Death Troopers, a horror novel set in the Star Wars universe, is written by Joe Schreiber and is set before the first Star Wars movie, A New Hope. An abandoned Star Destroyer looks like a gift from heaven to the crew of the Imperial prison barge Purge after the ship breaks down in otherwise unoccupied space, but spare parts aren’t the only their boarding party brings back from the Destroyer. Shortly after their return, almost all on board fall ill and soon die, leaving only a handful of survivors left. All of them fight for their continued survival, but soon they realise they aren’t as alone as they thought.
Death Troopers is a rock-solid, decent horror novel. While the novel doesn’t really bring anything to the table that hasn’t already been used in horror stories in one way or the other, Schreiber is pretty successful in combining known horror elements to form a quick, entertaining read. My only real gripe with the novel really is that it’s more of a horror novel in a Star Wars setting than a true Star Wars horror novel, i.e. it has too few unique Star Wars elements in it. If not for the involvement of Han Solo and Chewbacca, some mentions of Vader and some Star Wars terminology, it could just as well have been an original sci-fi horror novel.
But leaving that aside, Death Troopers is a perfectly enjoyable horror piece, and while some “shocking” scenes are more predictable than others, it never gets boring. One of my favourite scenes is when a young zombie-Wookie lures Han and Chewy into a trap. The overall backstory of the novel and the resolution of the story are pretty straightforward, and so the novel is somewhat on the short side – at least compared to most of the recent Star Trek titles I’m used to, but I don’t think that it could have been any longer without stretching the groundwork the plot provides too thinly.
The original characters aren’t really fleshed out much more than they have to be, but they all get a backstory and fulfil their roles. We have teenagers, the sole female character, cannibals, and of course the misanthrope with his own agenda. But where Schreiber really excels concerning the characterisations, in my opinion, is his portrayal of Han Solo. Granted, I haven’t watched the movies in a long time, and this novel is one of my first forays into Star Wars literature, but the Han Solo in this novel immediately felt right to me. Chewie has some nice scenes, too, and so in the end there’s little to criticise concerning the characterisation.
Overall, Death Troopers probably isn’t the most thought-provoking book I’ve ever read, but it does everything I guess it is supposed to do: provide the reader with a few hours of horror, suspense and entertainment. Would I have liked the novel to have a little more meat on its bones? Sure, but I certainly don’t regret to have made this jump into Star Wars literature and look forward to Schreiber’s upcoming Supernatural novel The Unholy Cause…
Death Troopers (by Joe Schreiber) was released by Del Rey in October 2008.