Death Troopers, Joe Schreiber (Balantine Books, 2009/Audible Audio Edition) Narrator – Sean Kenin

Grade: Ε — Readable in genre, but you could probably do better.  

In brief:

Han Solo versus the Zombies.  What starts out as an interesting premise of combining two genres degrades into a series of clichés highlighted by purple prose

Setting:

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

In Depth:

I wanted to like this book.  I liked Star Wars, I like horror stories. In fact, the book started off well, not the best read, but certainly interesting enough to keep my attention.  Then, right about the time Han Solo and Chewbacca show up (about a third of the way through the text), it starts to fail.  There are numerous poorly handled mid-chapter Point-of-View shifts that pull me out of the story, and prose gradually becomes so purple that one can barely wade through the story because of its use.  Indeed, sometimes the use of adjectives even contradict one another.  There is one point in the story where someone lets out a silent scream that comes out sounding more like a choke (or groan or something).  Tell me, if the scream is silent, how does it sound like anything?

Additionally, one of the strengths of horror genre is not knowing who is going to make it out.  In this case, by adding main characters of the Star Wars series into the tale, the doubt is removed.  Added to this, there are a large number of “unfired guns” that lurk in the story.  Early on, there is a good description of a horrible experiment that witnessed by a minor character who is an artist and finds the image appealing in a dreadful way.  Yet, nothing ever comes of it.  The character never draws it, it is never mentioned again, and in no way plays out to the rest of the story.  It had all the earmarks of something important, but ends up being nothing more than a pointless and gratuitous use of verbiage.

By the end of the story, I have been so overwhelmed with compound adjectives and adverbs, not to mention clichés, that I am just happy that it’s over.  It is a pity, because parts of it showed promise. 

Notes About Audio Edition:

Sean Kenin does an admirable job of narrating this book. In fact, he does so good a job that he manages to make some of the purple prose move down the spectrum and seem almost blue.  Sadly, there is, however, only so much a narrator can do to overcome the weaknesses of the manuscript.

Additionally, the production and direction of the audio version suffers from what is becoming a more common ailment in audio books: it cannot decide if it’s a narration or a dramatization.  It uses lots of music and sound effects throughout, which pulls one away from the story rather than pulling one into it.  In a dramatization this can work very well (for example, listen to the BBC’s version of the Lord of the Ring), in a narration it does the opposite.  Here, the use of special effects to change voices when it is a droid speaking is fine, but blaster sounds and undead howls take things away from one’s imagination and replace it with hackneyed SFX

Especially irritating are the chapter headings, where Kenin reads the title, say, Coffin Jockies, and another voice in the background screeches out the same name in what supposes is an undead howl.  It works the first couple of times, but becomes ridiculous after the fifth chapter. 

Thrown on top of the over descriptive prose, the result makes the whole thing seem a bit ridiculous.  Still, hats off to Sean Kenin, whose skill almost made a mediocre story work.

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About Thomas Evans

I'm a writer of mysteries, espionage, and speculative fiction. In my previous incarnation I was an archaeologist specializing in gender and identity in Iron and Bronze Age Europe. Mostly, however, I was known for my works with the use of geomatics, multiscalular spatial analysis and landscape theory within archaeology.
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4 Responses to Death Troopers, Joe Schreiber (Balantine Books, 2009/Audible Audio Edition) Narrator – Sean Kenin

  1. Ang says:

    Is it true that all Star Wars novels have to be Cannon? If so, does that mean there is a ship of Zombies floating out there in space, waiting for Luke and friends to find it?

  2. Redhead says:

    it’s too bad Death Troopers sucked, Joe Schrieber is a pretty good writer. I really liked his No Doors, No Window, which is good, old fashioned psychological horror. he needs to be writing his own stuff, and not this shared universe junk.

    • Thomas Evans says:

      I’m glad to hear his other stuff is good. Like I said, this one started out really well, but it just got sucked into the worst cliche’s of both genres.

      Mind you, I understand that writing in the Star Wars cycle can be pretty odious. They make you stay in cannon (see previous comments), which pretty much limits what you can do. Of course, they pay well, there is a big following who will buy it just because it’s Star Wars and it sky-rockets your name recognition so I’d do it. too.

      I’ll have to give No Doors, No Window a try

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