Shiny Shelf

Star Wars: Death Troopers by Joe Schreiber

By Julio Angel Ortiz on 05 March 2010

Death Troopers‘Death Troopers’ is an interesting experiment in the ‘Star Wars’ literature canon. Joe Schreiber brings us a horror novel that could be boiled down to its bare minimum – zombies run amok on a Star Destroyer – and easily have been garbage. Thanks to Schreiber’s atmospheric prose, riveting pacing, and interesting twist on the zombie mythos, ‘Death Troopers’ rises above being your stock ‘Star Wars’ book.

While its mature tone and mostly original cast may be off-putting to casual or hardline fans, the more open-minded set will find a novel that could easily stand on its own (with a few modifications, of course) outside the ‘Star Wars’ universe, and this alone speaks to how good a book it is.

Schreiber’s writing style is very fluid and lyrical. Schreiber deftly builds the ambience of dread in the story, bringing the claustrophobia of the prison ship, the tension between the ship’s doctor Zahara Cody and captain of the guard Sartoris, and the plight of the Longo brothers to life, creating a visceral reading experience.

Even when two established characters in the ‘Star Wars’ mythos do finally appear, Schreiber makes it out to be a very natural, organic part of the story, and not shoe-horning them in for the sake of having them. In fact, the chosen characters are a perfect fit for the story, and I was glad to see Schreiber take time and build on the original characters and establishing the setting before bringing them aboard.

‘Death Troopers’ takes its time building up to the boiling point, but once hell breaks loose, the novel moves at a train’s (or is that landspeeder’s?) pace, not holding back on the gore but never reveling in it. ‘Death Troopers’ is dark and gritty, and the death and violence are not for shock value (such as in something like ‘Saw’). This is survival horror in space, and if you are a fan of anything close to the survival horror genre, then you will find plenty to love here.

The “zombies” themselves are a unique twist on the concept, and without giving too much away, there are a few subtle nods to Romero’s ‘…of the Dead’ movies. In lesser hands, the concept could have failed miserably, since marrying horror (and zombies in particular) with ‘Star Wars’ was a very risky move. We have seen ‘Star Wars’ novels previously built on famous concepts (such as ‘Star Wars’ meets ‘Heart of Darkness’ in the novel ‘Shatterpoint’), and it takes a talented author to pull it off. As Matthew Stover did with ‘Shatterpoint’, Schreiber pulls it of in ‘Death Troopers’ with aplomb.

‘Death Troopers’ is a fun read, not only making a great ‘Star Wars’ novel, but a flat-out solid horror novel. Schreiber’s prose is some of the best you’ll find in a ‘Star Wars’ book, and by the time you are done, you will want to check out his other work. While ‘Star Wars’ doesn’t lend itself to a regular dose of horror, every once in a blue moon will work just fine, as long as a talent like Schreiber is behind it.

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By Julio Angel Ortiz

Julio Angel Ortiz maintains his collection of curiosities at You can also Like him on Facebook as well and check out his latest writing projects.

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