Thomas Chase wakes up from cryosleep to his first day at a new job–as a pilot for a contraband drug company dropping a shipment on Fantasia, a rock-planet terraformed to hide an elaborate drug manufacturing operation. Everything from synthetic heroin to MX7 is cooked here, in protected caves guard-dogged by the savage Aliens. When Chase’s craft touches down on Fantasia, a chain of events begins that cannot be stopped. As criminals and competitors try to take over the drug empire from the dangerous kingpin, Chase and his brother Pete are caught in the crossfire . . . with the Aliens adding blood to the mix.
When Dark Horse announced this title I can’t say I was particularly excited. Let’s face it, the premise sounds pretty daft. The only thing that kept me from just forgetting the novel was the fact it was being written by none other than S.D Perry, a veteran of the old Alien novels. I was particularly impressed with some of her older novels – especially the original Alien vs Predator novel. So what of Criminal Enterprise? Could she make a decent read out of this mundane sounding novel?
Like with the last three Alien novels, this one fails in the characters which I find kind of annoying given the approach that Perry takes. Rather than having the Aliens up front and center, they’re used merely as a story device to help us get to know the characters. Problem is they’re mostly rapists, drug dealers/addicts and hookers. It suffers from what I like to call Alien3 syndrome. We get plenty of face time with the inhabitants of the facility the majority of the novel takes place in but all we’ll learn about is how despicable the characters actually are.
It really diminishes the effort being put into developing them. Sure, I get the girl had a f**ked up past and she’s being used and abused by her fella but I can’t say I feel much pity towards her for taking drugs as an escape. The only character who gets plenty of exposure that is likable is Tommy Chase. Even his brother, Pete – who are both mentioned on the synopsis – is a bit of a jackass. It’s his fault that Tommy is even in the situation.
There was just too much motivation involving revenge. One group of character sent to Fantasia by the Grant Corporation are out to shutdown the drug lab. They’re intergalactic police and they’re out for revenge. Even the law is out there with dark intentions. So where’s the love? It is only through the outsider Tommy Chase that we feel any sort of connection.
He’s as lost amongst the trash of human culture as the readers are. In some ways it brought me closer to the character, being the only one I could possibly feel any sort of connection to. This could have been the intention of Mrs Perry but given the amount of time put into the other more evil characters Tom just felt washed out. I think that S.D had the right idea(characters up front, Aliens in back) but implemented it the wrong way.
I’m not saying that the characters are boring by any means. Merely that they are very unlikeable. Quite a few of the characters have a very complex and very sordid past. They’re well fleshed out, all their motivations well explained and written. The story itself is very straight forward. It’s very much a character story.
I mentioned the Grant Corporation earlier. For those who aren’t really versed in the EU – expanded universe – of old, the Grant Corporation was a bit of a major player. It was the company who invented Xeno-Zip, found out just how important Royal Jelly is and made the journey to the Alien home planet only to find out there was in-fighting amongst the Aliens. One of the things I think missing from the newer novels is that sense of connectivity that the older ones had. This tiny little fact made me feel more at home.
While I appreciate the effort of trying to make them free-floating – something Ms. Carey does – it’s just not the way the Alien franchise does it. If we just go back and look at the roots, the movies, you can see just how important connectivity is. I find that very lacking in these new novels. I know that Ms. Carey did her novels – DNA War & Cauldron – so they’d be more accessible to first time readers but that’s what exposition is for. It felt fantastic to see the Grant Corporation mentioned. It felt like an Aliens novel.
Unfortunately there isn’t much more for me to say regarding Criminal Enterprise. Perry had the right idea and the right approach to it, just not the right characters. If more attention had been put into Tommy, the only designated hero there, it might have been a better read. I only hope that the connectivity continues within the next novels, however, slight. I really do wish to see S.D Perry get to do another Aliens novel, I really do. I just hope she doesn’t fall prey to the Alien3 syndrome next time. From Corporal Hicks, AvPGalaxy’s resident novel nitpicker/reviewer, I award this novel a 3.5 out of 5.