The Stolen Data Tapes
Red Harvest by Joe Schreiber (2010, Del Rey)
In Red Harvest, Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op investigates the murder of one Donald Wilson and, in doing so, encounters widespread corruption in the town of Personville.

…

Whoops. Wrong book. I was thinking of this one:



Joe Schreiber’s Star Wars novel shares nothing in common with Hammett’s classic detective story other than its title. It’s a prequel to his earlier Star Wars book, Death Troopers, which I reviewed around this time last year. In it, we discover how the zombie virus from Death Troopers came to be, more than three thousand years before.

The novel is largely set on the world of Odacer-Faustin, a cold, inhospitable planet that houses a large Sith academy. This setting is a good choice on Schreiber’s part; not only is it convenient for the novel’s plot, but before the undead ever get involved, there is already something of the horrific about a bunch of teenagers and young adults being formally trained to embrace hatred, spite, and backbiting.

The academy is run by a Sith lord known as Darth Scabrous, who, like all good megalomaniacs, wants to be immortal. To achieve this end, he has a bounty hunter bring him a special breed of black orchid which possesses sentience and certain other special properties.

The orchid requires the presence and nurturing of a Force-sensitive to survive, and so Hestizo Trace, a member of the Jedi Agricultural Corps, is apprehended by a Whiphid bounty hunter named Tulkh and dragged to Odacer-Faustin along with the flower she’s been nurturing.

Scabrous adds the orchid to whatever mix of snakes, snails, and puppy dog’s tails that he’s been working on, killing one of his human test subjects and then bringing him back to life… as a zombie.

As I’m sure anyone with a passing familiarity with horror has guessed, the newly raised zombie carries a viral contagion, and from here, things begin to go to hell in a hand basket.

In this book, Schreiber does an excellent job developing setting and mood. The reader is constantly reminded of the cold and desolate landscape, painted entirely in white, black, and various grays. Schreiber also takes a page from H.P. Lovecraft and uses things like the improbable geometry of the Sith academy’s architecture to convey a sense of disorientation and unease. The descriptions of zombie mealtimes are pretty effective, too.

Where this book falls a little short of its predecessor is in the realm of character. This book has a larger cast than Death Troopers, including a number of Sith students and the aforementioned Sith lord, bounty hunter, and Jedi Agricultural Corps member. The characters are not bad, and their personalities are developed enough, but their backgrounds and relationships to one another lack the depth of emotion and interest that was present in Death Troopers, making it more difficult for me to feel especially terrible when a group of zombies decides it’s chow time.

Despite this, Red Harvest is a quick, entertaining read, and certainly recommended for anyone who’s a combination Star Wars/horror fan.

Enjoy your Halloween, and check back here next week for my review of Timothy Zahn’s Outbound Flight.

Red Harvest by Joe Schreiber (2010, Del Rey)

In Red Harvest, Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op investigates the murder of one Donald Wilson and, in doing so, encounters widespread corruption in the town of Personville.

Whoops. Wrong book. I was thinking of this one:

Joe Schreiber’s Star Wars novel shares nothing in common with Hammett’s classic detective story other than its title. It’s a prequel to his earlier Star Wars book, Death Troopers, which I reviewed around this time last year. In it, we discover how the zombie virus from Death Troopers came to be, more than three thousand years before.

The novel is largely set on the world of Odacer-Faustin, a cold, inhospitable planet that houses a large Sith academy. This setting is a good choice on Schreiber’s part; not only is it convenient for the novel’s plot, but before the undead ever get involved, there is already something of the horrific about a bunch of teenagers and young adults being formally trained to embrace hatred, spite, and backbiting.

The academy is run by a Sith lord known as Darth Scabrous, who, like all good megalomaniacs, wants to be immortal. To achieve this end, he has a bounty hunter bring him a special breed of black orchid which possesses sentience and certain other special properties.

The orchid requires the presence and nurturing of a Force-sensitive to survive, and so Hestizo Trace, a member of the Jedi Agricultural Corps, is apprehended by a Whiphid bounty hunter named Tulkh and dragged to Odacer-Faustin along with the flower she’s been nurturing.

Scabrous adds the orchid to whatever mix of snakes, snails, and puppy dog’s tails that he’s been working on, killing one of his human test subjects and then bringing him back to life… as a zombie.

As I’m sure anyone with a passing familiarity with horror has guessed, the newly raised zombie carries a viral contagion, and from here, things begin to go to hell in a hand basket.

In this book, Schreiber does an excellent job developing setting and mood. The reader is constantly reminded of the cold and desolate landscape, painted entirely in white, black, and various grays. Schreiber also takes a page from H.P. Lovecraft and uses things like the improbable geometry of the Sith academy’s architecture to convey a sense of disorientation and unease. The descriptions of zombie mealtimes are pretty effective, too.

Where this book falls a little short of its predecessor is in the realm of character. This book has a larger cast than Death Troopers, including a number of Sith students and the aforementioned Sith lord, bounty hunter, and Jedi Agricultural Corps member. The characters are not bad, and their personalities are developed enough, but their backgrounds and relationships to one another lack the depth of emotion and interest that was present in Death Troopers, making it more difficult for me to feel especially terrible when a group of zombies decides it’s chow time.

