When an Imperial prison barge, the Purge, suddenly malfunctions, a group of Imperials are forced to board a nearly deserted Star Destroyer close by for spare parts. But what they bring back is far worse than anything they had previously imagined; a deadly virus that infects and kills most of the occupants of the Purge. Kale and Trig Longo, alone ever since their father died aboard the prison barge, are some of those survivors, and along with an Imperial medic and other various characters, they are forced to fight for their very lives against an army of the undead in Death Troopers.
Check out how, being an avid horror fan, I felt about the first official Star Wars horror novel after the break!
Death Troopers starts off a bit slowly, initially introducing us to the main cast of the book; teenagers Kale and Trig Longo, Dr. Zahara Cody, and Imperial Commander Sartoras. The cast of the book is mainly new, which offers a refreshing change from books that center on characters we see all the time. Kale and Trig, alone ever since their father recently died aboard the Purge, are entertaining characters and their emotions throughout the book are very well done. That’s mostly the case with all the other characters as well, but notice how I say “mostly”. There are times when I wish Schreiber would give some of the characters a bit more depth and back story, which would add another level of emotion to the book that it doesn’t have. Sartoras, for example, a sociopath Imperial in the truest sense, was the one that killed Kale and Trigs’ father during a sort of interrogation for information; we never really have any scenes between the sons and Sartoras, and they never even know of this fact. I think if it had been found out by them early in the book, it would’ve added extra conflict and angst that would’ve been a nice plus. In fact, we rarely actually get any scenes with Sartoras and the rest of the group; I think this was a chance Schreiber missed to really add some emotion to the book.
Speaking of characters, one thing I noticed that was majorly lacking in Death Troopers was descriptions of people. We never got anything on how anyone looked, which, while it is a small thing in the big picture, does make it harder for us to imagine how they look. On the other hand, this gives our minds complete freedom in how we picture them; for example, throughout the entire book I pictured Zahara as a blond with a pony tail. Don’t ask me why, I have no idea myself.
Aside from that complaint, I think the characters are done well. It’s a pretty small cast with almost all of them being previously unknown characters; the exception is two very well known characters thrown into the mix, Han Solo and Chewbacca. I enjoyed their presence in the book, offering occasional humor that we didn’t get otherwise. But despite my liking of their presence, I have to wonder if it conflicts with canon at all. Han Solo and Chewbacca fight off hordes of zombies trying to eat them, and….. they never mention it or think about it again. That just feels a bit odd, and we can’t retcon it as this being the source of Han’s fear of bugs that was mentioned in the Dark Nest series because there are no bugs in this book. But still, I did like that they were included, offering some kind of connection to previously established canon and characters.
While we’re on the subject of canon, I can’t really decide if Death Troopers did well overall in the whole canon aspect or not. It just seems like this kind of thing would’ve gotten out to the general public, be it through rumour or an outbreak on even only a semi-populated planet. Or what about the survivors of the Purge outbreak? Did they keep this secret? Why would they do that?? If I was one of the people who got out, I would go public with this only because it’s the right thing to do – they certainly didn’t like the Empire, so why wouldn’t they want this to get out? Of course, this could be explained with some sort of follow-up, but we probably won’t get that for awhile because Schreiber’s next novel is a prequel, not a sequel.
The actual writing of Death Troopers was pretty good. Schreiber’s way of writing does give a decent creep factor in the right moments, but overall, I really wouldn’t consider this book “scary”. As I said, creepy maybe, but not scary. The descriptions of things like the gore were very good, so if you’re really squeamish you might have to skip over some parts, but you wouldn’t have to that much. I wasn’t effected by it at all, but I’m not the type to really let that stuff bug me, either.
The ending was very…. Interesting. I liked it, but it wasn’t what I expected, per se – it was both happy and sad. It at least didn’t go with the totally cliché zombie movie ending – like having a short epilogue showing one of the zombies escaping to a populated planet, or something of that nature. I actually thought there was a good chance of that happening because the whole book really did play out like a zombie flick, so that was a nice surprise.
So, all in all, I did like Death Troopers, even if I found that there were a few flaws with it. The characters were appealing, the story was pretty solid, and the pacing really helped set the mood. I definitely look forward to seeing some background on the virus in Schreiber’s upcoming prequel to Death Troopers. I’d recommend this book to anyone who wants a quick, light read and who also happens to be a fan of horror/zombie stories.