Thursday, October 29, 2009

ZOMBIES IN SPAAAAAACE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Well it happened, with the rash of zombie sightings in recent years from Shaun of the Dead to Zombieland, it was only a matter of time for Star Wars to get in on the action. Star Wars: Death Troopers, by Joe Schreiber is a new offering for the Star Wars universe. Set in a nebulous point just prior to New Hope, the novel is takes place on the prison barge Purge making its way to the edges of known space.

The novel itself has the basic tropes of the horror/zombie genre. The few remaining survivors: Jareth Sartoris, the captain of the guard with a sadistic streak for inter-group conflict. Kale and Trig Longo, small time con-men, grifters, brothers for the family/emotional investment; with the doctor, Zahara Cody to help them all understand what is going on. The creatures are of course all blood thirsty cannibalistic fiends.

The book is pretty descent for a shared world piece of fiction, but it misses some opportunities. Sartoris is a claustrophobic sadist, who has been in space too long; he kills the father of the two boys just prior to start of the novel. We spend some time with this character setting him up, but when his redemption moment comes it passes in a blink, having no substance. The reader shrugs and says: ‘oh well’. For the investment of back story on the guy he spends little time on stage, or is that impactful to the overall tale.

There is little investment to be had in the main players because of the introduction of cannon characters that I will not name for spoiler purposes. Once introduced, I half-expected that they would be the only ones to survive. So I unconsciously disconnected from the other characters, which was unsatisfying because there was investment with their back stories at the outset.

I know Star Wars is a commodity, just like any other, but something that put a hitch in my enjoyment of the book was the same as the distractions I had with Patterns of Force, both books were written to drive video games. Death Troopers seemed written to slide directly into the advertisement at the back of the book for Star Wars Galaxies, a multiplayer computer game.

I picked up Death Troopers sight unseen. I was not sure what to expect beyond a horror style adventure on a derelict Star Destroyer, I did not know if it would something along the lines of Alien or even Predator, but zombie plague caught me sideways. I think I never expected Star Wars to venture into the flesh eating horror of George Romero.

I love Star Wars. I was there in '77 and on, after all the original Star Wars trilogy was THEE Saturday Serial, and with comparatively the same kind of budget that Flash Gordon had back in the 30's and 40's! The book was a fun one to read. The core characters added to the Star Wars feel of the book, which to a fan is cool. In Schreiber's defense one didn't spend so much time with them that it was meant to short change the characters that were supposed to be the focus. For me they did. The Star Wars universe has been expanded to encompass so many more heroes than those that were present at the Battle of Yavin that their introduction was not necessary.

Schreiber is a good writer, and did well with the Star Wars material, balancing it against the zombie lore added to it. A blaster does nasty things to zombie flesh! The book, except for the most hardcore of fans with disposable income, is not worth the hardcover price tag. Its light for a hardcover novel, with about 220 pages, I figure roughly 70,000 words, with a preview of another Star Wars novel as filler.

Now Darth Vader versus a horde of flesh eating zombies….oh yeah, I would pay good money to read that! This is not one I would come back to later to read if I had the time for such things. To sum up though: if you are a Romero fan and a Star Wars geek, you will like this book!

1 comment:

  1. Good post! I used to think that adding zombies to "anything" would make that "anything" that much better. Now that everyone in "the industry" has jumped on that same bandwagon I am ready to call it a night (or a Night of the Living Dead if you will). You are correct that Star Wars is a commodity, and sadly so. It seems that zombies are as well, and by adding to two it makes it that much sadder...