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Friday, December 17, 2010

Star Wars: Red Harvest

Star Wars: Red Harvest
by Joe Schreiber
(2/5 stars)

When I read and reviewed "Night of the Living Trekkies," which covered similar bloodstained ground, I complimented the book for delivering exactly what it promised. Such can not be said of "Red Harvest," which fails to deliver on the promise of Jedi/Sith fighting zombies.

Oh sure there are zombies and there are two Jedi and some Sith, but it never really amounts to anything. From a pure geek standpoint there's nothing COOL about any of the fights. There are a couple of times when a Jedi or Sith hacks apart a few of the zombies with a lightsaber. But there's nothing that comes within tauntaun spitting distance of the sweet lightsaber fights from the movies--even the dreadful prequels. That's a big letdown and as something of a Star Wars geek (especially when it comes to lightsaber battles) I can't overlook it.

If you want a plot summary it's pretty simple. Long ago during the time of the Old Republic (some thousands of years before even the Star Wars prequels) there were a lot more of the evil Sith lords (the "dark side" of the Force like Darth Vader in the Emperor if you're not up to speed on all the prequel stuff) who have their own academies, which are like an evil version of Hogwarts. The head of this academy is Darth Scabrous, who is researching a way to become immortal, which requires a very special orchid.

Just such an orchid is being raised by a Jedi named Zo Trace. What's so special about the thing is that the orchid requires the Force to grow, so it essentially has bonded with Zo. When a bounty hunter comes to steal it, Zo has to go along or else the plant would die.

Once they get to the planet, Scabrous uses the orchid to create some weird concoction that causes some of the Sith students to become zombies. They in turn start attacking others and from then on it's a fight for survival.

The zombies generally operate under "28 Days Later" zombie rules, which means they're fast, as opposed to the shambling "Night of the Living Dead" zombies. What would have made things better is if the zombies could use the Force and their lightsabers.

The author does such a poor job juggling the characters that I question if he's seen any zombie movies at all. I'm not exactly the expert, but I've seen a few, enough to know that you have to have your varied characters come together into one tight-knit group. (See "Night of the Living Dead," "Dawn of the Dead," "28 Days Later," "Zombieland," and even "Shaun of the Dead.") But this never happens until the very end; the characters remaining isolated from one another until that point. Really, there is a formula to writing a good zombie story and if you're going to deviate from that you need to have something better than this.

Also, the author at a couple points uses colloquialisms with the Sith students. Star Wars characters do not say "Whatever" or "Fail." I don't care what year it's taking place in the Star Wars universe, that just shouldn't happen. At least they didn't say, "Talk to the Hand," so we got that going for us.

From a purist standpoint this book itself is an abomination, a cheap way to cash in on the resurgence of zombies in popular culture. I would have been willing to give it more slack if it was fun or had some good fight scenes. Since it doesn't, I definitely can't recommend this.

That is all.

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