Reviewed by Elaine Lamkin
Written by Joe Schreiber
Published by Del Rey/Ballantine Books
I would like to go on record that I am NOT a sci-fi fan (the closest I’ve come to sci-fi is when I dressed up as Princess Leia one Halloween) so I was a little concerned about having to review a book in the Star Wars franchise. BOY, was there nothing to worry about!! Death Troopers by Chasing the Dead author Joe Schreiber is as far from the typical sci-fi novel as you can get (and much closer to Ridley Scott’s Alien, which we all know is really a haunted house novel set in a spacecraft).
The Imperial Prison Barge Purge is on its way to Detention Moon Gradient Seven with a prison population of some 500 or so of the worst of the worst on board. But among the Gen Pop are two young brothers, Trig and Kale Longo, orphans now that their father was murdered while in the Medical Bay. Also aboard are ruthless prisoner Aur Myss, who has it in for the Longo brothers; Jareth Sartoris, captain of the guard; and Dr. Zahara Cody, chief medical officer, as well as various droids such as Cody’s assistant, Waste, a 2-1B surgical droid.
Everything seems routine until the day the engines just stop, and the prison barge is pulled into range of an Imperial Star Destroyer by the Destroyer’s tractor beam. Two scouting parties are sent, via the barge’s docking shaft, into the Star Destroyer to try and discover why the barge’s monitors show only a few life forms aboard when there should be thousands and why the ship is not responding to attempts at communication from the prison barge. And then … well, let’s just say things don’t go very well for those two scouting parties.
Death Troopers is a fast-paced, exciting, and wonderfully gruesome zombies in space story. Author Joe Schreiber has a great way with tension and pacing. And surprises as well, but I can’t give any of those away. For a book that is only 265 pages, Schreiber has packed in a LOT of fun stuff for even the most discerning horror fan (I guess the sci-fi geeks will enjoy it, too, what with all the space talk; I didn’t find the sci-fi elements the least distracting). This is Night of the Living Dead in outer space. With BIG guns. And soldiers. And a REALLY nasty virus (there are a few tips of the hat to the Alien films here as well). There is even a scene that gave me vertigo just READING it!
So don’t let the Star Wars part of the title scare you off – just look closer at the cover art as that might give you a better idea of where this particular book is going. And remember those surprises I mentioned – LOTS of fun!!
4 out of 5
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