A novel by Joe Schreiber (2010,
3650 years before Star Wars: A New Hope
A Sith master finds a serum that could bring him eternal life, but turns
other people into zombies in the process.
Read November 11th to
20th, 2015, in hardcover
While this is an origin story for this
zombie plague, it does nothing to enlighten the reader to the virus. The
story is really just a showcase on different ways people can die and
then be reborn as a zombie, and as such lacked an element of real
When I read Death Troopers, I wondered who had discovered the
powerful virus and how they thought they would be able to control it. It
was obvious that the people involved didn’t know what they were dealing
with. Here, in a time thousands of years prior to those events, we find
a few answers. Unfortunately, we don’t get all that many, and the
essentials bring up many more questions.
It seems obvious that
the Emperor found reference to Darth Scabrous’ experiments, but where could
he possibly get an orchid, which can only live with a Force-user as a
guide? Like all Sith, apparently, Scabrous wants to live forever, and he
found writings from an even more ancient source telling him how to go
about it. I loved the fact that he didn’t care about what was going on
around him, how many people became infected – he ignored them all, just
keeping the infection at bay until he could get his hands on the Jedi. I
do find it inconsistent that he could actually command the zombies; to
them, he would only be another living being, as he was when the first
student infected him. They didn’t seem to take
leaders, though they could coordinate for their mutual benefit.
The setting is a Sith academy, where students are the usual mix of
ruthless, backstabbing friends and enemies that typically encompass the
Sith. One who is critically injured is brought to Scabrous’ lab for
nasty experiments, which only culminate when the orchid arrives.
Zo is a Jedi who never underwent the Trials, and is not really
combat-trained. I’ve always wondered about the Agricultural Corps (for
young trainees who didn’t get chosen as Padawans by the time they were
13, and first introduced in The Rising Force with Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon). But here we
get a small example, as Zo treats special plants, especially a
Force-sensitive and semi-sentient orchid. Apparently the orchids need
Jedi in order to grow, and a Jedi like Zo can bond with the orchid. I’m
not sure what the purpose of this is, except that it suits the story. Zo
is kidnapped by a bounty hunter named Tulkh, and brought to Scabrous.
Scbarous throws the orchid into the mixture being injected into one of
the students, who dies and comes back to life in the form of a zombie
like in Death Troopers. In this book, the resurrection happens a lot
faster than in the previous one.
From here on, the story is just
a bunch of barely-related tales that describe various ways the students
could did from wounds (even to the point of being bitten by an infected
Tauntaun!). Many of the ways the Sith students die are either funny,
disgusting, or just plain out of the ordinary. Zo forms a bond with her
former captor, Tulkh, and they race from zombie to zombie, barely
managing to keep them at bay. Some of the Sith students also survive for
a while, until they all finally succumb to attacks, in various fashions.
Many of them are simply scratched by the zombies, and the infection
takes a while longer to propagate.
Meanwhile, Zo's brother
senses that she is in danger, and makes his way to the planet. He
manages to survive until Zo enters the library, where she is swarmed and
captured, the zombies somehow knowing that they must keep her alive for
Scabrous. Zo's brother frees her and in the process is turned into a
zombie himself, though he somehow manages to keep his sibling nature,
and doesn't attack her, going after Scabrous instead.
wondering how the virus would affect non-human species. We already saw
infected Wookies in Death Troopers, but after the infected Tauntauns, I
didn't have to wonder too much longer. The librarian is a gigantic
tree-creature, a Neti, and once Scabrous starts munching on his bark,
he, too, becomes infected, though is a slightly different way. Somehow
it seems more wise, even though it is still zombie, and trying to
capture Zo and her brother.
Eventually Tulkh and Zo escape,
though once more, as in Death Troopers, an infected person stows away on
their ship. Star student Lussk waits for them. He actually welcomed the
infection, but it's stupidly explained that Zo somehow knew his name,
only for the reader to draw the connection. I'm sure there was a better
way to do that. Tulkh was scratched during one of the fights, and so
became infected, but retained enough of his self that he strapped
himself away so that he couldn't hurt Zo. When Lussk attacks, she opens
the cargo bay doors, ejecting them both into space.
I was hoping
this book wouldn't be a retread of Death Troopers, but I don't really
like what we got instead. It was a horror story, but there wasn't much
of anything else to it. Somehow, I expected more.