Their queen is dead and the hive mind has been left to flounder on its own. On a world bereft of its only guiding force a schism is taking place: two strains of alien, formerly united by one all-powerful mother, now divide their forces for a world-shattering, acid-drenched war. On Earth, after a generation of rebuilding in the wake of alien infestation, athletes from every corner of the world are flocking to humanity’s Goodwill Games. But some come with a dangerous new tool: a drug called Fire, distilled from the very essence of the aliens’ body chemistry. The military wants it, Pharmaceutical kingpin Daniel Grant wants it. And the only place the essential ingredient can be found is on a world convulsed by alien holocaust.
The fourth in the old series, Genocide follows on from the original trilogy. Like the previous three instalments, this is an adaptation of the comic of the same name. It was also the first Aliens novel without the name Perry or Foster on the cover.
Admittedly the first few times I read David Bischoff’s Genocide I really enjoyed it. And during the re-read in preparation for this review this remained largely the same. But I wasn’t oblivious to its flaws this time, of which there are a few. Don’t get me wrong, this review isn’t going to be a negative slagfest, but it is my role to keep you fully informed.
It should be fairly clear by now that the novels (and comics) aren’t particularly flattering or consistent in their portrayal of the aliens. A liberal interpretation of scenes from Cameron’s Aliens often leads to widespread misinterpretations of the creatures, and Genocide is no different. The aliens are portrayed as having little more intelligence than insects, where the only real threat stems from their sheer strength in numbers.
My biggest issue with Genocide is how Bischoff injected such a comical tone. That may sound ridiculous considering the source material, but the Perrys always managed to infuse at least some seriousness into their treatments. The flamboyant way Bischoff handles the novel seems like a slap in the face to the movies and to Alan Dean Foster’s adaptations.
During the closing pages of the novel, for example, the solution to an alien threat happens to be throwing a saxophone at it. In another instance, an overdose of ‘Fire’ sends one of the characters into an alien killing frenzy. While, I acknowledge that these happened in the comic, they still could and should have been excised from the novel. Bischoff just doesn’t exercise enough creative license, to the extent that he preserves a scene from the original material where a character imagines an alien on the hiveworld playing an instrument! It’s just ridiculous.
Judging from the blurb, you’d expect Genocide to be a balls-to-walls action novel. But in reality the action doesn’t really kick in until the last 70 pages or so. Besides that, there are only one or two short sections of action toward the middle of the novel. This isn’t really a complaint, however, for I tend to find the areas devoid of action offer page space for more interesting character moments.
Ultimately, Genocide is best described as a character study of Daniel Grant. He is the main character, but hardly a model human being, coming from a mould not too far removed from the celebrity businessman model of someone like Hugh Hefner. As the novel progesses, it follows the steady evolution of Grant as he becomes a more sympathetic character. Not a saint but rather a flawed human being.
Our secondary character, Colonel Alexandra Kozlowski, is the badass Colonial Marine who opens and closes the novel. With significantly more page time than in the comic, Bischoff makes her story one of retribution and personal triumph. This revolves around her attempts to overcome her addiction to ‘Fire’: the drug made from the same Royal Jelly that the marines have been sent in to retrieve.
Next there’s Hendrikson, but I won’t spoil things for you by describing his role here. The remainder of the characters are very minor and for the most part given no real depth or development. Special mention should be made of Mahone, Jastrow and Ellis, however.
The weaponry is somewhat over the top too. Gone are the pulse rifles we know and love. Instead what we have is plasma weaponry which helps reduce the aliens to nothing other than a minor inconvenience. Again, this is possibly the fault of the comic, but Bischoff could have changed it or at least played down these elements in favour of some balance. That said, Genocide does introduce the acid-resistant armor that becomes a staple in the next instalments, and which is a brilliant and logical addition to the Colonial Marines’ armory.
Mention should also be made of the alien civil war concept in this story. Due to the fact that they don’t get to the hiveworld until fairly late in the novel, this doesn’t receive the attention it perhaps deserves. It isn’t entirely ignored, however, and the parts where information is given on it proves to be really interesting.
Also nice was how Bischoff explains the absence of the ‘red-strain’ aliens from future media, which deserves some praise. Unlike the comic, the ‘red-strain’ aliens aren’t as jarringly distinct in the novel. Bischoff describes them as having only the slightest difference in terms of colour tones, which is a far more realistic treatment.
As I said at the beginning, Genocide is a largely enjoyable read. It certainly isn’t perfect, with the aliens being poorly depicted and the action and dialogue tending a little too much toward the comical, but these are faults with most of the Aliens novels and comics as a whole.
On the other hand, Grant’s personal development and the biological information on the aliens provided some nice touches. Overall, it’s worth the read. From Corporal Hicks at AvPGalaxy, I award Aliens Genocide with 3 out of 5.