A novel by Joe Schreiber (2009,
1 year before Star Wars: A New Hope
When the prison barge Purge loses power in deep space, the crew looks for
spare parts from a nearby Star Destroyer, and brings back a horrific virus.
Read on August 1st to
5th, 2015, in hardcover
I was amazed at how the author kept
getting more and more gross as the story went on. It wasn’t scary, as
such, but it quickly became disgusting and kept accelerating from there.
It was fun to keep at it and see how (or if) the main characters would
get out of there.
I went into this story wondering how the author would turn a Star
Wars story into a horror story. It turns out it wasn’t that hard to do.
Only it wasn’t really scary, except to the characters. I didn’t even
know if any of the characters would survive, or if the author even
cared, which made it a lot of fun.
Everything progressed such as
it should in a story where the characters keep getting pounded by
terrible situations, one after another. What I didn’t expect was the
grossness of the story. The author pulled no punches in this respect.
The characters describe in full detail the progression of the …disease?
…mutation? …biological agent?
The setting is a prison barge, full
of people who were caught by the Empire doing things outside the law,
from the mundane to more serious, as always. The Empire of course
doesn’t care. Brothers Trig and Kale just lost their father as one of
the guards tortured him literally to death. They fear that they will be
next, either from the guard or the prison extortion gangs.
story starts to go the way of a terror plot by rival gangs coercing
those who don’t have much power. But that’s just a smokescreen, as soon
the engines fail, and they find themselves floating in the middle of
nowhere. On the other hand, there is a Star Destroyer nearby! It’s
hanging around apparently dead, too. So the people in charge send over a
crew to harvest equipment to make repairs. The Star Destroyer
(annoyingly called “destroyer” throughout the book) is deserted, and
it’s creepy, but nothing like we get by the end of the book. For now,
suffice it to say that they all come back infected…
Dr. Cody is
one of the characters who survives the story. She treated Trig and
Kale’s father after he was tortured to death by the Imperial corrections
agent Santoris. She hates Santoris, but loves her job, helping people,
especially the misunderstood who end up on prison barges because the
Empire says they are no good for society –its society. She watches the
people who come back from the expedition to the Star Destroyer as they
die horrible deaths. Soon there are gross dead bodies piling up in all
the corridors and the cells. And as each prisoner or guard becomes
infected, they do all they can to release the others to the open, so
that they can also get infected. So all the cells are opened, and there
is another element added to the rival gang operations. But that doesn’t
last long, as it seems that only Santoris, Cody, Trig and Kale are
Santoris manages to get the command codes to the escape
pods from his infected boss, but the escape pod gets caught in the
tractor beam from the Star Destroyer, and he ends up in there.
Cody gets to the control stations to find the crew dead, but she finds
two more life forms, locked up in solitary confinement. I thought the
only part of the story that really suffered was the surprise
introduction of the characters of Han Solo and Chewbacca. Once they were
let out of solitary confinement, it was a given that at least those two
would survive, which removed some of the tension from the story. Until
then, it wasn’t a guarantee that anybody would make it to the end of the
It did give us an interesting sequence where Cody injects
Chewbacca with the antidote (sequenced by her droid) and he almost
becomes even more infected. He and the antidote work together to defeat
It’s then that the infected people start to wake up,
and they are the equivalent of zombies, and they want desperately to
infect anybody who isn’t already infected. They seem to have a pretty
good nose to figure out who is left, because they don’t attack any of
their own, and have a remarkable ability to work together.
Han and Chewie are out of solitary confinement, Han pretty much takes
charge. They all move across the access bridge to the Star Destroyer, as
the prison ship is no longer safe for them. But now they find that there
was an entire complement of Imperials on board the Star Destroyer –and
the ship appears to be deserted. That means, of course, that they are
now on a ship with thousands of zombies!
Cody spends most of her
time in the cargo bay where they linked with the prison barge, trying at
first to take care of Kale, who was bitten by his dead father, and is
now worse than infected. The author used a cheap trick in putting a
stormtrooper helmet over Kale’s face as he was chasing Trig through the
garbage compactor and the ventilation shafts (a sequence that was even
more gross than usual –imagine the pile of body parts that Trig had to
climb up to get to the ceiling).
Han and Chewie, meanwhile, dodge
zombies and infected wookies on their way to the bridge, and eventually
turn the tractor beam off, and make their way to the same shuttle. Cody,
meanwhile, stumbles upon the source of the outbreak, a research lab of
horrors. Eventually, he gets to the shuttle as well, though he doesn’t
know that Cody survived the attack by the X-wing.
And just when
the reader thinks that the author can’t put one more disgusting feature
into this book, Santoris finds his way into a shuttle with the remaining
human crew of the Star Destroyer, who have survived here for weeks
–gaunt and starving, they’ve been pulling straws to see who gets eaten
for supper next –ugh! Outside, the zombies learn pretty quickly, and
turn a captured X-Wing fighter on the shuttle, and then on Cody, who
appears ready to space them. Santoris gives up his life to let her get
In the end, it’s the combination of effects that save them.
With the tractor beam off, the zombies stop chasing the living humans,
and try to get out into space with every ship that is available on the
Star Destroyer, in the hopes of infecting the rest of the galaxy. Of
course, some make their way onto Han, Chewie, Cody and Trig’s ship. But
apparently they can’t survive for long so far from a replenishment of
the agent that created them, which filled the air of the Star Destroyer.
And so the living manage to escape. Presumably Han and Chewie go to find
the Millennium Falcon, which was impounded. Trig and Cody become
I know that there is another book by this
author, and it sounds like a sequel. This one was well written in terms
of plot and icky-ness, and there was a lot of suspense as to who would
survive. It was quite fun to see everything degenerate, slowly at first,
then accelerating through the rest of the book.