Indiana Jones and the Army of the Dead
by Steve Perry
Published by Del Rey
Adrick's Rating: 3 out of 4
Indy’s in deep—and on the run from the walking dead.
There’s no rest for the weary treasure hunter, but that’s how Indiana Jones likes it. Fresh from spying for the Allies in the thick of World War II Germany, the globe-trotting archaeologist doesn’t need much persuading to join his cohort “Mac” McHale in searching for one of the most coveted of artifacts—the fabled black pearl known as the Heart of Darkness. But the partners in adventure are not alone on their foray into the mysterious jungles of Haiti. German and Japanese agents are in hot pursuit, determined to possess the ebony artifact—and it’s secrets—for their own sinister purposes. And shadowing them all is an infamous voodoo priest, with powers of both diabolical science and black magic at his command.
On a treacherous odyssey across the Island of the Dead, where the legend of the zombi looms large, spiders, snakes, and booby traps will prove the least of Indy’s challenges. And capturing the prize will be child’s play compared to confronting an enemy unlike any other, whose numbers are legion and nearly impossible to kill—because they’re already dead…
Hooray for zombies. Army of the Dead kicks off a sort of Lucasfilm Zombie Trilogy, consisting of this book, the Star Wars novel Death Troopers, and the Clone Wars episode Legacy of Terror, all allegedly developed independently and released within three months of one another. As someone who is thoroughly tired of the inexplicable interest in zombies lately (my roommates have been playing Left 4 Dead all semester) I would like nothing better than to dismiss all of them as attempts to cash in on the bizarre zombie vogue.
But be that as it may, this is actually the first original Indy novel I’ve read that I’ve fully enjoyed. Admittedly, my experience is limited to a mere handful of McCoy and MacGregor tales, but Perry has a lot to offer here. The zombie mythology is well developed, and they are threatening but not the unstoppable hoards of so many zombie films—and Death Troopers, of course.
In fact, it’s hard not to draw parallels between this story and Death Troopers, given the close release dates, the zombies, and the use of a famous film character played by Harrison Ford as a supporting player. It’s worth noting that Indiana Jones is mostly a supporting character here—Indy and his team are overshadowed by the trio of villains plotting against each other: the German scientist Doctor Edwin Gruber, the katana wielding Japanese soldier Yamada Hajime, and the voodoo witch doctor Boukman. As in the Medstar books and Death Star, Perry excels at creating characters that have fascinating histories and beliefs. Boukman’s world of dark magic is particularly interesting.
All in all, I found Army of the Dead to be an enjoyable adventure story…with zombies, of course.
As I mentioned, the villains are really the main characters in this book, making Indy and his friends seem almost tangential to the story. Mac, a character who was shortchanged in the final cut of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, fares no better here. We get little insight into his character, and less in the way of comic relief. The relationship between Indy and the witch Marie Arnoux is extremely tame, and their attraction is underdeveloped. Indy does make some references to his Emperor’s Tomb adventure, but his extensive history from the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles is left untouched.
Again, I really enjoyed reading this book. But potential purchasers should know what they’re getting. This is essentially a character driven adventure story about Nazi and Japanese soldiers matching wits with a Voodoo witch doctor, with a little bit of Indy thrown in for good measure. Perhaps this would work better if there were more Indy stories to go around; but given that the promised Staff of Kings novel was cancelled; I don’t think we’ll be seeing any for awhile.
One pet peeve: So Indy decides to take a break from spying on the Nazis during WWII, but just so happens to run into them anyway. Why do writers of serial stories feel the need to set up situations that deviate from the main premise, and then have the main premise occur anyway by complete coincidence? It’s like when Sarah Jane Smith sets out to write a normal article, only to discover that aliens are behind it anyway. Deviating from the main story idea is fine, but only if you actually have a different kind of story to tell.
That final scene is pretty freaking creepy.