“Star Wars: Death Troopers” by Joe Schreiber (LucasBooks, 2009)

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All good horror novels have a foundation using a familiar horror trope, whether it be zombies, vampires, deepest darkest space, or creepy children.  The really great horror novels employ multiple tropes to become terrifying, page-turning nightmares that the reader simply can’t put down.  Star Wars: Death Troopers is one of those horror novels.

The Imperial Prison Barge Purge is on its way through deep space to a distant and forgotten moon to deposit its cargo of five hundred of the galaxy’s most ruthless prisoners, as well as two teenage brothers who are there on a nonexistent charge.  Everything is going as expected, or at least as expected as can be for Trig and Kale Longo trying their best to stay alive and wondering how their lives have come to this, until the Purge experiences engine trouble.  Fortunately there is a Star Destroyer nearby that is a derelict, abandoned.  Two teams are sent onto the destroyer with a couple of engineers to raid it for engine parts.  They return coughing and getting sicker by the second.  Zahara Cody, chief medical officer, scrambles to do what she can, but the sickness gets worse and people begin dying.  The virus spreads throughout the barge and soon bodies are dropping everywhere.  All that remain are the few people who are somehow immune: Trig and Kale, and Zahara to name a few.  Zahara also discovers two familiar characters locked up deep within the bowels of the ship in solitary confinement.

Then all the bodies come to life.  And these zombies are smarter than any we’ve seen before; they adapt to each situation, always looking to kill and conquer, always in search of fresh meat.

Joe Schreiber’s Star Wars: Death Troopers employs a number of great horror tropes that all combine to form one great novel which will have readers hooked from start to finish.  He manages the plot well, with riveting cliffhanger chapters, and makes it impossible to put down, while slowly dishing out the details so that full understanding and realization is not reached until the last few pages.  But these are all important facets of a great horror novel.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on October 13th, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

For an interview with Joe Schreiber check out BookBanter Episode 18.

“No Doors, No Windows” by Joe Schreiber (Del Rey, 2009)

No Doors, No Windowsstarstarstar

It’s been recommended that writers should stick to writing what they know when it comes to writing, and what better character can a writer write about than him- or herself . . . a writer.  But the writer in Joe Schreiber’s new novel, No Doors, No Windows, is one with a dark, disturbing past that even he doesn’t fully understand until the last few pages of the book, and has worked hard to forget and stay away from.  One hopes that Joe Schreiber isn’t anything like his character, Scott Mast.

Scott Mast wanted to make it big as a writer, but it never happened.  So now he spends his days living relatively well, writing copy for greeting cards.  He currently lives in Seattle and is happily far away from his family and old life where he grew up.  That is until his father dies and he must return home to New Hampshire, finding an alcoholic loser of a brother with a son who he neglects and fails at being a decent father to.  As Mast contemplates what he can do to help – there’s the touchy history of their mother having died fifteen years ago in a horrific fire – he discovers an unfinished manuscript his father was apparently working on.  It’s about a very special house where there are no corners or edges; everything is curved and rounded.  In this house there is a door that leads to “the black wing,” where there are no doors, and no windows; where terrible things happen.  But the story is unfinished and Mast decides that he must finish the book himself.  After meeting up with an old girlfriend (their failed relationship is its own doomed story), he stumbles upon a remote house that turns out to be exactly like the one in his father’s manuscript.

And so Mast rents the house and begins writing the story, feeling a strange presence overtake him when he is adding to the manuscript.  He knows it has something to do with the house, but he doesn’t know what.  Meanwhile his brother falls deeper into his booze-filled spiral, leaving young Henry alone and abandoned.  The clues gently fall in to place with each chapter, as Schreiber leaves the reader wanting more, forcing the turning of the page, and the need to know what is the story behind Scott Mast and his strange mental state; what’s the story behind the house; what’s the deal with Mast’s brother; and most importantly: what’s the story behind the Mast family that deals with the dark history of the town.  Horror readers will enjoy No Doors, No Windows for its psychological thrill ride that doesn’t get revealed and resolved until the very last pages of the book.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on October 11th, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

For an interview with Joe Schreiber check out BookBanter Episode 18.

