Aliens: Nightmare Asylum Review

Posted by Corporal Hicks on February 2, 2016 (Updated: 07-Apr-2016)

Like its comic counterpart, The Complete Aliens Omnibus Volume 1 is a book I believe anyone who has an interest in the older Aliens expanded universe should give a read. I don’t believe they are all perfect stories but I do believe they are essential reads in understanding the Aliens series as it is now. With Titan releasing all the old Bantam novelizations in volumes, it’s going to be really easy to get the complete collection in good condition.

The Complete Aliens Omnibus Volume 1 contains the first three books that were written: Earth Hive, Nightmare Asylum and The Female War. These three books contain the core trilogy that kicked off the entire Aliens expanded universe and shaped a lot of the stories to follow.

I have opted to review each book in the Omnibus separately.

Aliens: Nightmare Asylum

“Wilks, Billie, and Bueller were the last survivors of a devastating assault on the aliens’ home planet. But once their retum to the solar system made them refugees once more, fleeing Earth and its alien infestation in a desperate attempt to stay alive. Now, in an otherwise unmanned military transport, they hurtle through space. Destination: unknown.

Little do they know that the cargo they carry with them is a legacy of death that they will ultimately have to face. Nor do they know that they head toward a remote colony and military outpost. This pocket of humanity at the very edges of space is at the mercy of a general names Spears with an agenda all his own. Now Billie, Wilks, and Bueller face a new nightmare, and it is nothing they could ever have imagined: a gift of madness from an alien world, unbalanced mind, and the experiences of a mysterious pilot named Lieutenant Ellen Ripley.”

Published in 1993, Aliens: Nightmare Asylum is the sequel to Aliens: Earth Hive published the year before. Like the first novel, Aliens: Nightmare Asylum is based off the second Dark Horse comic series that would eventually be come to be known by the same name.

The comic series is easily one of my favourite comic series. The four issue series follows on from the inaugural series with a less chaotic story and simply unparalleled artwork by Den Beauvais. Whenever I’m reading an Alien comic, I’m always hoping for artwork approaching that of the quality of Den Beauvais.

Steve Perry returned to pen the sequel. I enjoyed his novelization of Aliens: Earth Hive but I wasn’t blown away by it. However, with Aliens: Nightmare Asylum, Steve Perry knocked it out the park. This novelization vastly improves on near enough everything about Mark Verheiden’s original comic.

Aliens: Nightmare Asylum follows Wilks, Billie and Bueller after their escape from the Alien infested Earth. The trio are trapped on a cargo ship whose course is locked in to an unknown destination. They eventually discover they’re bound for a military installation with special cargo on board: four infected humans and their Alien progeny for study.

The cover art by Dave Dorman for the US release of Aliens: Nightmare Asylum. Aliens: Nightmare Asylum Review

The cover art by Dave Dorman for the US release of Aliens: Nightmare Asylum.

The commanding officer of the installation is General Thomas Spears and he’s been researching methods of defeating the Aliens and taking back Earth. His solution? Train his own army of Aliens. Like Aliens: Earth Hive, Aliens: Nightmare Asylum introduces another staple concept of the Aliens universe and that is the idea of military controlled Aliens.

The difference here is that Spears seems to have succeeded. Unfortunately I’m in a position where I’ve seen Alien Resurrection and the other entries that have riffed of this concept so ultimately it comes as no true surprise to me but I can only imagine how amazing the idea that Spears having actually succeeded would have been back in the day.

I really enjoyed the way Steve Perry got inside of Spears head and developed the thinner villain from the comic series into a true egomaniac with a genuine God complex. As well as that, Perry demonstrated Spears to be good tactician who was constantly one-step a head of our protagonists nearly every step of the way.

He even went so far as to change the turning factor in the conflict in the comic from a mistake on the part of our heroes into a part of Spears strategy and made the General look more competent. Near enough everything Perry does with the character enhances General Spears credibility in the readers eyes.

Steve Perry also delves deeper into the head of Sergeant Wilks in Aliens: Nightmare Asylum and we get to see more of the tactician and more of the military man inside. Whilst Spears ultimately ends up besting Wilks, it’s through no fault of the character and I believe Perry had a nice balance between the two. I really enjoyed getting inside Wilks mind and learning more about him – even in how he thought about himself and his own fate.

I mentioned in the Alien: Earth Hive review that I believe the trilogy eventually ends up becoming very focused on Billie. I think it’s a gradual realization but it starts to intensify within Aliens: Nightmare Asylum. We start to see her fascination with the survivors of Earth who are broadcasting into space that eventually becomes one of her driving elements in the next book, Aliens: Female War.

Her inner conflict over Bueller also becomes a focus of our time with Billie over the course of Aliens: Nightmare Asylum and it makes for some interesting inner-turmoil. I think there’s potential for that conflict to become tiresome for those who might not find that kind of conflict interesting but it’s an added layer of depth to Billie that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Cover art for The Complete Aliens Omnibus: Volume One, containing Alien: Earth Hive, Nightmare Asylum and Female War. Aliens: Nightmare Asylum Review

Cover art for The Complete Aliens Omnibus: Volume One, containing Alien: Earth Hive, Nightmare Asylum and Female War.

Despite how much I enjoyed what Perry did with Wilks and Billie, he nearly ruins the end of the novel for me by trying to interject some sexual tension between the pair that is so completely inappropriate for the characters that it’s awkwardly distracting.

Billie spent the majority of Aliens: Nightmare Asylum trying to come to terms with her own conflicted feelings about Bueller and the only time Wilks ever appeared in a sexual capacity towards her was during her own nightmares. Wilks was portrayed more as a father-figure than anything. It just came out of left-field and wasn’t needed.

One other element of Aliens: Nightmare Asylum that I was not fond of was how Steve Perry removed the explanation of how General Spears came into possession of the Alien. In the comics it was explained that Orona, one of the characters from the first series sent him samples.

That explanation was completely removed from the novelization and I found it to be somewhat of a plot hole. By all the accounts the only Aliens humanity was supposed to be encountering at that point were the ones on the hiveworld Wilks and company went to and those on Earth. It made the novel slightly confusing and it was a completely unnecessary omission.

I really enjoyed Steve Perry’s novelization of Aliens: Nightmare Asylum. I thought he took an already fantastic comic book series and made it even better. Aside from my minor complaints, I think this novel is a fine example of how to do a proper comic book adaptation. From Corporal Hicks at AvPGalaxy, I award Steve Perry’s Aliens: Nightmare Asylum with 8 out of 10.

Rating: 8 Stars (8 / 10)

You can also read our reviews Aliens: Earth Hive and Aliens: The Female War.

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