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A novel by Joe Schreiber (2010, Del Rey)
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 storytelling.

Spoiler review:

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.

I was 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.

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