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Bane of Kings reviews Red Harvest by Joe Schreiber, a Star Wars novel with the added bonus of horror, published in the UK by Arrow and in the US by Del Ray Books, and has just been recently released in paperback, which is the version you’ll see on the left. You’ll find a non-paperback cover of Red Harvest below.
“A fast paced, no holds barred, spectacular display of action. Intriguing right the way through.” ~The Founding Fields
Long term followers of The Founding Fields may remember my review of Death Troopers, by the same author. Well, Red Harvest is a prequel, and is set before The Phantom Menace, in the era of the Old Republic, whereas Death Troopers was set after The Return of the Sith. Well, needless to say, it was only a matter of time before I brought Red Harvest, and although I took slightly longer to buy it than expected, it turns out that I really enjoyed Schreiber’s take on the Sith. Yes, this novel is about the Dark side of the force, the Sith themselves, in a time before they were limited to just two. There is a whole academy of these guys, and yeah – as expected, things are already pretty tense before the zombies (Yes, zombies do appear in Red Harvest), even make their appearance.
And did I mention that the zombies had lightsabers?
Yeah. That’s one of the reasons why I leapt at the chance to read Red Harvest as soon as I brought it. I’d seen the way they’d been portrayed in Death Troopers and only wanted more. These are smart zombies. They learn from their mistakes, unlike the ones in like, say – Sean of the Dead, which was one of the reasons why I found Death Troopers appealing. Check out of the blurb, courtesy of Goodreads below:
Unlike other young Jedi sidelined to the Agricultural Corps—those whose abilities have not proved up to snuff—Hestizo Trace possesses one extraordinary Force talent: a gift with plants. But suddenly her quiet existence among greenhouse and garden specimens is violently destroyed by the arrival of an emissary from Darth Scabrous, a Sith Lord with a fanatical dream poised to become nightmarish reality. For the rare black orchid that Hestizo has nurtured and bonded with is the final ingredient in an ancient Sith formula—crucial to the Dark Lord’s obsession, but with consequences far worse than fatal. Now, spawned by a heretofore unknown virus, the rotting, ravenous dead are rising, driven by a bloodthirsty hunger for all things living—and commanded by a Sith Master who lusts for power and the ultimate prize: immortality . . . no matter the cost.
Schrieber’s novel is exactly what it looks like, which is a relief. There’s no chance for misinterpretations here, and if you came for a novel about Sith students getting chopped up by zombies, then this is the novel that you will be satisfied with. However, as much as I enjoyed the fast paced, well written action, there was still a few flaws to be found with Red Harvest, and there’s still a few things that could be improved upon.
Namely the characters. There isn’t any real depth to them, there isn’t anything that makes them stand out in particular as memorable characters. In a book with memorable characters, I can pretty much recall their names. But in this one, bar Darth Scabrous and Hestizo Trace, the two characters mentioned above (and Darth Scabrous is probably the sole exception to this rule), there isn’t any memorable characters at all, and I had to look up names such as Whiphid bounty hunter, Tulkh, Nicktr and Lussk, two Sith students, in order to spark my memory. I’m pretty good at remembering them most of the time, but in Red Harvest, as already mentioned, I struggled to recall them. Maybe Schreiber could have made the novel a bit longer if he’d decided to take the time in adding more depth for the characters, and allow us to get to know them more, so we would be able to remember their names without having to look them up on Goodreads or Wikipedia.
However, there was a few things that I liked about the characters, and they weren’t all let downs. Schreiber manages to create a considerable amount of tension in Red Harvest, and nobody seems safe in the novel. Just as you think you’re getting to know a character, and they might start to become memorable, and they might have a chance of escaping… Schreiber takes away that chance. Nobody’s safe, especially when you’re in an Academy full of Sith students, where the novel in question is set, and the attack is just as likely to come from behind your own lines as it is likely to come from that of the enemy.
I mentioned earlier on in this review about the cover art, and for this novel, there are two. The first one, and the one that can be found above, is the paperback cover, and features a zombie-wielding a Sith Lightsaber clawing its way to freedom. Now, as cool as that looks, it doesn’t really compare to the awesomeness that is the darker, moodier cover art on the left, that gets across the fact that this novel is defiantly going to be a whole lot gloomier than the paperback.
This begs the question really, why did the publishers switch cover arts? And, that also begs the question, why produce such a slim novel in hardback in the first place? Surely it’d be better off as a straight-to-paperback release, with the cover that is used for the current hardback, as – after all, Red Harvest clocks in at a slim 320 pages for the paperback version alone, whilst the hardcover stands at an even slimmer 256 pages. Now, I understand that this is a frequent pattern with Star Wars novels, but really? 256 pages for a £20 (give or take a couple of pounds) Hard-cover novel?
But what you get though, no matter how much you pay for it, is a fun read. Sure, it may not be the next Iain M. Banks or Alastair Reynolds, but Red Harvest is certainly an enjoyable novel. If you’re looking for gore, Sith, fast-paced action, a small-sized book, then this novel is the one for you.
More Star Wars by Joe Schreiber: Red Harvest, Death Troopers.
Previous Star Wars Novel: The Old Republic: Fatal Alliance by Sean Williams
Next Star Wars Novel: Knight Errant by John Jackson Miller