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Literature / Death Troopers

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A somewhat Darker and Edgier Star Wars Legends horror novel by Joe Schreiber from 2009 that utilises one of the horror genre's most beloved elements - zombies.

Aboard the Imperial Prison Barge Purge, the engines break down in the middle of nowhere. The only place to repair them is a seemingly-deserted Star Destroyer nearby. After a team is sent over to find the parts, half of them go missing, and the other half bring back a deadly and seemingly-incurable plague to the rest of the guards and inmates. Flesh Eating Zombies ensue.

The story follows six characters - young brothers Trig and Kale Longo, resident doctor and sole female occupant Zahara Cody, sadistic Captain of the Guard Jareth Sartoris along with two prisoners lucky enough to be in solitary confinement until an antibody is found. Together they attempt to escape Purge without succumbing to the ravenous horde of the undead that is roaming both the barge and the nearby Destroyer.

In 2010, it was followed up by a prequel, Star Wars: Red Harvest, which delves into the origins of the virus over three thousand years ago at a Sith Academy. Tie-in content for Star Wars: Galaxies was also produced.

This novel provides examples of:

  • Apocalypse How: Initially a Type 3, with everyone except the six protagonists either dead or zombified, but then moves into a Type 3A when it turns out the virus was manufactured as a bioweapon by the Empire. Though possibly justified, since the Empire can just make more.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The Twitter accounts used in the novel's marketing, including one used by an eventually-zombified stormtrooper as he describes each step of the virus infecting his body.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Used with Warden Kloth, who is, quite simply, a nasty bastard.
  • Asshole Victim: It’s easier to count the sympathetic casualties as between the sadistic prison gangs, abusive guards, and cannibalistic Imperials decency runs pretty short in the story.
  • Asskicking Leads to Leadership: It is implied that Sartoris's unbridled brutality is part of the reason he leads the guards on Purge.
  • Ax-Crazy: The zombies when it comes to getting their meat. All of their intelligence flies out the window when a body is within biting distance which gets exploited by Sartoris a few times.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished / Beauty Equals Goodness: Played Straight with Zahara Cody, with the former being subverted right near the end.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Several officers on Purge kill themselves when infected by the virus, in order to avoid the painful death that awaits them.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Than anything else in Star Wars. What, did the cover not clue you in?
  • Censored Child Death: In a very gruesome way when an infant Wookiee is devoured by its parents. It's off-page, but jeez...
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Sartoris. He turns on both his own boss and on the men he finds in the Freebird, although with the latter this is understandable since they did try to eat him.
  • Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are: Used in the chase between Trig and a zombified Kale.
  • Cool Old Guy:
    • Von Longo was apparently one of these.
    • Wembly is the only guard on the purge sympathetic to the brothers, informing them of the mount put on them by Aur Myss and in his dying moments opens the prison cells so the brothers won’t be fated to starve to death.
  • Cover Drop: Characters split up from Zahara and Kale come across two Stormtrooper helmets as they trek through the Star Destroyer, and one of them hangs on a hook as depicted on the cover of the novel.
  • Darker and Edgier: In every way possible. This is not your average Star Wars novel.
  • Driven to Suicide: As the Longo brothers make their way past the quiet prison cells, they see that some of the sick inmates ended their suffering by killing themselves.
  • Dual Wielding: At one point, Zahara does this with syringes in order to administer an antivirus to an already-zombified victim. It only works temporarily, but she gets a computer password out of him before he turns back.
  • Eye Scream: Zahara defends herself from a zombified scientist by stabbing him in the eye with a syringe. The contents of the syringe bring back some of his past intelligence, and he plucks it out of the eye socket and tries to use it as a pen.
  • Everything's Deader with Zombies: Putting zombies in Star Wars.
  • Flesh-Eating Zombie: Part of the type used.
  • Flipping the Bird: Heavily implied when an inmate is described as making "a gesture that transcends language barriers" at Zahara in the medical bay
  • Guns Akimbo: Sartoris picks up two blasters from their sick owners as he make his way to Warden Kloth's office, where he intends to collect the datapad required to operate the escape pods.
  • Heel Realization:
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Sartoris jumps off the lifter used to save Trig, Han and Chewie, down to a hoard of literally thousands of zombies, just so the lifter has enough weight and thrust to escape. It helped that he was slowly being zombified.
  • The Immune: Implied with all of the main characters. It's a natural occurrence, although less than one in a hundred are immune. However, Zahara makes an antivirus from her blood, just in case.
  • Kick the Dog: Trig and Kale find the only escape pod remaining onboard. Just as they are about to enter it they are cornered by Sartoris, who threatens both of them (keeping in mind Trig is merely 13 years old) with a mouthful of blaster bolts if they take the pod. He then uses it to escape himself; earlier it had been revealed the escape pod can seat three. First he kills their dad, then he leaves them to die at the hands of the ravenous undead.
