Sunday, April 29, 2012

Star Wars: Red Harvest

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by Joe Schreiber

A long long time ago, there was a ship filled with the living dead in a galaxy far far away. The captivating story of a ship full of Imperial dead shambling around was novel in the sense that the popular sci-fi franchise never tried to accommodate horror elements into it. At least never did it seriously. That was Joe Schreiber's Death Troopers (which was also another book shared in my previous article).

But the fact that this horrifying disease of living dead only struck on a ship full of Imperial mortals raised an interesting question, one which will eventually surface sooner or later: what if those weren't your usual bunch of mortals? What if those were Force wielders? Well, zombies carrying lightsabers is really a sight to behold, isn't it?

Whether Schreiber is a Jedi/Sith in disguise who can read minds or he has the foresight granted by the Force, he had came up with that story. The outcome: Red Harvest. And no, only Sith were affected, no zombie Jedi here. That's too bad...

The Harvest of Souls

Red Harvest is not just about shambling Sith undeads - this is also where it began, and Schreiber tried to explain the unanswered questions from Death Troopers. The infection which occurred in the previous story was revealed to be the fallout of an event 4,000 years before, and evil had a name: Darth Scabrous.

The planet of Odacer-Faustin was the site of a Sith academy, where beings from around the galaxy convened to learn the ways of the Dark Side in order to fuel their own dark ambitions. Unfortunately for them, Darth Scabrous' ambition was something far darker and sinister and the infection started out as the solution to his scheme.

Thrown into the mix was Jedi Hestizo Trace of the Jedi Agricultural Corps, which essentially was the place for the less powerful. Well, at least we now know that not all Jedi were godlike beings, which makes sense. She was the caretaker of a rare breed of orchid known as the Murakami orchid, and unfortunately was the final ingredient for Darth Scabrous' recipe to work. With her misadventure thus began and whether she will make it through unscathed (or undead) became the focus of the novel.

The Red Horror

As was the style of Schreiber, the novel kept the events up to the beginning of the infection short and straight to the point. Events in the story were narrated in a smooth continuous flow leading from the creation of the Sickness right up to the end where the protagonist finally leave the place successfully. By the time I finished the novel, I had the impression that the whole event took place within days when only a night had passed in the story.

As is the case with Death Troopers, horror is not the only element keeping it memorable. Each protagonist is given his own path through the story, his characteristics shown clearly through presented ordeals and the way he faced them. Most of the dramatis personae are mean and their deaths are a little of "they have it coming", but the fact that even some of the good guys who had struggled hard to the end still got defeated by the Sickness was memorably sad.

Death vs Red

In comparison, I still prefer Death Troopers as opposed to Red Harvest. Maybe it was the inclusion of something akin to black magic in the story, or it could be that despite the fact that the protagonists were Force wielders, they appeared puny and unable to defend themselves properly.

The more memorable scene of brother pitching against brother in the previous novel was replaced by another equally sad scene, although the latter somehow lacked the kind of impact the former had. It is undeniable though that the highlight of the story is not on what is most horrifying but on what is most saddening, which is what makes Schreiber's Star Wars horror novels unique and different.

The zombie horde was portrayed not as dumb shuffling things but intelligent and capable of learning. This element of the story shared between both novels was not having the same impact to me - somehow Red Harvest did not manage to portray them to be more powerful despite the fact that the turned were Force wielders, making them by right the most dangerous zombies.

The horror element in Death Troopers has more suspense as well since the environment was a spaceship with little space to run to. Red Harvest has the story happening on Odacer-Faustin, and maybe the impression that the protagonists had a whole planet to run around lessen the intense I felt from the previous novel.

In conclusion, this is a book which I would not recommend to first-time readers of Star Wars horror story. Go get Death Troopers, which is more satisfying. Get Red Harvest only if you had read the former, and would like to try this prequel out.


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