Despite this, Red Harvest is a quick, entertaining read, and certainly recommended for anyone who’s a combination Star Wars/horror fan.

Enjoy your Halloween, and check back here next week for my review of Timothy Zahn’s Outbound Flight.

Death Troopers by Joe Schreiber (2009, Del Rey)
I thought that it might be seasonally appropriate today to take a look at Death Troopers, the first of two Star Wars horror novels by Joe Schreiber, a well-established writer in the genre. Now, I love a good zombie story (that means George Romero, not Zack Snyder), and I obviously love Star Wars to an unhealthy degree, but I was a little concerned about how well the two would mesh together.
The plot begins on an Imperial prison barge that gets stranded in deep space. Nearby is a seemingly abandoned Star Destroyer with which the barge docks in hope of aid. As you may have already guessed, a zombie plague has spread throughout the Destroyer, killing almost its entire crew, and doing the same to that of the barge.
To a certain small degree, my fears about the ability of Star Wars and zombie horror to synthesize were justified. This is, without a doubt, the most grisly, macabre story I have seen, read, or partaken of in any way that bears the Star Wars name. Graphic descriptions of viscera and rotting flesh abound, and in one truly horrifying passage, one of the novel’s protagonists is forced to climb to the top of an enormous pile of dismembered human corpses to reach safety. It’s not that I’m squeamish about this kind of stuff in a book; in fact, Schreiber is quite good at setting moods ranging from unease to relief, hope to despair. He’s also adept at turning the reader’s stomach. This novel doesn’t perfectly exude a Star Wars vibe throughout, but this tonal difference is not a bad thing, and Schreiber manages to counterbalance this.
Death Troopers has a small cast of multi-faceted, well-rounded original characters, but one very smart decision on Schreiber’s part that lightens the mood somewhat and goes a long way to inject a more solidly Star Wars vibe was to put Han Solo and Chewbacca on the barge as prisoners. Solo and Chewbacca interact well with Zahara Cody, the barge’s medical officer and the Longo brothers, two teenagers imprisoned solely for their relation to their con-artist father, now dead at the hands of security officer Jareth Sartoris. Han’s wisecracking adds some needed levity to the proceedings, and Schreiber gives us some pretty cool Chewbacca POV passages.
Most, but not all, of the main characters make it off the Star Destroyer alive, thanks to redemptive and self-sacrificial efforts on the part of Sartoris and the surviving members of the Destroyer’s crew, and the book ends with a surprisingly heartwarming epilogue.
Death Troopers is a unique entry in the Star Wars canon. It gives off a very different feel than the typical Star Wars book, but doesn’t lose sight of the saga’s broad, Campbell-esque themes like courage and redemption. That said, this one’s definitely not for the faint of heart—or stomach.

Death Troopers by Joe Schreiber (2009, Del Rey)

I thought that it might be seasonally appropriate today to take a look at Death Troopers, the first of two Star Wars horror novels by Joe Schreiber, a well-established writer in the genre. Now, I love a good zombie story (that means George Romero, not Zack Snyder), and I obviously love Star Wars to an unhealthy degree, but I was a little concerned about how well the two would mesh together.

The plot begins on an Imperial prison barge that gets stranded in deep space. Nearby is a seemingly abandoned Star Destroyer with which the barge docks in hope of aid. As you may have already guessed, a zombie plague has spread throughout the Destroyer, killing almost its entire crew, and doing the same to that of the barge.

To a certain small degree, my fears about the ability of Star Wars and zombie horror to synthesize were justified. This is, without a doubt, the most grisly, macabre story I have seen, read, or partaken of in any way that bears the Star Wars name. Graphic descriptions of viscera and rotting flesh abound, and in one truly horrifying passage, one of the novel’s protagonists is forced to climb to the top of an enormous pile of dismembered human corpses to reach safety. It’s not that I’m squeamish about this kind of stuff in a book; in fact, Schreiber is quite good at setting moods ranging from unease to relief, hope to despair. He’s also adept at turning the reader’s stomach. This novel doesn’t perfectly exude a Star Wars vibe throughout, but this tonal difference is not a bad thing, and Schreiber manages to counterbalance this.

Death Troopers has a small cast of multi-faceted, well-rounded original characters, but one very smart decision on Schreiber’s part that lightens the mood somewhat and goes a long way to inject a more solidly Star Wars vibe was to put Han Solo and Chewbacca on the barge as prisoners. Solo and Chewbacca interact well with Zahara Cody, the barge’s medical officer and the Longo brothers, two teenagers imprisoned solely for their relation to their con-artist father, now dead at the hands of security officer Jareth Sartoris. Han’s wisecracking adds some needed levity to the proceedings, and Schreiber gives us some pretty cool Chewbacca POV passages.

Most, but not all, of the main characters make it off the Star Destroyer alive, thanks to redemptive and self-sacrificial efforts on the part of Sartoris and the surviving members of the Destroyer’s crew, and the book ends with a surprisingly heartwarming epilogue.

Death Troopers is a unique entry in the Star Wars canon. It gives off a very different feel than the typical Star Wars book, but doesn’t lose sight of the saga’s broad, Campbell-esque themes like courage and redemption. That said, this one’s definitely not for the faint of heart—or stomach.