Death Troopers Event

And here are some photos from tonight’s signing with Joe Schreiber at the Borders in Folsom:

Approaching Storm Troopers:

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Storm Troopers and Joe Schreiber:

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Me and Joe Schreiber:

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It was great to meet and chat briefly with Joe, and heard from him that there is in fact a Death Troopers t-shirt featuring the awesome cover, so will have to check that out.

BookBanter Episode 18 Now Available

Play Episode

October is also Star Wars appreciation month . . . no, that’s not true. But there is, however, a new Star Wars book — a horror novel in fact — that was released on October 13: Star Wars Death Troopers by Joe Schreiber and I had a chance to interview Joe and talk all about how he ended getting to write a Star Wars book, what this whole process was like, what it was like writing some very familiar characters, as well as a some tough questions like: “What’s your favorite Star Wars movie?” and “If you could be a Star Wars character, who would you be?” Schreiber also has another book out simultaneously, an original horror novel called No Doors, No Windows, which is also reviewed in this episode. And since it was a pretty short interview, I was able to feature some other reviews in the episode: Distant Early Warnings: Canada’s Best Science Fiction edited by Robert J. Sawyer, Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and my two humorous reviews for Brandon Sanderson’s Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians and Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener’s Bones.

If you would like to purchase any of these books, click on the covers below:

Death Troopers No Doors, No Windows Distant Early Warnings Hunger Games

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones

This episode of BookBanter is brought to you by Angie’s List. At Angie’s List you’ll find thousands of unbiased ratings on services for home improvements, car repairs, and even doctors. Gain access to thousands of reviews on local service providers for Home improvement Auto Repair, Accounting, Animal Care, Health Care and even Weddings.  Let Angie’s List take away the guesswork. Find the service provider your neighbors gave the highest rating.  Join Angie’s List and use promo code “book” for 25% off your membership!  Just go to Angieslist.com.

Otherwise, I’ll see you next time, on November 1st, where I’ll hopefully be interviewing author Seth Grahame-Smith, author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and we’ll also be talking about what else he’s working on.

Until then, keep reading!

Alex C. Telander.

BookBanter Episode 18

So BookBanter Episode 18 featuring my interview with Joe Schreiber has been put to bed, so to speak.  I’ve done all my recording and editing and it’s now off to my good friend, Jared Emerson-Johnson: sound wizard extraordinaire.  My interview with Joe ended up being about thirteen minutes long, which is one of the shorter BookBanter interviews, but this gave me the opportunity to feature extra book reviews in addition to the two for Joe Schreiber’s books.  So here’s what reviews you have to look forward to in Episode 18:

Death Troopers No Doors, No Windows Distant Early Warnings
Hunger Games Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones

Episode should be up hopefully between 11PM and midnight PST tomorrow, October 14th.

Part 2 of Interviewing: The Questions

When it comes to laying out the interview and choosing the interview questions that I will be asking, they tend to fall into three categories:

1) Questions about the new book, with reference to how the author came up with the story, what research was required, where certain characters came from, how certain events in the book came about, and whether there will be a sequel or continuation of the book.

2) Questions about the author with relation to writing, how they started writing, what sort of schedule they keep, what they use to write on, what advice they have for writers looking to get published.

3) Questions about the author’s life, what they do in their spare time, what they like to read and do for fun.

As you may have noticed my interviews tend to be laid out in the order of the categories above and for my first bunch of interviews I stayed very much to a set script of questions and rarely deviated from it with each interview.  I even had a last question — “What is your favorite TV show?” — with each interview.

Then in about the spring of 2009 I decided to really start varying the interview questions, changing them around, reshaping the format and asking different questions, to make each interview a little more unique.  The result is I think I enjoy the interviews more and it forces me to work a little harder at coming up with interesting questions, as well as that all important last question.

In Episode 18 which will be available October 15th, in my interview with Joe Schreiber — since it was related to his Star Wars horror novel Death Troopers — my last two questions were: What is your favorite Star Wars movie?  And if you were to be a character in Star Wars, which character would you be?

