Star Wars: Red Harvest - Joe Schreiber Zombies, Blood, and Gore, Oh My!

Darth Scabrous is cooking up a little potion that is supposed to be the Fountain of Youth, of sorts. He hires Whiphid bounty hunter, Tulkh, to get a Murakami orchid from the Jedi. Tulkh does this, but also picks up Jedi Knight, Hestizo "Zo" Trace. But Scabrous' mixture doesn't quite create what he wanted...sure, the poor Nicktr is immortal, but he's also a Living Dead out to kill whomever stands in his path. *Gulp*

NOTE: I received the NOVEL form via Amazon's Vine Program. At one point, I'll revise this review to include my new insights from actually reading the book.

These books (Death Troopers and Red Harvest) have come under quite a bit of fire because, I guess, they are cliched and don't feel Star Wars. I'm still scratching my head over that. Sure, the zombie/horror cliches abound in droves in these books, and a lot of unknown or new characters are used, but I thought the whole point of these books was to bring in a new genre into the realm of Star Wars. I think Schreiber does a more than decent job, given what he has to work with. That said, however, I still find Red Harvest not as strong a novel as Death Troopers was.

The entire cast is brand new, so basically, any one of them may die during the course of this novel. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing; Death Troopers got a lot of flak for two high profile (and very much alive post-DT) characters that pop in at the halfway mark. So I like not knowing who will survive to the end. However, I almost wish there was ONE name I did recognize. But by far, the biggest problem I had with the cast was the size. There seemed to be a bajillion characters, and I had difficulty juggling who each one was, where each one was, and what he/she was doing. Hand in hand, none of the characters really stood out. Darth Scabrous was an interesting villain, but he pretty much was Crazy Insane Evil Scientist/Sith. Hestizo Trace made me want to slap her. I felt she was completely useless (she ALWAYS has to have someone else come to save her). Her brother, Rojo Trace, serves absolutely no other purpose than to fill out the page count and make Hestizo look even more useless than she already is. There were a bunch of Sith students, but I could only remember Nicktr and Lussk. The rest were blanks. Well, except for the one character I found myself really liking, the Whiphid bounty hunter, Tulkh. Man, I didn't think I would get so attached to him, but I thought he was well-written and DIFFERENT. (Yay to Schreiber for including non-humans--even if he is one of the ONLY non-humans in the book...)

I actually didn't mind the "talking flower" addition to the storyline. Schreiber really made it work (perhaps because he calls back to the cheesy B-movies of the 50's/60's?). In fact, during the first half, I was really interested in and was 100% ready to give this a 4 star. However, as the story progress, it got hampered by the unweildy cast, a lot of distractions that the characters are forced through (climbing up ravines, running there only to have to run back to here), and the STUPID inclusion of having to eat the heart of a Jedi (good GOD, is this "Temple of Doom"?!). In fact, that last plot point is what really drug down the rating. Oh, that and how the protagonists escape in an almost identical scene to Death Troopers (if not identical, then suspiciously similar). Copy-paste, much?

John Glover, of Smallville fame (at least, that's how I know him), narrates this, and ZOMG, he is SO FRAKKIN' AWESOME! Five thousand stars for his performance in this. He has the PERFECT voice for horror, and, as unbelievable as this sounds (at least, it did to me), he can do some half-decents voices!! I loved the childish voice he gave the orchid (maybe that is why I actually didn't mind that plot point...). This was literally the best 8+ hrs of my life; in fact, I found myself having to go BACK on my iPod because I got stuck listening to his voice and not what he was saying!!!

Red Harvest isn't as strong as Death Troopers, but it's a decent zombie novel (NOTE: the faint of stomach should avoid AT ALL COSTS, it is just as gory and violent and disgusting as Death Troopers). It was definitely different, played around in an unexplored era, and provided backstory to Death Troopers. If you didn't like Death Troopers, run, don't walk, away from this book. Otherwise, sure, give it a try. I highly recommend the audiobook...

UPDATE 11/09/12: I just finished rereading this book for my Star Wars Book Club's scary Halloween book. Here are a few of my thoughts.

I found myself liking Rojo Trace and Tulkh way more. Especially Tulkh. I thought he was a cool character before, but this time around, I found even more to like about him. His competence, his quiet resolve, the way he was kinda creepy, yet was considerate enough to look out for Hestizo. Rojo Trace was also more interesting; he was a Jedi, but not friendly and outgoing as you might expect. Instead, he was rather single-minded and cold.

Unfortunately, my earlier character assessment also rang true. First off, there were way too many human characters for a book set when the Sith reign (and by "Sith" I mean the species, not just the religious order). Secondly, there were only TWO females in the entire book. Not cool. Thirdly, those two females were rather pathetic, even up against all the pathetic characters. Hestizo Trace continuously has to be saved. In her defense, I will say she does get a moment to shine, and at the end she makes an important decision about what to do with her life. However, I thought her job pretty much amounted to being captured and having a man save her. Not cool. Kindra was a bit better - she was definitely more competent and capable.

I had trouble picking apart the Sith students from each other. The only one that stood out was Scopique, and I think that was more because he was Zabrak than because he had an actual character. I was rather disappointed that some characters who had been earmarked as being super important disappeared for half the novel only to turn up at the very end. And I realize all these complaints may be silly because this is a "plot-driven" novel, but I do like to have characters to cheer for in a race against death.

I still liked the story. There was something about the "Evil Orchid" that just worked, like the B-movie I spoke of in my initial review. However, I still think it's incredibly stupid and silly that the ONLY WAY to get immortality is to cut out the heart of a Jedi and eat it live. It really makes no sense. Why would the midichlorians of a Jedi work? Why not use a Sith heart? Why does the heart need to be cut out with a Sith blade? Why does it have to be eaten live? Wouldn't drinking blood worked? Oh, right...rule of DRAMA!

This book definitely has flaws. Characterization isn't its strong suit, the story is a bit goofy in places. But if you want something that is fast-paced, quick to read (it's really only 255 pages in paperback!), and gory (and when I say gory, I am NOT overstating it - do NOT eat while reading this!), this is certainly not the worst thing you could read. And it does make a good Halloween book.