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Thursday, 19 April 2012

AFICIONADO REVIEW: 'RED HARVEST'



STAR WARS: RED HARVEST

Written by Joe Schreiber

Published in UK paperback and online from ARROW BOOKS

Reviewed by Scott Weller


Before Luke Skywalker, before Darth Vader, before Yoda, there were zombies!

At least that’s the STAR WARS universe idea relayed through the mind of the gruesomely descriptive and inventive author Joe Schreiber, as he unleashes Red Harvest: his latest unique, gory and reader satisfying tale of horror set within George Lucas’s fantasy universe that successfully incorporates our twenty-first century’s continuing fascination with the popular Zombie sub-genre horror and its trappings whilst also building on what the author had previously explored and established in his critically acclaimed first hit Expanded Universe gore-fest: Death Troopers.

This time, Schreiber swaps Imperial Stormtroopers for pre-EMPIRE Sith Lords of 4,000 years past, located within a gothic-style Sith training academy on the far-off arctic cold ice planet of Odacer-Faustin - what better place for a zombie infestation of mutation, carnivorous hunger and death to gather its strength? And it’s Darth Scabrous, the Sith Lord with his own unique and perverted plans to rule eternal, working in controlled isolation inside his Doctor Frankenstein-ish laboratory, who ultimately brings this frightening state of affairs into shocking reality, abducting students for his continuing experimentation and implementation: the kind of recombient DNA nightmare that would scare the hell out of your average Midi-chlorians, and creating a deadly new scenario that not even the obnoxious and competitive, greedy for power Sith students, located in their several hundred fold, and despite their developing dark arts Force training, are prepared for. Now, their ruthless in fighting and dog eats dog mentality become even more disturbing when they are zombie-fied. Indeed, some of the Sith, obviously recognizing the raw power of the infection, and its physical power, even want to be infected.

Those Sith-wannabes that survive the onslaught and group together in the books mid-section soon find their built-in instincts for individual survival and ambition getting in the way as their infected brothers and sister close in for the kill. They may not be pretty, but at least you know where you stand with a zombie!

Intrinsically linked to all the emerging madness and chaos, and keeping with the horror film genre’s standing current tend for giving us vulnerable but plucky young heroes, Schreiber delights in putting inexperienced Jedi Agriculturalist Hestizo Trace in total harms way, when she and her rare Murakami Black orchid, the ultimate progenitor of the Zombie disease-whom she has a rare gift of telepathic parley, are plucked forcibly away from her peaceful research environs and into the greatest and gravest of dangers on the Sith Academy world, soon fighting to survive within an environment more hostile and horrifying than any she has ever known, within an enclave full of rundown corridors and off-shoot buildings built around a large central spire: a perfect primary setting for this Sith apprentice school nightmare!

Though her Jedi brother, Rojo Trace, is soon hot on her trail, events quickly spiral out of control and time is running out. Even together, and as the Sith trainees all become Zombie cannon fodder as the story builds to its inevitable, tense last survivors finale battle, will their abilities in the light side of the Force be enough to resist and prevent the oncoming Red Harvest?

US version book cover.

Schreiber knows how to make the most of his genre crossing and enthusiastically keeps the horror/adventure a well-paced page-turner, increasing his delightful and evocatively macabre vocabulary of slaughter and horror linked to the creatures and their bloody carnage. (At one point bringing memorable new meaning to the words don’t lose your head!). Revealing and exploring more of the contagion’s origins and it's affects on the living Force, the author also finds many ingenious, multitude new ways to kill his (mostly cannon fodder) main characters-whom you don’t really care about just want to expectantly see Zombie-fied, go on a cannibalistic flesh hunt and then get taken out in the bloodiest ways possible! The author also

On the STAR WARS front, references to Schreiber’s obviously favourite film-THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK-abound, what with the ice world locale, the appearance of Bounty Hunters, and some ultimately very unlucky Tauntauns! Other fine supporting players beyond the Jedi and Sith include a fun to see a pre-RETURN OF THE JEDI Whiphid bounty hunter and a Sith valet droid with a few surprises up its sleeves. Continuing a fine SW movie tradition, he even manages to give the Sith “a bad feeling” about the evil brewing against them!

Percolating its unique blend of George Lucas’s mythic action, fused with the goriest and bloodiest of horror, the author clearly loves his work bringing out the Zombie in the STAR WARS Expanded Universe. Overall, I think I still prefer Death Troopers to Red Harvest, primarily because it had a more diverse range of more interesting characters, plus the inspired addition of Han and Chewie, but this new novel is enjoyable enough continuation fare, and, keeping the same kind of page count as its predecessor, is a quick and diverting read.

Ok, we've had Jedi and Sith take them on, then Han, Chewie and the Imperials. Now how about a finale involving Luke, Leia and Vader?


AFICIONADO RATING: An I was a teenage Sith Zombie-tastic 7.5 out of 10

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