I now make the extra effort with that last question to either tie it in personally with the author or something more unusual that they wouldn’t usually get asked.  I think the result is definitely worth it.

Perhaps after another five or ten interviews, I’ll redo my interviewing format all over again.  Who knows?

Upcoming Book Review: Star Wars: Death Troopers

Episode 18 of BookBanter will feature my interview with author Joe Schreiber, and we talk a lot about his new horror novel Star Wars: Death Troopers, which I’m also reviewing, and here’s a sneak peek at it:

Star Wars: Death Troopers

All good horror novels have a foundation using a familiar horror trope, whether it be zombies, vampires, deepest darkest space, or creepy children.  The really great horror novels employ multiple tropes to become terrifying, page-turning nightmares that the reader simply can’t put down.  Star Wars: Death Troopers is one of these horror novels.

And you can check out my earlier post on what I thought of Death Troopers after finishing it.

Upcoming Book Review: No Doors, No Windows

Another review that will be appearing on the site and in Episode 18 is Joe Schreiber’s No Doors, No Windows, a dark and disturbing horror novel that serves as a good pairing  to Schreiber’s other book coming out, Death Troopers.  Both books will be available October 13th.

No Doors, No Windows

From my review for No Doors, No Windows:

It’s been recommended that writers should stick to writing what they know when it comes to writing, and what better character can a writer write about than him- or herself . . . a writer.  But the writer in Joe Schreiber’s new novel, No Doors, No Windows, is one with a dark, disturbing past that even he doesn’t fully understand until the last few pages of the book, and has worked hard to forget and stay away from.  One hopes that Joe Schreiber isn’t anything like his character, Scott Mast.

Death Troopers a la carte

Just wrapped up reading Death Troopers a couple of hours ago, and for my first Star Wars Universe book, I really enjoyed it. It doesn’t quite get the full five out of five stars, or four out of four “books” according to the BookBanter rating scale, for a couple of reasons which I will get to after talking about what I liked about the book.

Death Troopers employs a perfect recipe for a great horror novel, with a multitude of key ingredients. When cooking the perfect horror dish, it is always important to have some necessary base ingredients (like your flour, butter, eggs), such as darkness, space, the unknown, a virus, zombies, vampires, etc. Sometimes multiples of these base ingredients can be combined to make a stronger dish, where the extra “minor” ingredients simply add to the already good story.

Death Troopers excels in combining a number of these base ingredients. You have:

1/2lb of outer space
3 tbs of the unknown
1 qt of zombies
6 oz of blood and gore
2 cups of virus

And what makes the dish especially tasty are the extra ingredients:

1/2 L of the “sitting on the edge of your seat fear that everyone just might die” feeling
1/2 cup of cool Star Wars spaceships
1/4 cup of cool Star Wars references
A pinch of some familiar characters who show up

Death Troopers is a fantastic thrill ride that starts out as seemingly ordinary, well, as ordinary as a prison barge in a galaxy far far away can be, with little going on, and then goes to hell and pandemonium real soon, ratcheting up the stress, fear and excitement with the turn of each page.

The only things not giving this book a perfect review are:

1) The book weighs in at around 230 pages, and I was left wanting another couple hundred;

2) If it were a longer book, Schreiber would’ve had more time to explore the interesting characters he created, and more of their back story;

3) Also he would’ve been able to explore the reasoning behind the virus and the zombies; he does a fine job of explaining them, but the ideas was so cool that I wanted more.

Still, Death Troopers served (pun intended!) to pique my interest in the Star Wars novels, and clearly this is Del Rey’s intention as the book features a couple of chapters from Aaron Allston’s Star Wars Fate of the Jedi, Book 1: Outcast. Plus there’s a handy timeline (as I’m sure there is in every Star Wars book) listing how each and every Star Wars book fits into the continuity of the six movies.

After finishing Death Troopers, one wonders if Schreiber may be returning to the Star Wars Universe, and possibly within his own horror storyline.

I’ll be sure to ask when I interview him on Tuesday.

Now on to his other book: No Doors, No Windows.