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Rating: 4 out of 5.
  • Narrated by Sean Kenin
  • A Standalone Novel
  • Part of the Expanded Universe/Legends canon
  • This audio version published 2022
  • Zombies. In. Space.
  • 6hrs 41min

The Imperial prison barge Purge. Home to five hundred prisoners ranging from rebels to murderers, now drifts in space. As a deadly plague ravages the inmate population, the survivors are forced to unite. Because this virus does more than just kill. It brings the dead back . . .

It is a truth universally accepted that, sooner or later, zombies will find their way into every franchise. Frankly, I’m surprised it too as long for Star Wars to embrace the undead as it did. Granted, there have been dalliances prior to Death Troopers hitting bookshelves. Force Ghosts don’t really count, but Knights of the Old Republic II featured Darth Sion, a Sith corpse held together by pure hatred, while its predecessor featured the rakghoul plague, which was effectively a zombie outbreak. But there’s never been a proper zombie horror story. Never a disparate group of survivors being hunted and turned by flesh-eating reanimated corpses. Death Troopers corrects that oversight, and in the hands of horror veteran Joe Schreiber, brings a healthy dollop bit of blood and guts to a galaxy far, far away.

Coming off the back of the rather more bombastic Rogue Squadron audio rereleases, Death Troopers is a much more subdued affair. The sound effects are minimal. Save for the steady hum of a ship and the occasional flash of a blaster bolt, it’s almost pure narration. The exception being the chapter introductions, which move from a whisper to a screech as the tension ramps up with each new chapter. The quieter tone actually works surprisingly well. While at first I was disappointed not to have the full display seen in other recent audios, Death Troopers‘ near-silence adds to the chill of the early chapters. While there is gore and violence, Death troopers is arguably better in its quieter moments. The real horror is what we don’t see. There’s a foreboding sense of doom hanging over every muted conversation, and the limited effects allow Kenin to make the most of the small cast he has to work with. The characters are distinct, and you have time to know each one by voice alone.

The real strength of a zombie apocalypse is not knowing who will make it out alive. Schreiber knows this, and isn’t afraid to kill of the small number of characters he has to work with. Sometimes it’s a heroic sacrifice, but sometimes it’s just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The only real misstep is the introduction at the halfway point of two major Star Wars characters. These two characters, appearing as they do in stories set beyond this point, are clearly safe, which does reduce the tension in their otherwise well-written scenes. Having said that, having two guaranteed survivors does give Schreiber free reign to go to town on his other characters.

Given the inevitability of zombies appearing in Star Wars, the tropes are handled very well here. There’s a certain predictability about the doom hounding our protagonists, but that’s what zombie fans are here for. The level of violence is also a fair bit higher than most Star Wars offerings, with blood spraying, skin peeling, and grotesque events being the norm. It’s good stuff for those with a slightly stronger stomach. Importantly, it never feels out of place for the universe, especially when the origin of the outbreak is revealed.

Death Troopers is a short but brutal piece of zombie action that will leave you a little less hungry than when you started.

If you enjoyed this book, you might also like:
Warhammer Horror: Sepultrum, by Nick Kyme
Newbury & Hobbes: The Revenant Express, by George Mann
Star Wars: Red Harvest, by Joe Schreiber

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