I love zombies, I love them in what ever format I can find them: books, film, TV etc. As long as they are not there in the form of a ravenous horde trying to pound down the doors of my apartment building I am there. This winter I finished two zombie genre mash-ups. The first was BONESHAKER by Cherie Priest and the second was STAR WARS: DEATH TROOPERS by Joe Schreiber. The books were both fairly different, but both also gave me a good zombie fix.
BONESHAKER is a Steampunk zombie mash-up, and the first book in Cherie Priests Clockwork Century set in an alternative history where the civil war languishes on for decades and Zeppelins driven by steam are a major part of the war effort on both sides. Add into this the loss of Seattle due to a catastrophe with a steam powered drilling machine, the titular Boneshaker rampages across downtown Seattle opening up several bank vaults as well as a deposit of something called Blight Gas. Blight Gas is a nasty substance that is horribly toxic with the nasty side-effect of reanimating you into a very nasty, very hungry zombie, that are called rotters by the populace. There was a mass exodus and a wall built around the city to keep the gas and the bad things it birthed inside the city limits.
The story proper focuses on Briar Wilkes and her son Zeke. Zeke’s father Leviticus Blue was an inventor, and is considered by everyone to be the cause of Seattle’s fate as he invented the Boneshaker, and did all the damage on its first test drive. Zeke for his part wants to learn if his father is the monster everyone thinks he is, he wants answers, and he is willing to go over the wall to get them and to perhaps clear his father’s name. For her part Briar follows him into the city to try and rescue him. Briar also gets to face the consequences of her own actions after the city fell into chaos, and terror. They both discover that the other side of the wall is not just about zombies, there are people living behind the wall and under the city eeking out a living, all with their own agendas for those that live inside the wall and expectations of both Briar and Zeke.
The book is thoughtful and all the characters feel well fleshed out, and well integrated into the world. The action of the book is also a slow build as Priest takes the time to do a fair amount of world building, and the threat of the rotters is an equally slow build, creating a fair number of scares, and a growing feeling of dread. I enjoyed it and look forward to reading more from the Clockwork Century, and really want to see more of the war in future books in the setting.
DEATH TROOPERS is a STAR WARS novel that is set a few years before Episode IV, and is set on the Imperial Prison barge Purge that is trudging its way across hyperspace when there is a major malfunction in the drive system leaving the vessel stuck in the middle of no where, with no hope of rescue save for a Star Destroyer that appears abandoned and a drift in the same system. The Purge is full of the worst criminals in the galaxy, rebel sympathizers and aliens many of whom were cleared out to make the galaxy more palatable for Palpatine’s human centric empire. We are quickly introduced to a large cast of characters including Kale and Trig Longo, the sons of a griftermurdered in cold blood by the sadistic guard captain Jareth Sartoris in the infirmiry of doctor Zahara Cody and the 2-1B medical droid nicknames “Waste.”
A work detail is sent to the Star Destroyer to scavenge parts to repair the prison barge, from there badness happens, and zombies soon follow.As well as a LOT of gore, much more than you would expect in a STAR WARS novel. If BONESHAKER is a slow build, DEATH TROOPERS is a roller-coaster ride pretty much start to finish. The scares are fast and furious and mostly of the quick shock variety, at times the slow build is use. A lot of the inherent creepiness in the book comes from the familiar star wars tropes being shown in a new light. Zombie Wookies, kind of scary! Oh a couple of characters from the original trilogy do make an appearance in the last half of the book, but I wont spoil that bit of fun.
Final thoughts; this book is a lot of fun. It is a fast read and its all about action and scares, no big messages or big character development, its blasters and gore!