Aliens: Steel Egg Review
Posted by Corporal Hicks on November 9, 2007 (Updated: 23-Jan-2010)
Someone on Earth knew about the aliens. Someone battled them, and survived. Before Ripley, there was a first encounter. Aliens and humans have fought before. . .When a human spaceship discovers a vast egg-shaped vessel in Saturn’s orbit, the crew powers in to investigate. Thinking the ship might contain usable metal for Earth, they force their way aboard. Three teams split up to explore the ship. Already the aliens have awoken. The first of all the battles unfolds.
The fourth Aliens novel and the second Alien / Predator novel written by John Shirley, Steel Egg is a prequel to any of the other novels and to the Alien saga. Now as you should know, I rather enjoyed Shirley’s Predator novel, Forever Midnight and I had been really looking forward to this one. By now you guy’s should have read the blurb, the cover art, read Alien Experience’s preview of it – I mean, I’ve been giving it enough attention here. You should have all known about it. But was my excitement worthy of the novel? Short answer: No.
Straight off the block, the novel suffers from a serious lack of character development and I mean serious. The first chapter preview that Alien Experience put up is all the character development we get before the adventure starts. Don’t get me wrong, I love learning on the fly too but it just didn’t work for Steel Egg. For example, we learn that one character we’d met at the very beginning used to be engaged to another we’d met only a chapter or two ago. Then the newer character dies. A quick and easy excuse for that character then going psycho.
It just didn’t work for me. Two or three chapters of character development would have really helped this novel out. Pretty much most of the problems in it stemmed from this. I found it hard to feel for the characters, to believe their motivation and to feel the tension. And to be frank, I’m quite surprised I was even having this problem given how John Shirley is an award-winning writer. I don’t know if it was just John practicing his “development on the go” approach or what but it is the core problem of this novel and I sure hope we don’t get it again.
That said, it did have one very interesting character in the way of Reynolds. In some ways, he was your Doctor Church, your Doctor Gediman but I felt that this “mad scientist” was very much different. He was, in my eyes, the best developed and most interesting character present in the novel. His back story was really interesting and converged with another aspect of the novel I really enjoyed: The Company, CANC and UNIC. But we’ll talk about that later. I really felt Reynold’s motivation and that he believed what he was doing was right and the fact that he wasn’t just another Church really made me happy about the character.
As I mentioned above, one of the most interesting aspects of Steel Egg was its pre-Weylan/d Yutani merger information. The novel speaks of The Company taking over many aspects of Earth but it also implies that the Chinese/Japanese are still evil communists which is interesting since it’s always been assumed that Yutani was an Asian corporation. Racist assumptions? Maybe. But I guess John decided to be a little ambiguous. That said, it was something that recently started to wind me up: Communists still being evil. After watching the remake of Invision, it’s something I’ve been thinking about a fair bit and that said, I don’t like that aspect of this novel. It just felt old and I can quite frankly say, I wasn’t feeling for the characters in their fear for their freedoms. It’s an old and irrelevant fear. It might just be a cultural thing(I’m from the UK) but it meant nothing to me.
I’m actually really trying hard to find good things to say about Steel Egg. It just isn’t coming. I can only see this novel appealing to those who’d be curious about the state of affairs pre-Alien. Oh and those interested in the Alien universe as a whole. Steel Egg introduced us to a new alien race, separate from the Space Jockeys; The Giffs. To me, this could have been a real interest puller of the novel. I mean, I spent a good year hunting down Destroying Angels so I could find out more about the Space Jockeys. But the comic provided me with little but enough to satisfy. That’s what made it so addictive. They’re still a mystery.
But that didn’t happen with Steel Egg. The new aliens got a name straight away. We even met one of them. There wasn’t any mystery. To me, Steel Egg felt like a modern remake of Alien. And we all know how modern remakes go…yeah…not good. It’s a shame really. I felt this had a lot of potential in it, and some stuff is interesting but it’ll only appeal to the few interesting in pre-Alien history and the Alien universe as a whole. So I think that Steel Egg is pretty much the worst I’ve read from DH Press and I’m sorely disappointed in such a novel from Mr John Shirley. From Hicks at AvPGalaxy, I give Steel Egg a 2 out of 5.