About the Author:
Joe Schreiber was born in Michigan but spent his formative years in Alaska, Wyoming and Northern California. He lives in central Pennsylvania with his family.
AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
3 out of 5
Star Wars: Death Troopers
1 BBY. This is the first adult horror novel to be set in the Star Wars universe and if the concept of zombie Stormtroopers doesn't get you excited, then I don't know what will. Set aboard an Imperial prison barge and a derelict Star Destroyer, the story follows the outbreak of a horrific zombie plague and the efforts to survive of a small mixed group of guards and inmates.
Spaceships have long been fertile breeding grounds for horror stories due to their isolation and claustrophobia (one word: 'Alien') and Schreiber takes full advantage of this setting to up the tension here. In this particular case, the zombie plague is caused by an Imperial bioweapons project and I really liked the idea that the infection, when spread through enough hosts, begins to develop a sort of collective consciousness.
The biggest downside to this book is just how shoe-horned in Han and Chewie feel. Don't get me wrong, it's always good to see those guys but they really weren't needed here and the fact that they will never again speak of their encounter with zombies makes it look less like a story-driven decision and more like one made by a soulless marketing executive at Lucasbooks.
Followed by Sean Williams' 'The Force Unleashed II'.
4 out of 5
Star Wars: Maul - Lockdown
32 BBY. Sith Lord Darth Maul is sent undercover in one of the galaxy's most brutal prisons, where the inmates are forced to fight to the death in gladiatorial combat.
Having absolutely loathed Schreiber's last Star Wars book, 'Red Harvest', I was very wary of this one and at the beginning it looked as if my fears were coming true. The book begins with Maul engaging in a series of needlessly gory and very repetetive fights, bringing back unpleasant memories of 'Red Harvest's increasingly tedious death scenes. However, just when all hope seems lost, the author manages to break the pattern and turn things around.
I don't usually like stories where the main character is imprisoned because it leads to repetition, tedium and endless introspection, but in this book Schreiber manages to avoid these traps by having Maul's imprisonment be voluntary as he has been tasked with locating the elusive weapons manufacturer Iram Radique. The fact that Maul is aggressively working towards a goal gives the narrative a strong driving force that pulls you along with it.
The introduction of insane Dark Jedi Komari Vosa (from the excellent 'Bounty Hunter' computer game) adds another level to the story, as do the short chapters in which we see Darth Sidious and Darth Plagueis pulling the strings behind the scenes.
There are a few bad things about the book, of course. As mentioned above, the gore and brutality is needlessly graphic and actually robs the book of some of its credibility, at times coming across like a B-list splatter movie. Worse than this is the fact that double-lightsaber wielding Sith Lord Darth Maul is under orders not to use the Force or his lightsaber. Whilst this makes for a unique challenge for the character, it robs him of all the stuff that made him cool and unique to begin with. You could pretty much swap Maul out for any nasty mercenary and not notice.
The worst thing, however, is the terribly incomplete-feeling ending and we never get to find out what Sidious' plans were nor why Maul's mission was so imperative. It seems almost as if this was originally intended as the start of a series which never came to pass (this was the last novel released before evil Disney rebooted the Star Wars canon).
Overall this is a largely enjoyable book which lacks a few elements that could have elevated it to greatness.
Followed by Terry Brooks' 'Episode I: The Phantom Menace'.
4 out of 5
Star Wars: Red Harvest
3,645 BBY. A prequel to 'Death Troopers' set amid the time period of 'The Old Republic'. Sith Lord Darth Scabrous discovers an ancient Sith secret which he believes will grant him immortality but which instead unleashes a plague of ravenous undeath on the students of the Odacer-Faustin Sith Academy.
Sadly, this book does not stand up well in comparison with its predecessor, 'Death Troopers'. Where that book focused on a small likeable group of characters trapped in a claustrophobic environment, here we're introduced to a much wider cast of characters, each less well conceived and less believable than the last, all milling about in the snow.
Also, there's only so many times you can read about someone gorily battling slavering zombies, being bitten and then turning into a slavering zombie themselves before the whole thing becomes tedious. Throw in other annoyances such as a Jedi apprentice who's wetter than a kipper, a psychic flower and singularly unintimidating Sith Lord, whose Darth name seems the pinnacle of ridiculous until you learn that he's following the teachings of one Darth Drear, and you have a recipe for disaster.
The one good thing about this book, the badass no-nonsense Jedi Knight Rojo Trace, is ruined by the fact that the author shamelessly and inexplicably lifts dialogue for him verbatim from the movie 'Taken'. How come no-one got sued for this?
All in all, this book really is the sort of trash that gives Star Wars fiction as a whole a bad name.
Followed by Sean Williams' 'The Old Republic: Fatal Alliance'.
1 out of 5