I once read that less than 1% of all novels submitted are actually published; one source actually put it at .03%. If those statistics are true, imagine the odds of an author having two new novels published on the same day. On October 13, Joe Schreiber saw the publication of his Death Troopers, “the first-ever Star Wars horror novel,” and No Doors, No Windows, a pretty scary haunted-house ghost story, and both just in time for Halloween.
Before the start of Death Troopers, readers are provided with a handy timeline, which places dozens of Star Wars books chronologically in reference to the motion pictures. Death Troopers takes place just before Star Wars: A New Hope—Year 0.
Teenage brothers Kale and Tris Longo and their father, a family of minor grifters, have been arrested and are being transported aboard the Imperial Barge Purge to a prison colony. Jareth Sartoris, captain of the guards, has just tortured and killed the boys’ father, and they are mourning the loss in their prison cell when the barge’s thrusters mysteriously stop, weeks away from their destination.
Fortunately for the plot, an Imperial destroyer is not too far away. But just as mysteriously, that ship appears all but deserted and adrift as well. Nevertheless, several members of the crew board the destroyer to try to scavenge parts to get the Purge running again.
Soon folks on the Purge begin to sicken and die. Like Captain Trips, the super flu in Stephen King’s The Stand, the prisoners and crew have been infected by a disease that is fatal to 99+% of the population. The Longo brothers and Zahara Cody, the doctor on the Purge are among the few survivors. But unlike those killed off by King’s super flu, the victims on the destroyer and the barge don’t stay dead.
In addition to hundreds of zombie storm troopers, try to imagine if all of the bizarre denizens of the cantina scene from A New Hope were zombies, or if the folks rising from the graves in Night of the Living Dead were alien beings from other star systems. Expect a lot of bone munching, flesh gobbling and other gross-out action, along with death-defying catwalk leaping and nick-of-time life saving. Also expect a familiar Wookie and a charming smuggler to make an appearance midway through the book.
Normally, I don’t read Star Wars books—there are just way too many of them, but, when I heard that this was the first Star Wars horror novel, I had to give it a try. Death Troopers isn’t great horror or great Star Wars, but it is a quick and fun interlude in the Star Wars saga. Pay special attention to the names of some of the characters for literary and movie references.
No Doors, No Windows is a really spooky and tension-filled haunted-house novel, definitely a recommended read for the Halloween season.
The book begins with a pretty common ghost-story set-up: Scott Mast returns to his New England hometown for his father’s funeral after many years away. He discovers an unfinished manuscript in his father’s shed that tells of depravities that take place in a huge rambling mansion that has no true corners and no straight lines. Scott finds out that the “Round House” really exists deep in the woods, and he feels compelled to rent the house and try to finish his father’s book there. As he explores the house, he finds more and more hints that the events in the manuscript may actually have taken place.
In addition, Scott originally left town after his mother died in a fire at the local movie house that killed quite a few of the townspeople. His family had a lot more to do with that tragedy than he ever knew, and there may be connections between the fire and his father’s book. His brother, a hopeless drunk, stayed behind, and Scott’s nephew may be just as haunted as Round House. Scott wants to save the boy, but he might not even be able to save himself.
No Doors, No Windows, which seemed to start out as a cliché, eventually takes on a surprising originality and combines Gothic tropes in a fine mix of supernatural and psychological horror.
Joe Schreiber’s previous horror novels are Chasing the Dead and Eat the Dark. I think it’s time I checked those out.
Mark Graham reviewed books for the Rocky Mountain News from 1977 until the paper closed its doors in February 2009. His “Unreal Worlds” column on science fiction and fantasy appeared regularly in the paper since 1988. He has reviewed well over 1,000 genre books. If you see a Rocky Mountain News blurb on a book, it is likely from a review or interview he wrote. Graham also created and taught Unreal Literature, a high school science fiction class, for nearly 30 years in the Jefferson County Colorado public schools.