Book Review: Aliens vs. Predator: War, by S.D. Perry (it’s about as good as it sounds, folks).
Some friends of mine have told me that the worse the book is, the more entertaining my reviews are. Every flaw in a novel is just another set up for another joke, after all. That, and a 500 words saying “I liked this book, you should read it!” makes for a fairly dull review.
But guess what, dear reader, you’re in luck! Check this shit out.
It’s worth noting this isn’t just an Aliens vs. Predator novel- it’s actually the third Aliens vs. Predator novel. That should tell you something right there, folks.
But first, some background.
The Aliens vs. Predator franchise took off big in the early 90’s, before anyone gave any thought to the terrible live action AvP movies. There were video games (including a pretty kickass beat-’em-up arcade game), action figures, comic books…and novels, which were based on the comics.
So way back in ye olde pre-intarweb days, one of my uncles would allow me to raid his bookshelf whenever we’d visit. This kept me well stocked in cheap sci-fi paperbacks, which is great when you’re a kid in middle school. Aliens vs. Predator: Prey, the first novel in the series, was amongst them. I remember this book particularly stood out to me amongst the piles of crappy Star Wars novels I gobbled up. Aliens vs. Predator: Prey was violent and gory, and it was probably the second book I ever read that used the word “fuck.” (The first being Jurassic Park, I’m pretty sure). I had much looser standards for what constituted good reading back then.
It’s this sense of nolstalgia that prompted me to pick up Aliens vs. Predator: War at the local used bookstore. Two bucks for around 200 pages seemed like a pretty easy commitment of both time and money, and here we are.
Dark Horse’s Alien vs. Predator comics & novels center around a woman named Machiko Noguchi. She’s the lady on the covers above. Machiko starts the first novel working as the chief of security on some little colony world (which, now that I think of it, was more or less a cattle station, which makes me wish they’d played up the “space sheriff” angle more). Aliens invade, and then the Predators show up to fight them, making sure to deliver on the “versus” in the title. At the end of the first book, Machiko proves herself to be so badass at killing Aliens, she then flies off with a shipful of Predators in order to go hunt more aliens.
Which brings us to this third novel, in which Machiko begins to realize that zipping off to hang out with killer crab-face aliens might not be the best of life choices. Despite being legitimately badass, the Predators don’t want anything to do with the puny human, and thus Machiko is forced to prove herself over and over to the Predators, who still give her no respect.
If you have a few beers and squint, you could almost pull some legitimate gender critique out of this book. Admittedly, you’d have to squint really hard, but you could map out Machiko’s status with the Predators as being a metaphor for being a woman in a ostensibly “male” hobby. Like, say, hunting. Or SF/F fandom in general.
That loose interpretation is about as deep as it goes, however, as the rest of the book is pretty color-by-numbers. The Predators seed some Aliens on another colony world, so they can go hunt them later. Only the thing is, there’s a human research station on the world, so some of the Predators decide to hunt humans, too.
Machiko finds this out, gets pissed off, and decides to kill the Predators in turn. The novel’s based on a comic book (and a 90’s comic, no less), so let’s not expect anything profound.
There’s a bunch of other business about the humans in the research station. Seeing as of how they were not Aliens or Predators, I didn’t really care much about them. The real kicker is, several of the characters have a pretty in-depth background that must have been covered in an earlier Aliens comic/novel. There’s a half-assed subplot in which the obligatory Evil Executive tries to get some data from the other-novel refugees, but they all soon forget about this once the mayhem starts in the last third of the novel.
Apart from too much time spent on boring humans, my other complaint about the novel would be how S.D. Perry treats the Predators themselves. The whole ‘hunter’ aspect is one of the key things that makes Predators such interesting monsters in the films. Like the best monsters, the Predator has ‘rules’ that it operates by- the cloaking device doesn’t work when it’s wet, seeing in infra-red, not killing unarmed targets, etc.
S.D. Perry doesn’t really bother with these rules, and the book is weaker for it. Instead of a suspensful game of cat & mouse (or, with the aliens involved, it’d be cat & giant bug & mouse), it just devolves into a series of shootouts with laser guns in the space jungle. I would’ve loved to read about Machiko turning the tables on the Predators, The Most Dangerous Game style, but things are far more chaotic.
I’m not sure how much of this I can even blame on S.D. Perry. Basic wikipedia-ing tells me she pretty much pays her bills by adapting various comics or movies or what have you into book form, so the slapdash plot probably wasn’t even her fault anyway.
Still better than those AvP movies, though.