Tommy Wirkola, director of the Nazi zombie horror flick, Dead Snow, called Star Wars: Death Troopers, "Brilliant...This book combines two of my favorite things on earth: the Star Wars universe and the undead." I couldn't agree more. So why is it that I only first heard a book nearly a year after its release?!
Being the first actual Star Wars novel that I've read - there was an attempt several years ago that didn't work out so well - I don't really know how these sort of things work out. Apparently, before the prequel trilogy was released, the novels went by the timeline of before and after A New Hope. In the case of Death Troopers, it's only a year prior to the story we know and love.
A search party is sent to search a neighboring, abandoned Star Destroyer after their Imperial prison barge Purge breaks down. In search for spare parts, what the party uncovers is a desolate coffin. Within the cool corridors, something they have never seen before lies in wait. Only half of the search party returns from the mission, most of which feeling sick. Soon the sickness spreads throughout the prison, leaving only a handful of survivors. The remainder only face on problem: the Dead refuse to remain so.
We're introduced to a few characters that you either like or you wish would vanish. Kale and Trig Longo, brothers who must do all they can to survive the barge after their father dies, seem to play the token youth characters - such as the kids in Jurassic Park and its sequel The Lost World; their presence doesn't really make sense, but they still appear as a plot device. Kale is strong and independent, while younger brother Trig is still young, very childlike despite his motivation. Zahara Cody, the chief medical officer, is the misfit in the Empire. While devoting her life to it, she is still very liberal at heart. She relates more to the inmates than her fellow workers and they don't let her live it down. Jareth Sartoris is our bad guy struggling with his lack of morals. A bad ass, the guard captain, he's only really looking out for himself. Every so often, though, a pang of guilt fills him and he second guesses his actions, despite not having the ability to fix them.
And what Star Wars novel would be complete without Han Solo and Chewbacca? Up until the 18th chapter, "Solitary," I was glad that Joe Schreiber hadn't included any characters from the films. Though, I wouldn't allow Han's presence to ruin the novel for me - which, it almost did as my reading of it slowed to a crawl afterward - it did take me out of the story. Once again, I repeat, this takes place a year before A New Hope. Maybe there's a rule about including Han Solo in the books, though. My friend, Eddie, made a side remark about the novels being worse than the prequels, asking me if Han Solo's made an appearance yet. He made those comments after I was introduced to our smuggler.
The story is quick paced, while leaving room for character growth - despite how obvious it would be. It's probably too much for me to state it's canon for Star Wars fans, but it is a must read for zombie fans. Four star rating, that seems fair.
The mass market paperback includes a preview to the next Joe Schreiber tale, Star Wars: Red Harvest, which is to act as a prequel to Death Troopers. According to Amazon, it's slated to be released on 28 December 2010.
Until next time, keep on huntin'.