No lightsabers. No Jedi. Nothing but dark space and the things shambling after you on a derelict Star Destroyer. They are hungry and dead, but not mindless. They are growing. Evolving. Planning...and very, very angry. They are swarming everywhere, and they have one desire – to feed.
Blasters just aren't going to work, this time.
Zombies are the current “big thing”, inspiring everything from literary romance/horror “mash-ups” (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), to film satire (the upcoming Zombieland, starring Woody Harrelson). Given this, it was only a matter of time before zombies took on the next frontier, infecting a place “far, far away”. In many ways the result is a standard “zombie novel”. Joe Schreiber writes it well, however, invoking a cold dread new to the Star Wars universe. There are genuinely creepy moments here, almost verging on those found in the original Alien, and Schreiber's spin on zombification is fresh enough.
Existence aboard the Imperial prison barge Purge is miserable. Jammed-packed with the most ruthless killers in the galaxy, crewed by a spineless figurehead, with a warden's guard led by a near sociopathic commander, woe to the simple smuggler or con artist confined within its depths. For Kale and Trig Longo – smugglers whose father has just died in the barge infirmary – existence is just another word for “living hell”. For sympathetic, fed-up and disgusted infirmary medic Zahara Cody, it's simply another example of the Empire's unending cruelty.
When Purge drops out of hyperspace because of an unknown malfunction and encounters a dead Star Destroyer, “living hell” takes on new meaning. A disease floats through the cruiser's stale air, and infects within minutes. Those infected die within hours and soon after rise to feed on the few survivors. Solitary confinement and even death soon becomes preferable to what lies in wait, deep in the dark holds of the dead Star Destroyer, drifting in space.
No lightsabers, Jedi, or mystical Force, and certainly...no new hope.