Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Star Wars - Galaxy of Fear: City of the Dead (1997) by John Whitman - Children's Horror Book Review

Star Wars - Galaxy of Fear was a most surprising series of books in that they were basically the Goosebumps of Star Wars. This 12 book collection were written with children in mind and mainly centered around the young siblings, Tash and Zak, who get into a series of misadventures while travelling around the galaxy with their secretive Uncle Hoole. City of the Dead is the second book in the series, and takes place chronologically three years after the events of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, and just a few days after the first Galaxy of Fear book, Eaten Alive (which apparently was to do with an evil sentient planet). Of course all expanded universe lore has since been ruled non-canon, after reading this one that is probably a good thing! I chose City of the Dead to read as it is a story about the undead.

Hoole, Tash, and Zak hitched a ride on the Millenium Falcon (of course) to the mysterious planet Necropolis, in order to secure a new starship. The inhabitants of Necropolis are a superstitious bunch and hold a special regard for the dead, believing an ancient legend that not to do so will unleash a zombie plague. Zak makes some new friends, and they dare him to enter the Necropolitan cemetery at midnight. Doing so he is more than shocked when he discovers the dead rising up from their graves. While all this is going on the legendary bounty hunter, Boba Fett has arrived on the planet, searching for a wanted mad scientist.   

Star Wars: Death Troopers which came out 2009 was a much better Star Wars zombie story, which wasn't too hard. To be fair, that book was intended for adults and so the horror could be a lot more extreme. Even so, as good as that book was the author just could not resist including some of the popular characters from the films. Their inclusion was quite jarring and so, when City of the Dead immediately has the main characters on board the Millennium Falcon I felt very dubious as to how good this book would be. This book worships the ground Boba Fett walks on, he is stuffed into far too much of the 144 page novel and is always treated as if he is the coolest person ever to exist. If it wasn't for him this would have been a much better story, as it is, like Death Troopers that came much later the presence of film characters ruins events.

The story is obviously written for children, so not much peril really happens, yet more than you might expect. This includes at least one child death (and subsequent resurrection as a mind controlled zombie), plenty of rotting corpses, and one kind of nasty scene in which a child is buried alive and nearly eaten by boneworms! The plot is very basic and mainly it works as part of Galaxy of Fear's initial 6 book story arc. It is self contained, but references characters from the previous book, and is a bit open ended, much as I imagine Eaten Alive was. The writing is simple to understand, and chapters short and breezy to get through. To the books credit, despite featuring far to much Fett, this has no Jedi or Sith, and no force powers or lightsabers anything more than hinted at.

While I had issues with Death Troopers I still think it is a decent entry in the zombie genre of books. City of the Dead however isn't such a good addition. I get this was written with children in mind but I found the general storyline to be pretty dull and unexciting. Not the worst book ever written, but it sure was a boring read!


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