Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Death Troopers, by Joe Schreiber

This week I'm taking a look at Death Troopers, which when I first saw it come out years ago I remember it being billed as ''Star Wars, but with zombies!'' And while I'm not terribly big on zombies as a monster or genre (zombies count as a genre, right?) I am happy to read or in this case listen to things in the Star Wars universe that take a slightly different approach than some of the more traditional Expanded Universe stories. In this case the book was pretty good, although the ending had some problems as far as I was concerned, but more about that later.

As some of you might remember, earlier this year I reviewed another audio book within the Star Wars EU, Allegiance by Timothy Zahn. One of the things I liked most about Allegiance and which holds true for Death Troopers as well, is the high production quality which is put into the audio books. I haven't been mentioning it much in my reviews and partly that's because I've been listening to non-fiction books that don't really require sound effects or musical accompaniment, or even multiple voices for characters. However, in some of the fiction books that I've listened to, Dune especially, I've found myself questioning some of the decisions regarding voice actors and use of music which seems haphazard at best. Death Troopers however, has distinct voices for numerous characters, incorporates music from the film franchise, and makes good use of sound effects to flesh out the narrative. So from a production quality standpoint alone these books have so far been an absolute delight.

Another thing that was really good about this book was it set the atmosphere very well. The plot involves an imperial prison barge which comes across an Imperial Star Destroyer floating adrift in deep space. A team goes across to scavenge spare parts but when they come back almost all of the boarding party appears to be afflicted by a mysterious illness which soon sweeps through the ship. Schreiber does a really good job with the pacing and expressing just how creepy finding a derelict ship, especially one as big as a Star Destroyer, can be. The one thing that I think really undermined the creepiness factor was at every chapter the narrator would state the chapter title and then another voice would sort of whisper-scream it. Like you know those creepy voices that show up on tape in horror movies? Sort of like that. I felt like it was just trying too hard at that point and came across as kind of silly. Otherwise, it did a very good job at being creepy.

The issues I had with the book really came towards the end. I didn't really mind Han Solo and Chewbacca showing up towards the middle of the book, even if it didn't make terribly much sense from a plot perspective. I'm sure it was like a requirement or something that characters from the movie be included in some capacity. But, I think the book could have stood fine on its own without Han and Chewie. There was one character who's supposed to be an unabashed psychopath but he actually came across as less so than some ''heroic'' characters I've encountered in the past. Plus he goes through a whole redemption arc which I felt undermined his being a psychopath because psychopaths don't feel remorse, but that's just me. There were also some deus ex machina bits towards the end that wrapped the plot up neatly which probably explains why there isn't a zombie-infested Star Destroyer mentioned anywhere else in the universe.

Overall I think the book was okay. As an audio book it's pretty enjoyable and the tension is very well done. I just had some issues with how it was wrapped up.

- Kalpar

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