Science Fiction / Horror

Star Wars: Death Troopers

Author: Joe Schreiber

Published By:
The Ballentine Publishing Company

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            When I first heard about Star Wars: Death Troopers, I was a bit put off.  To me, there is no place for horror in the Star Wars universe.  Call me a genre snob, but Iíve always felt that Star Wars is the purist of science fiction; sci-fi of such a high caliber that it doesnít need vampires, werewolves or zombies to ďenhanceĒ the experience.  But Death Troopers was rumored to be a Han and Chewie adventure and, since I hadnít skipped any of those adventures in the past, it was with great trepidation that I bought myself a copy of the novel by Joe Schreiber.

            The journey begins on a prison barge en route to an unnamed prison moon.  We are introduced to two rather young members of the prison community.  Trig and Kale Longo, sons of Von Longo, a smuggler picked up with his two sons some time ago.  Von Longo is now dead and it is hinted that his death may not have been due to natural causes.  It is Von Longoís untimely death that has caused Zahara Cody to turn in her resignation as the prison bargeís doctor.  This journey, on which she has discovered she has more compassion and patience for the prisoners in gen-pop than the officers running things, will be her last.

            As Trig and Kale contemplate their future on the prison moon and Zahara wonders about the end of her career in medicine, the barge suddenly stops moving.  They havenít reached their destination.  Instead, the barge is damaged and in need of spare parts and, wouldnít you know it, thereís a Star Destroyer parked in the area.  Never mind that the ship doesnít answer when you hail it or that the crew of thousands doesnít show up on the life force scanner.  No matter - just send in a team of officers, engineers and stormtroopers, led by the last man to see Von Longo in healthy condition, to retrieve the spare parts needed to get the barge underway.

            Unfortunately, itís what the landing crew finds and brings back with them that has everyone concerned.  A disease has come back with the boarding crew and is spreading rapidly aboard the prison barge and not even enviro-suits can stop the contamination from spreading.  A select few have immunity to the disease, including the aforementioned characters.

            Just when you think that youíll never see Han Solo and his faithful partner Chewbacca, they are discovered in Solitary Confinement by Dr. Cody, nearly halfway through the book.  Thatís when things start to get really interesting as the bodies of the dead start to re-animate.

            Okay, so I said that zombies didnít belong in Star Wars.  Well, I still hold that this is true.  However, that being said, I still found a way to enjoy Death Troopers.  Joe Schreiberís writing was so descriptive that I could actually see the event of the novel unfolding in front of me like a movie.  I have a terrific imagination and, combined with the descriptive nature of this book, I found myself looking over my shoulder constantly and peering into dark corners.  Now, I knew I wasnít going to find any zombies, but that didnít stop me from expecting one to leap out at me from the dark recesses of the room I was reading in.

            The zombies in Death Troopers are like none Iíve ever seen before.  These are an intelligent species whose learned behavior continues to evolve throughout the novel, leading to quite a few surprises.  A refreshing twist on the zombie lore of old.

            The storyline of Death Troopers reminds me of a combination of older zombie tales.  The disease and immunities are reminiscent of the Stephen King novel, The Stand.  The virus/antivirus thing is reminiscent of Resident Evil.  The scenes in which the zombies relentlessly lust after the unaffected individuals in this novel are like just about any zombie movie you can think of, with zombies actually leaving body parts behind just to get at their next meal.  And yet, the Star Wars element adds just a little flare to things to make this zombie tale a bit unique.

            However, I question adding Han and Chewie into the mix.  I mean, what does this do to the whole continuity of the Star Wars universe?  Donít you think that if Han and Chewie ever experienced something like this in their past, one of them might have mentioned it by now?  Especially since their incarceration was made worse by the fact that the Millennium Falcon was impounded and they couldnít use it for their escape?  In my opinion, this could have been an isolated Star Wars tale that featured none of the main characters of the Expanded Universe and it would have flowed just as well.  Han and Chewie could have easily been replaced with two other swashbuckling hero types and the story would have been just as enjoyable.

            Another thing I was unhappy with was how our heroes escaped the zombies.  I wonít give away the ending, but suffice it to say that I found it to be anticlimactic to say the least.  I just didnít buy how easy it wasÖto say more would ruin the experience for you, so mumís the word.

            So, after standing firmly on the assumption that zombies have no place in Star Wars, I am surprised to discover that my opinion has been swayed.  Joe Schreiber did an excellent job in making this style of horror relevant to the Star Wars universe.  The action was adrenaline-pumping, the lulls in action were nail-biting experiences and the story as a whole was a great deal of fun.  I am amazed, but Joe Schreiber sold me on the Death Troopers tale so well that I am willing to recommend it to die-hard Star Wars fans and horror fans alike.


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