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Thursday, October 22, 2009

“Star Wars: Death Troopers” by Joe Schreiber (Reviewed by Robert Thompson)

Official Joe Schreiber Blog
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AUTHOR INFORMATION: Joe Schreiber is the author of Chasing the Dead, Eat the Dark, and No Doors, No Windows. He’s also writing another Star Wars horror novel due out in 2010, and a brand new novel based on the TV show Supernatural for DC Comics.

PLOT SUMMARY: When the Imperial prison barge Purge—temporary home to five hundred of the galaxy’s most ruthless killers, rebels, scoundrels, and thieves—breaks down in a distant, uninhabited part of space, its only hope appears to lie with a Star Destroyer found drifting, derelict, and seemingly abandoned. But when a boarding party from the Purge is sent to scavenge for parts, only half of them come back—bringing with them a horrific disease so lethal that within hours nearly all aboard the Purge die in ways too hideous to imagine.

And death is only the beginning.

The Purge’s half-dozen survivors—two teenage brothers, a sadistic captain of the guards, a couple of prisoners, and the chief medical officer, the lone woman on board—will do whatever it takes to stay alive. But nothing can prepare them for what lies waiting aboard the Star Destroyer amid its vast creaking emptiness that isn’t really empty at all. For the dead are rising: soulless, unstoppable, and unspeakably hungry...

FORMAT/INFO:Star Wars: Death Troopers” is 234 pages long divided over forty-four titled chapters and an Epilogue. Also includes a Timeline of the Star Wars novels, a Dramatis Personae, and an excerpt from “Fate of the Jedi: Outcast”. Narration is in the third-person via the teen brothers Kale & Trig Longo, Captain of the Guard Jareth Sartoris, Chief Medical Officer Zahara Cody, and a couple of other prisoners. “Death Troopers” takes place five years before Star Wars: A New Hope, and is self-contained.

October 13, 2009 marks the North American Hardcover publication of “Star Wars: Death Troopers” via Del Rey/LucasBooks. Cover illustration provided by Indika.

ANALYSIS: A horror novel, about zombies, set in the Star Wars universe... How freakin’ cool is that!?! At least, that’s what I thought when I first heard about “Star Wars: Death Troopers”, written by horror novelist Joe Schreiber. Unfortunately, the actual product leaves a lot to be desired...

For starters, the author takes too long getting to the good stuff. Nearly the first half of the novel is spent on introducing/establishing characters and setting up the story. The problem with this is that none of the characters are interesting and there’s a distinct lack of suspense with the story because we already know what’s going to happen. Things get significantly better about 100 pages in with the introduction of some familiar faces from the original Star Wars trilogy, and the arrival of the zombies. From here until the end, “Death Troopers” is actually a lot of fun. The action is nonstop and intense propelled by short chapters and well-executed scares, the body count is high including some of the main characters, and the gore was gratifyingly explicit, especially since I was worried the book was going to be PG-13 fare after the way it started. The ending itself though was a disappointment—it felt anticlimactic and unresolved.

Other problems with the book? Well, it’s too short for one thing and I felt there were a lot of ideas the author could have expanded on like how the zombies acted as a hive mind and the way they became more intelligent. Additionally, despite the cool references (Darth Vader, Rodians, Wookies, stormtroopers, droids, TIE fighters, etc), I didn’t think Joe took full advantage of the Star Wars universe. I mean a Star Destroyer full of zombies is a great concept, but Star Wars is full of unique alien lifeforms, and all the book offers is mainly human zombies and a few other species like Wookies. So I think Joe could have been more creative in this area. For instance, how awesome would it be to have a Sith Lord zombie!?!

In the end, “Star Wars: Death Troopers” is a lot like Aliens vs. Predator or Freddy vs. Jason—a really cool idea that never realizes its full potential. Even so, despite its shortcomings, Joe Schreiber’sDeath Troopers” is fun escapist reading for anyone who is a fan of Star Wars or zombies, although I would like to see more creativity and depth from the next Star Wars horror novel...


logankstewart said...

As an avid STAR WARS Expanded Universe fan, I cannot wait to read this book. The idea is great, and I think it should be pretty fun.

Nice review.

Princess Allie said...

This might be the first Star Wars novel I read since I enjoy reading horror novels. I'm also pro ewoks so when they make jedi ewoks I'll read that if some brave soul will write one.

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