I read Joe Schreiber's Star Wars: Death Troopers just a few weeks ago. I find it quite ironic that I've now been given the opportunity to read and review an advanced copy of his new book, Star Wars: Red Harvest.
I found many similarities between the two books, but I also noticed some good and bad differences as well. Much like Troopers, Red Harvest features a zombie plague occurring within the Star Wars universe.
Perhaps hoping to up the ante from his first zombiefest in a galaxy far, far away, Schreiber puts the "Sickness" into effect at a Sith Academy on the remote planet of Odacer-Faustin during the time of the Old Republic. By placing the story during this time frame, Schreiber is freed from having to add canon characters into the fray (which is a good thing in my book). He's also allowed to bend the rules a bit for the Sith and the Jedi (which is a bad thing in this book in my opinion).
The primary story revolves around a Jedi Agricultural Corps worker named Hestizo "Zo" Trace and a Sith Lord named Darth Scabrous.
Scabrous runs the Sith Academy on Odacer-Faustin and has lately holed up in the school's main tower. He is rarely seen on the grounds of the academy, and it is believed that he's doing bizarre experiments or even worse things up there.
Why? The acolytes at the school would love to know. What is in fact going on is that Scabrous is looking for the key to immortality, which he believes lies with a rare black orchid that flows with the power of the Force. In order for his plans to work, though, he needs a Jedi.
Luckily for him, a Whiphid bounty hunter named Tulkh has found one of the orchids, and it has a deeply rooted connection to Zo Trace. Eventually, Zo finds herself in the hands of Scabrous, and he puts his sinister plan into action.
When part of his "experiment" gets loose, though, it unleashes a zombie-like plague on the Sith acolytes and their Sith Masters.
Soon enough Zo, Tulkh, and a handful of the acolytes find themselves in a battle for their very lives.
Meanwhile, Zo's brother, Rojo, is on a desperate hunt to find his sister and her captor. He has no clue what is waiting for him on Odacer-Faustin.
Who lives? Who dies? You'll have to read Red Harvest to find out.
If you've read Death Troopers, you're already quite familiar with the "Sickness" that Schreiber utilizes in this adventure. This book is basically the plague's origin story. The plague acts much like it did in Troopers, but with infected Sith involved, it is much harder for our heroes to stop it. Schreiber also infects a few interesting species in this tale, and to be quite honest with you, it comes off a bit comedic. I won't mention which species is infected, but it is a canon creature that was very popular in the original film trilogy.
In Troopers, the zombies had a sort of mob mentality about them in which they slowly learned to adapt to changes in their environment. In Red Harvest, the same characteristic is present, but the Sith zombies seem to learn faster and actually retain a bit of their pre-death mindset as well as the ability to recall old grudges. This makes for a few interesting moments between the zombies and some of their victims.
While Zo and Scabrous are the key players in this tale, they are far from the most interesting. Tulkh grabbed my attention almost immediately. Of all the characters, I felt that his personality and character was the most developed as the story played out. A few of the Sith acolytes also sparked my interest and were given a bit of depth, only to be tossed away for the sake of moving the story along. Had just one of these acolytes been given a bit more page time, I would have enjoyed this story more.
The book is paced a bit slower than Troopers and actually drags until about two-thirds of the book has passed. When the action and plot actually do pick up, though, the story moves at a breakneck pace. This quickening made the story more enjoyable as a whole, but my patience wore quite thin before I got to this part of the tale. Schreiber also becomes more descriptive with the gore at this point in the story, and made me wish he'd done it from page one.
Overall, Red Harvest had a lot going for it that I feel Schreiber didn't capitalize enough on. Sith zombies sound cool in theory, but they shuffle, moan, and scream like every other generic zombie out there in the end.
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Red Harvest is a prequel to Death Troopers to be written by Joe Schreiber. Originally titled Black Orchid, the book is set for release on December 28, 2010. A hardcover horror novel, it will reveal the origin of the virus from the original book. On April 23, Sue Rostoni posted on the official site forums that the novel was re-titled due to internal concerns that the title Black Orchid sounded too much like a romance novel.