Shattered Empire can attest to.
    • The Emperor's personal Super Star Destroyer, the Eclipse, is also back.
  • Despotism Justifies the Means: Rax wants a more efficient, more streamlined and more ruthless Empire. And he ain't too picky about how he makes it a reality.
  • Dragon Ascendant: After the deaths of Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader, many Imperial officers are vying for control of what is left of the Empire. By the start of Life Debt, power in the Empire has been concentrated in two rival figures, Fleet Admiral Gallius Rax and Grand General Kenner Loring. Rax emerges as the de facto leader of the Imperial Remnant by the end of the book.
  • Egomaniac Hunter: Lozen Tolruck, the Imperial Moff who controls Kashyyyk, hunts down the Wookiee inhabitants for sport.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: ISB agent Romwell Krass lost his family to a New Republic attack on the secret prison where he was assigned, which accidentally destroyed the houses nearby where they lived. He attacks some New Republic personnel in a drunker rage over this.
  • Eye Scream: Jom Barell gets one of his eyes cut out by Tolruck.
  • Fantastic Racism: The Empire's xenophobic tendencies are on full display in the book, especially towards the Wookiees, who are viewed to be little more than beasts of labor that can be hunted for sport.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Emperor Palpatine, Gallius Rax and Mas Amedda invested a considerable amount of time and resources setting up a secret Imperial research facility on Jakku, in addition to searching the planet for something really important.
    • The records concerning the fate of the Emperor's personal Super Star Destroyer, the Eclipse, are mysteriously incomplete.
  • Heroic Comedic Sociopath: Mr. Bones is back and if you thought he couldn't get more funny or more violent, you'd be wrong.
  • Hero of Another Story: It's hard to tell if Eleoidie Maracavanya, the pirate who somehow got ahold of a Super Star Destroyer, is this or a Villain of Another Story. Other interlude characters like the Alderaanian Flotilal struggling to hold onto their society play this straighter.
  • Insane Admiral: Lozen Tolruck, Grand Moff of Kashyyyk. Likes hunting Wookies for sport, pretends the Emperor is still alive, willing to completely level the planet when it becomes clear that he's losing.
  • I Owe You My Life: Central to the story is the concept of a Life Debt. What Chewie owes Han, what Han feels he also Chewie and also what the Rebels in general feel that they owe Han and Leia.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Sinjir specializes in this due to his days as an Imperial loyalty officer. He hates doing it now though.
  • Just the First Citizen: Rax prefers taking titles that avoid overtly displaying how much power he wields. He refers to himself as an "adviser" to Sloane, despite the fact he's her commanding officer, and towards the end of the book, he takes the title of Counseler of the Empire, even though some of his more die-hard supporters are calling him Emperor Rax.
  • Karmic Death: Vice Admiral Perwin Gedde made a career of testing biological weapons on innocent civilians for the Empire and ends up being poisoned by the new Imperial leadership because they consider him a loose end.
  • Kick the Dog: Rax does this repeatedly. To give one example, he orchestrates the destruction of one Imperial Star Destroyer and most of its crew by the New Republic Navy simply because said warship's commander might have sided with his rival in a power struggle.
  • Living Legend: General Hodnar Borrum, one of the members of Rax's junta, is viewed as this. He's one of the eldest officers in the Imperial Military, having begun his service in the Grand Army of the Republic. His long career has numerous campaigns and victories under its belt, including leading the assault on the last fortress of the Jedi at the end of the Clone Wars.
  • Manchurian Agent: Using the same sleeper technology that was used on the clones for Order 66, the Empire makes several prisoners including Brentin Wexley in an attempt to kill Mon Mothma when they get rescued. It fails, though several politicians and officers are killed by the agents as well. General Madine might be among the casualties. Maybe.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Sloane is becoming the public face and leader of the Empire, but Rax is secretly the one in charge.
  • Mole in Charge: Sloane entrusts her aide Adea Rite with keeping her investigation into Rax's background and other clandestine activities a secret from Rax. What Sloane doesn't realize is that Adea is secretly Rax's lover.
  • Orbital Bombardment: The Empire tries to institute Base Delta Zero against the Wookie homeworld of Kashyyyk when it becomes clear that they're losing the planet.
    • At the same time, Rax also orders the deaths of several corrupt and brutal high-ranking Imperials, like Perwin Gedde, in order to cement his control over the Imperial Remnant.
  • Rage Quit: When Tolruck sees that the Empire is losing control of Kashyyyk, he orders his fleet to hit the planet with an orbital bombardment.
  • The Rival: Grand General Kenner Loring and Fleet Admiral Gallus Rax have a feud going over who should lead the Empire post-Endor. Loring has control over most of the Imperial Army while Rax has control over most of the Imperial Navy. Rax is also systematically eliminating any fleet officers he believes could side with Loring.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: More than a few high-ranking Imperials decided to cut their losses and run after the Battle of Endor. The team gets sent after one such ex-Imperial, Vice Admiral Perwin Gedde.
  • Sequel Hook: The book ends just as the Battle of Jakku is about to begin.
  • Shadow Dictator: By the end of the book, Rax has seized control of most of the Imperial Remnant, but continues to remain in the shadows while Imperials like Sloane serve as the public face of the Empire.
  • Space Pirates: A group of them show up in one of the interludes. They managed to capture, intact, one of the Imperial Navy's Super Star Destroyers and are now using it to terrorize the Outer Rim.
  • State Sec: We find out that the Imperial Security Bureau has its own warships, fighter squadrons, infantry and armor units. They're the only Imperial forces left on Coursant as both the Imperial Army and Navy abandoned the planet as being too costly to defend.
  • Suicide Attack: Some of the Imperial TIE fighters start making suicide runs against New Republic ground forces when it's clear that the Empire is losing during a battle.
  • Third-Person Person: Members of the Vorlaggn species, like the slaver Slussen Canker, only ever refer to themselves in the third person.
  • Torture Technician: Sinjir was trained in how to inflict pain on fellow humans, having been specifically taught of all the points on the body which will maximize this. When torturing an alien, he has to improvise. This is something he hates doing though.
  • The Unfettered: Rax will do anything to win and dominate; there's no tactic or strategy for him that's too cruel or under-handed. He even orchestrates an attack under the cover of peace talks.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Sloane refuses to become one to Rax and plans to retake the Empire from his grip.
  • Villainous Breakdown: After Han, Chewie and the team manage to deactivate the killswitch biochip the Imperials implanted the Wookiee slaves with, Tolruck completely loses it. He gets extremely high on hragathir and orders the planet's destruction before one of the rebelling Wookiees breaks his neck.
  • Visionary Villain: Rax intends to reform the Empire into something much more capable and effective. By the end of the book, it's pretty clear that he's one of the founders of the First Order.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: On the Imperial side, Sloane doesn't trust Rax, for more reasons than one, and Rax is fully aware of this.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: For a little while, it looks like Temmin will be reunited with his dad and the Wexleys will be one big happy family again. Too bad Rax had other plans.