(You can read my review for the first installment in this series here)
We’re back for round two with The Pennsylvania Pen Monkey and it’s a fantastic, blaster filled romp from planet to planet that left me feeling as much a part of Norra Wexley’s team as Jas or Sinjir. Mostly Sinjir, because I am not cool or athletic enough to be Jas. But I can see myself wandering space getting punched in the face.
Things are going pretty well for The New Republic- one after another, the pockets of Imperial resistance are falling, and peace is returning slowly to the galaxy. But for some, the battles have not ceased, and war has left many debts in it’s wake.
Princess Leia Organa doesn’t have the luxury of enjoying the success of The New Republic- Shortly after her marriage to Han Solo, the former smuggler left, resigning from his position in the Republic’s military in order to help Chewbacca retake the Wookie home planet- Kashyyk. His last transmission to her was cut off, and she hasn’t heard from him since.
She appeals to Norra and her team for assistance, knowing her fellow leaders in The New Republic would be reluctant at best to spend resources on freeing a planet they consider unimportant to their current efforts.
On the Imperial side of things, Grand Admiral Sloane struggles to keep the frayed edges of Palpatine’s Empire under control, this time with the added complications of Gallius Rax, a strange and charismatic pupil of the Emperor himself. Also creepy, only villains enjoy opera, Mr. Rax. Also, Galliusrex, because everything is dinosaurs since 1993.
Life Debt was another rollicking fun time through space with Mr. Wendig. With all the face punching, drunkenness, and ill timed sexual tension I’ve come to expect from the Star Wars franchise… wait, what? All of our friends from the first installment return, including the continuously pleasing Mister Bones, and they are just as dysfunctional, emotional, and reckless as they were the first time around, not to mention as likable.
I was happy to see the character of Jas given more time to show off, we’re shown her past and the reasons she plays as dirty as she does. We even got to see the way she handles being in a relationship, which was… aggressive and appropriate for the character. Sinjir is here as well, and continues to play the lead to my heart as he drinks his way from fight to fight, struggling with making his past and present fit with the person he wants to become. I have some particular hopes for his next arc in the trilogy, and they mostly revolve around Conder getting fed up with his shit and pursuing him across the galaxy, because really- Sinjir is being a coward and he needs to let people love him. I know the third book is written, I’ve already bought it and it’s next up on the ol’ To Read List, but I’m looking at you Mr. Wendig- give me a gay space chase. Do it. *Palpatine face*
Norra and Temmin’s story is wound very tightly to the main plot of Life Debt- so I can’t get into what they’re up to without throwing out spoilers left and right. I will say that I love the dynamic that has formed with this rag tag team of space castaways, and I feel as at home in their company as I do in my own apartment, though I do wish my husband had a ship like the Moth- because our Eclipse is getting old and the cylinder misfires are really starting to worry me.
Cocky, arrogant, and opinionated- Han Solo has never been the deepest well of character development to dive into, considering the OG Trilogy gave us zilch on his back story- other then he was a bad smuggler who considered himself to be really good. Chuck Wendig does his best to keep the character true to it’s origins, while also adding some emotional depth, revealing the doubts and struggles Solo contends with. Respect for taking such an iconic (and in my opinion, pretty one dimensional) character and making his strengths and flaws something tangible. No doubt it was an intimidating prospect, but Mr. Wendig keeps him recognizable while giving him new facets.
With an intriguing intro, fun characters you can see yourself spending time with, and an end that will make you oh-so-curious as to what goes down in the next installment, this is absolutely worth a read for Star Wars fans who want to see what happened after the Battle of Endor, and what lead to the events of A New Hope. Also, we got a chapter with Maz Kanata and that is sort of like having Lupita Nyong’o also in my book, which is a stellar addition. I love the character of Maz, with the sequence in her bar being on of my favorite parts of The Force Awakens.
There is one final note I’d like to touch basis on, and that is the increasing relevance of propaganda and it’s usage by The Empire. There are echoes of the world we live in today to be found in these pages, and a reminder- that what is right and good is not always easy. Sometimes lies are propagated as truth, and the truth is twisted to help create more lies.
“How do you form an Empire? By stealing a Republic. And how do you steal a Republic? By convincing its people that they cannot govern themselves—that freedom is their enemy and that fear is their ally.”
-From Life Debt
Which leads us to this, perhaps one of the greatest truths ever given to us from cinema.
“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
Conclusion: All in all, a solid installment in the Star Wars universe, fun to read- with characters that are still enjoyable to be around. My enjoyment of this series is actually encouraging me to read more books from the Star Wars universe, and I think I may pick up Leia, Princess of Alderaan as well as the Poe Dameron comics soon.
OK… yeah, I think that’s it. My family is forcing me out into the world so that I may partake in Thai food while they give me gifts in commemoration of me entering the world. It’s weird, I know.