I’ve long since come to terms with the fact that the star Wars EU I grew up with has been regulated to Legends status (we even did an entire eu-logy for it on the Boldly Going Somewhere podcast). And I even started to get excited that the arrival of The Force Awakens was ushering in a new era of books, comics, and side materials.
Some of the new stuff has been incredible. I cannot say enough good things about Claudia Gray’s YA novel Lost Stars. Her novel spans the period of time from the rise of the Rebellion to the fall of the Empire by following Ciena Ree and Thane Kyrell, two childhood friends from Jelucan who have grown up to become an Imperial officer and a Rebel pilot.
And if you haven’t had a chance to check out any of the new comics, I highly suggest you take the time to pick up Shattered Empire. It’s a four part mini-series set between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens and follows the heroes you’ve loved for years.
But the flagship trilogy of the entire “Journey to The Force Awakens” rollout was Chuck Wendig’s series that started last fall with Aftermath. This was supposed to set the stage for an entire run of new Star Wars books, introduce us to new heroes, and get us (even more) excited for the new movie. It was touted and promoted and hyped for months leading up to it’s release in September 2015. I pre-ordered it, positive I’d want to read absolutely everything I could that filled the gap between the movies, gave me any hint or clue of what to expect when I sat down in the theater to watch The Force Awakens.
It did absolutely none of those things. It did all of the exact opposite things. In fact, Aftermath was so disappointing that even though I’d purchased Lost Stars at the same time, it took me a month to be willing to pick it up and read it.
Aftermath’s plot was unfathomably dull, and had little to no worldbuilding. The book was overfull, crammed with out of place references to the prequels and the original trilogy, while offering nothing of actual substance. There were also so many characters that you never really got the chance to connect with or invest in any of them. The only character I cared about throughout the entire novel was Wedge Antilles (who was far from a main character), and that’s only because he was already a known entity to me. (Let’s not even talk about the irritation I felt when I realized Greg Grunberg’s character in The Force Awakens was actually Temmin Wexley from the novel).
Even if you were invested in the characters, there were absolutely no stakes and no one faced any consequences. It felt like Wendig wasn’t willing to commit to anything. There were multiple times throughout the book where Wendig all but promised that a character was dead only for you to turn the page and discover, HAH JUST KIDDING, they’re totally still alive. The fake-out death can work well when used once, maybe twice, in a novel, but when it’s used so frequently that you simply sigh and say, “oh, this again?” It carried no emotional weight.
Wendig’s writing style also made it difficult to get into the flow and rhythm of the story. He likes to write in sentence fragments, which can be effective in conveying the urgency a character is feeling, but only when used sparingly. Aftermath is full of them. It was exhausting reading a book that was so choppy and disjointed.
I thought I had moved past my Aftermath rage, but yesterday brought the announcement that the second book in the trilogy is going to tell us what Han and Chewbacca were up to after the destruction of the Death Star in Return of the Jedi. And as soon as I read the article on io9, my rage came flooding back with a terrifying, fiery intensity.
Wendig appears to have screwed up one of the most important parts of Han and Chewie’s relationship, the life debt. The teaser on io9 says:
Aftermath briefly teased Han and Chewie’s exploits in one of its side chapters—in the wake of the Empire’s defeat over Endor, the smuggler wanted to fulfill his life debt to Chewbacca by helping the Wookiee liberate his still-occupied home planet of Kashyyk. In a new excerpt, debuted by Entertainment Weekly today, Life Debt reveals that on the way to the Wookiee homeworld, not everything goes according to plan. (Click through to io9 to read a few excerpts from the upcoming novel).
No. No. NO. In Star Wars canon, it’s Chewie who owes Han the life debt. Han saved Chewbacca from Imperial slavery and in return, Chewie swore a life debt to Han. It says so in the Star Wars: The Force Awakens Junior Novel by Michael Kogge: “Years before, Han Solo had saved Chewbacca’s life, and from then on Wookiee custom had bonded Chewbacca to his rescuer, whether the young man liked it or not.”
This is such a fundamental aspect of their partnership. It explains why Chewie follows Han across the galaxy, in and out of danger, and on reckless, foolhardy missions without so much as batting an eye. For Wendig to have mixed up this crucial piece shows that he didn’t pay nearly close enough attention to the source material he claims to love. That he didn’t do his due diligence as a writer and that he didn’t fully research the world he was writing in. And that’s not something I can easily forgive.
Perhaps this is being misinterpreted. It’s possible that when Life Debt comes out in July, everything will fall correctly into place. We’ll see that the excerpts were taken out of context and Han is simply helping his buddy out. We’ll see that Chewie is still the one who owes the life debt to Han.
I’m not holding my breath.