A Long Time Ago: Death Troopers, Revisited

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A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… I started reading these books

The Star Wars Expanded Universe is a big place, and one that’s easy to get lost in. That’s why it’s my mission to help to guide you through the EU with (generally) chronologically ordered reviews of Star Wars novels.

Last Fall I had the privilege of being among the first reviewers to introduce Death Troopers by Joe Schreiber to the world. Knowing that I was going into it early and that I was releasing information based strictly on the quality of the writing, I intentionally avoided any and all information that could impact my response to the novel. This means I completely bypassed a wealth of exclusive writing by Joe Schreiber, as well as trailers and more. For the first time, A Long Time Ago (never mind that it’s an entirely new column title, thanks for noticing) has reached a novel I’ve already reviewed, so now you get Part 2: Death Troopers promotional materials.

Death Troopers reviews:

My non-spoiler review

My regular review

Kirr’s review

Corax’s review

MizzeeOH’s review

Let’s start with a uniquely 2009 approach to promotion: TK-329, Stormtrooper and Twitterer. That’s right, apparently there is enough leeway in Imperial Intelligence demands for a Twitter addict to get through about one tweet a day, and TK-329 and CC-5052 did just that during the days leading to the zombie infestation. The two Twitter accounts give some insights into their character, enough that a follower and regular reader would have some reaction to their plight and eventual deaths. Both characters die aboard the Vector prior to the release of the novel (and become zombies). TK’s story ended on October 13th, the day of the novel’s release while CC’s information was drawn out until the planned release on the 28th.

While there’s no Behind the Scenes information on either of these two troopers, it’s telling that DeathTroopers.com, Wookieepedia and other sites tend to link to TK329, while the Bly5052 account gets little attention. It’s for that reason I believe TK to have been handled by an official representative of DelRey, and the Bly account by a fan, but the world may never know. In any event, these accounts don’t do anything remarkable, but they’re certainly creative and act as a sort of prologue story to those interested in reading it.

Before these started- though they’re set after the fact- fans of NJOE, RebelScum, TheForce.Net, ClubJade, and the SWActionNews podcast were surprised to find themselves in possession of top secret documents obtained from the remains of the Purge, the Prison Barge much of Death Troopers takes place on. These documents are letters from prisoners and crew aboard the Purge, including four letters from three of the main protagonists of the novel. All of these letters were written by Death Troopers author Joe Schreiber.

From first to last, in quick run-down:

The DeathTroopers.com letter kicks off the miniseries with two letters. The first is from a farmer who has been imprisoned for an unspecified crime is writing home to his family. This is effective, but it seems like it tries too hard to be authentic and fails in the process. I just can’t imagine many prisoners writer their family with reminders of household chores that they’re presumably already aware of. After all, if you’re not standing over their shoulder, it’s not going to get done anyway, and you need to learn to live with that fact. The second letter is from Trig Longo, a direct continuation from the NJOE letter, which is set some time after the first, which is the chronological start. Trig’s letter is probably the most ominous of all, and the only one to at least hint at the possibility of zombies, though it doesn’t mention them outright.

StarWars.com gets two letters as well, and like the first pair it includes one pre- and one post-infestation letter. The first letter is that of a smuggler to the man who sold him out- think of it as Han Solo writing to Moruth Doole, which it might as well be- gloating over the fact that the Hutts will see to it that the recipient of the letter lives a short and painful life. The second letter, by contrast, is yet another man writing to his family, this time about the fact that he himself is going to live a short and painful life. This shows us both the human side of the Purge and the deadly criminal element found aboard the barge.

The third (fifth?) letter is found on SWActionNews, and this one seems like a scene out of a zombie movie. In this case, a comedy relief character feels extremely proud of the fact that they made it to “the big time”, meaning that he made enough of a reputation that he got locked up by the Imps. He goes on to say that he should be able to get out of whatever’s going on (he paints a pretty bleak picture, despite the upbeat letter) because he’s so lucky- too bad Han Solo’s legendary luck is aboard the ship. I guess nobody clued this guy in that the comedy relief guy only survives in bad movies, while Death Troopers is mostly good.

