Star Wars Death TroopersJoe Schreiber
Del Rey

When the Imperial prison barge Purge—temporary home to find hundred of the galaxy’s most ruthless killers, rebels, scoundrels, and thieves—breaks down in the distant part of space, it’s only hope appears to lie with a Star Destroyer found drifting and seemingly abandoned. But when a boarding party from the Purge is sent to scavenge for parts, only half of them come back—bringing with them a horrific disease so lethal that within hours nearly all aboard the Purge die in ways too hideous to mention. And death is only the beginning. The Purge’s half-dozen survivors will do whatever it takes to stay alive. But nothing can prepare them for what lies waiting aboard the Star Destroyer. For the dead are rising: soulless, unstoppable, and unspeakably hungry.

I guess it was inevitable: Zombies in Space. Does that mean that we have jumped the shark with the zombie genre back in 2009, when this Star Wars book was published? Eh, not really the point of the review, is it?

So, essentially we have a mash-up of a Star Wars novel and a zombie horror fiction. The story itself is pretty standard post-Romero zombie fic: A prison transport stumbles upon a bioweapon virus that has a 99-point-something mortality rate, killing hundreds, and then reanimating their corpses to feast on the living. Of course, this being a Star Wars novel—set shortly before the events of A New Hope, in case you were wondering—we’re set in a prison barge first, then a Star Destruction in spaaaaaaaace. And yes, I affected a Pigs In Space voice while writing that.

Anyway, the story of Death Troopers—which has one of the coolest covers going, by the way—follows the misadventures of the crew of the Purge, a prison transport barge headed for a deep space prison to drop off the collective scum of the universe, according to the Empire. They drop out of hyperspace prematurely, dead in the proverbial water, but what luck! They come across a seemingly abandoned Star Destroyer! Stopping to scavenge parts, the majority if the crew and prisoners suddenly come down with the sniffles, and as a result die horribly and sloppily. Except, of course, the six individuals who are immune to the virus—the ship doctor, two adolescent grifters, an Imperial officer…and Han and Chewie. Yep, those two are on this boat. Because no one would read a Star Wars novel with zombies otherwise, I guess. Anyhoo, while trying to find a way to get…not stranded, the masses of Living Impaired suddenly become quite a bit more animated, with the standard insatiable hunger for human flesh. And they can operate blasters. So these are Space Zombies with Guns. I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

Sorry, sorry, I had to throw that in there.

As a Star Wars novel, Death Troopers is a nifty stand-alone tale that doesn’t really further the overall Star Wars saga, other than being another little adventure of Han Solo and Chewbacca before the fateful pitstop at the Mos Eisley canteena. Even then, the inclusion of those scruffy-looking Nerf herders seems a bit arbitrary, like somebody who wasn’t the author decided there needed to be a tie-in with the Original trilogy movies, beyond a brief mention of Darth Vader. Problem with that bit of fan wankery is that we know that Han and Chewie don’t die here. Or…maybe they do, and they’re just high-functioning zombies in the movies. Regardless, the story was a good, tense and serviceable sci-fi zombie yarn that just happens to be set in the pre-Disney Star Wars universe. Not too bad for a quick read.