  • Killed Off for Real: Seemingly done at least three times with Aur Myss. Eventually it sticks.
  • Meaningful Name: Meta example: The writer is Joe Schreiber- which, incidentally, is archaic German and Yiddish for writer (not in modern German though).
  • Mercy Kill: Trig is forced to do this to Kale after he becomes a zombie.
  • No OSHA Compliance: As always for a Star Wars story, there are rail-less catwalks above bottomless chasms in the Star Destroyer. Here, however, the threat of the drop is enough to make Trig seek an alternate route.
  • No Party Like a Donner Party: This has been happening aboard the Freebird before Sartoris arrived, as Gorrister and his men have been trapped there for over two months, and they have been eating their weaker members to survive. They later try to include him.
  • No Zombie Cannibals: There are hundreds of hungry zombies prowling between the two large ships, and they are only content with the flesh of the uninfected.
    Gorrister: Too bad they can't eat their own.
  • Non-Human Undead: While different species have their own reactions to the zombie virus (humans start vomiting uncontrollably and Wookies' throats are clogged with liquids to the point of bursting), they all rise from the dead as mindless things looking for living flesh to devour.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The first half of the book features no undead directly appearing with most of the horror coming from how efficiently the virus wiped out the vast majority of the ship and latter how it’s clear that the corpses are moving but only sounds are heard.
  • Not Using the Zed Word: Averted. Han Solo uses the term once, but it's within the last ten pages after everyone's escaped.
  • Once is Not Enough: Subverted. When a zombie is discovered in the escape craft and gets shot, Zahara is smart enough to keep the blaster on it — not that it matters, since when they reach a certain distance from the source of the virus, the zombie dies naturally. Still, points for trying.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Oh boy is there ever. Major spoiler alerts ahead: While not necessarily fast, they are by no means slow. Unlike most zombie outbreaks, this one is airborne, and it seems less than 1 in 100 are immune, as in a prison barge with 500 prisoners and an unknown amount of crew, only 4 people are immediately immune. Get bitten and immunity means jack. Shooting them in the head does not kill them. The zombie does not need to have to have died from the virus to reanimate. The fact the virus seems to be sentient, alluding to a virus that is possibly force sensitive. Last, but not least, they learn, such as going from not knowing how to fire a blaster to deadly accurate within minutes. An antibody can actually be made, preventing you from getting infected from the airborne virus (though possibly immunity from bites as well, we never see someone with the antivirus get bitten). Finally, unlike most outbreaks, if they get too far from the source of the virus, they die.
  • Outside-Context Problem: Most of the story's horror comes from the fact that the Galaxy Far, Far Away is the least likely place to think of for a Zombie Apocalypse, even one localized in a starship. Most of the characters of the story are constantly on a "what the hell are those things?!" level of nervousness.
  • Plague Zombie: The type that become the Death Troopers.
  • Posthumous Character: Von Longo is dead and dissent pop up directly in the main story outside of his corpse leading the charge in the first zombie encounter. but he clearly had a big impact on both of his sons and it’s implied that Sartoris’s guilt from killing him is what motivated him to sacrifice himself to save the remaining cast.
  • Recycled In Space: This is basically a mixture of elements from Left 4 Dead and Dead Space transferred to the Star Wars setting using a novel and not a video game as the medium.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Sartoris already infected from a bite on his elbow decides to throw himself into the zombie hoard to distract them long enough so that the rest of the cast can escape on their ship.
  • Red Shirt Army: The crews of both the Purge and the Star Destroyer.
  • Saved by Canon: Han Solo and Chewbacca will survive to help Luke Skywalker and others to blow up the the Death Star a year later. Though they do get a taste of horror when Chewie becomes briefly infected by the zombie virus.
  • Shout-Out:
    • A few real-world examples - for starters, the vessel that the cannibal Imperial officers find is called the Freebird.
    • Not to mention that the leader of the aforementioned cannibals is named Gorrister.
    • The penultimate chapter of the novel is called "Death and All His Friends". This also ties into the soundtrack listing Schreiber put on his website, where it is one of the tracks mentioned.
    • There are two engineers named Phibes and Quatermass among the four that accompany Sartoris to the derelict Star Destroyer.
  • Slashed Throat: Aur Myss informs the Longo brothers that an unfortunate accident befell on the previous leader of the Face Gang: he was discovered in his cell with his throat slashed.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Trig, right after he kills his zombified brother Kale.
  • Vasquez Always Dies: Rare gender-flipped example: Kale, the more spirited, proactive, generally pretty badass Longo gets his face half blown off and turned into a zombie; Trig, the more useless, tag-along brother, survives.
  • Villain Protagonist: Sartoris is one of the main characters and for the majority of the book is a traitorous dick who killed the Lango brothers father in the backstory and later steals the only escape pod from them. It isn’t until Sartoris narrowly survives the cannibalistic crew that he begins showing any sympathetic traits.
  • The Virus: The reason all but six of Purge's occupants become undead. Turns out to be a new bioweapon developed by Imperial research and development, Imperial bioweapons Project I71A, that gets way out of hand.