Star Wars: Red Harvest
by Joe Schreiber
Cover Artist: Indika and David Stevenson
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
LucasBooks Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780345511171
Date: 28 December 2010 List Price $27.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
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Joe Schreiber, best-selling author of Death Troopers, brings us another horrifying thriller set in the Star Wars universe. Red Harvest is a gory, fast-paced nightmare that is just as suspenseful and terrifying as its predecessor. Schreiber's fascination with zombies continues in Red Harvest. Whereas Death Troopers was set on a prison ship, this one is set in an academy for training Sith students. Both involve experimentations gone awry. Everyone wants to live forever and the amoral, Hitler-like Darth Scabrous is no exception. His experiments to create an elixir for eternal life have disastrous consequences.
The zombies found in Red Harvest reminded me of those in the horror classic The Evil Dead, starring Bruce Campbell, and George Romero's Land of the Dead. They are very difficult to destroy. Cut them up in little pieces and the pieces continue to move. There is one scene where a zombie throws its own severed head at a student dangling from the ceiling. It is best to shred and burn them. Also, the Red Harvest zombies are quite clever; they can think and plan strategies. They sometimes lay in wait to ambush their victims. Also, the zombies, like the pod people of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), love to scream when they encounter an uninfected human. As in Resident Evil, the Sickness affects the animals as well.
In Red Harvest, the virus becomes a character referred to as the Sickness. This is due to its primary ingredient, the Murakami orchid, which has the ability to communicate, especially with the Jedi So Trace. The Murakami orchid unwillingly creates the zombies. Another plant creature in this science fiction horror novel is the talking, moving tree, Dail'Liss, who is the ancient librarian. Other strange creatures include the tall, furry creature with the walrus tusks, Tulkh the Whiphid, who is a bounty hunter. There are also huge snow lizards, the tauntaun, which are used as beasts of burden, and flesh-eating bolski beetles, which Tulkh uses to strip away the flesh from trophy skins.
I didn't feel much sympathy for the Sith students; they are a paranoid, selfish, evil lot who look out for themselves. For example, one student purposely wounds another so that the zombies will attack him first while they make their escape. Whereas, the Jedi knights, So and Rojo Trace, are the actual heroes. They fight not only to save themselves but the lives of strangers. And they conduct much hand-to-hand combat with their light sabers. There is much reliance on the Force by both the Jedi knights and the Sith students. Some use it for evil and others use it for good. Red Harvest boils down to the classic theme of good versus evil.
The setting for Red Harvest is spooky and gloomy. It provokes feelings of isolation and despair. The Sith academy is an ancient, crumbling structure with a Satanic history of human sacrifice. It is located on Odacer-Faustin, a desolate, frozen planet where few can survive on their own. The students are virtually trapped there. A frozen setting is very popular among horror films such as Dead of Winter, Wind Chill and Cold Prey. However, while reading Red Harvest, I kept thinking of John Carpenter's science fiction horror classic The Thing.
Joe Schreiber's Red Harvest is a must read for fans of horror novels, especially ones with zombies. Combine intelligent zombies with a frozen wasteland and Star Wars characters and you have the ingredients for a best-selling science fiction horror novel. Schreiber has also relied heavily upon nostalgic elements of 1980s horror films to create a gory, slick rollercoaster ride that will chill and thrill many. Some may even puke. Another one of his bizarre horror novels which I highly recommend for its spooky, atmospheric setting is No Doors, No Windows: A Novel. Soon after reading this one, I became a devout fan of Joe Schreiber's novels.