Next we get a source of pride for the News Team here, NJOE.com’s own letter. Why is this a source of pride? Well, for one, we got chosen to receive a letter. Don’t knock that. Secondly, this actually seems to be the most important letter from a prisoner, second perhaps only to Trig’s letter. Here, Death Troopers protagonist Kale Longo writes to his dead father. This letter brings up questions that will be asked in the novel, as well as introducing readers to an important character and continuing the plot of spreading disease. This is also the last letter from the point of view of a prisoner aboard the Purge.

With RebelScum’s letter we jump to the crew, with Warden Kloth (who, according to DeathTroopers.com, eats it) outlining the problem. None of the humanity of the earlier letters is included here, but it does hint at the cause, and a possible Imperial source. This letter opens up yet another mystery, except this one won’t be resolved until (presumably), the novel formally known as Black Orchid hits shelves.

The TFN and ClubJade letters, as far as I can tell, are switched. Every source claims that TheForce.Net’s comes first, but as they both are letters from the same character, they only really make sense if you read the ClubJade one first (at least, if you haven’t read the novel). These letters are from Doctor Zahara Cody, detailing both how quickly and how viciously the infestation spread. There’s also some information about Cody’s personal story, which is also in the novel. It doesn’t add much, once you’ve read them both, but I suppose it doesn’t hurt anything to be here.

Taken as a whole, these letters are an effective way to build up hype. They’re creative, although they don’t leave a permanent mark- their effect lasts up until one reads the novel, and then they might as well not be there. I do think they could have used the addition of a single zombie appearance- not a whole lot, but one, with less information even than the Twitter campaign gave about the zombies themselves. Instead, we get a story about the spread of disease, which is interesting when taking blurbs and general knowledge into account, but not very compelling on its own. The letters give us our first introduction to some of the main protagonists, which is great, but an opportunity was missed when generic character types were used in place of Aur Myss or Jareth Sartoris, for example.

Players of Star Wars Galaxies found themselves open to new, Death Troopers inspired quests on the world of Dathomir as the novel approached release. Unfortunately, I do not know a single person who played this, so I have no idea if it was any good. I can only imagine zombies on Dathomir to be an awesome experience, however.

Suvudu.com ran a contest during this promotional period, during which various teams of fans submitted trailers for the novel. Del Rey staff could not win, though their ability to place their own “inspirational” trailer dominating DeathTroopers.com may make them by far the winning team. The actual trailer contest winners were 5ive by 5ive Studios, who recently released an alternate version of their trailer. The contest in general was an effective way to get fans of all sorts interested in Death Troopersor at least interested in helping promote it to other people. The trailer itself, of course, was as good as can be expected with hundreds of fan submissions and votes, but I think the contest was more effective than a fan trailer could ever be- about as effective as the hundreds of Adidas and Nike fans out there.

The last promotion, StarWars.com’s celebration of the Death Troopers hardcover release, was Zombie Week. Apparently, the Admin in charge of Zombie Week was, uh, eaten by one of these zombies. You can find the remains here.

Perhaps the smartest (and by contrast dumbest) part of this whole event was the Death Troopers website. A single site organizing coverage of Death Troopers was created on the Random House website, which remains to this day. The reason I say dumbest is because none of the news on Black Orchid, or its new name Red Harvest, has been on DeathTroopers.com. Similarly, FateoftheJedi.com was created around the same time, and hasn’t been updated in months.

As a whole, the promotional campaign surrounding Death Troopers did its job- if you were there for it. Latecomers will find only disappointment, as unless you’re very into visuals the trailer adds nothing to the novel after the fact. That’s pretty much the theme here- if you caught everything first chance, it got you hyped, but if not, it was just so much wasted space. In that way, it’s a pretty standard advertising campaign, which I guess is par for the course these days, but certainly not what I’d expect from the LFL that brought us the Special Editions marketing campaign.

Discuss this review on Fight Evil
Discuss this review on NJOE

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