Predator – Incursion (The Rage War Part 1) Review

Posted by Corporal Hicks on November 13, 2015 (Updated: 05-Oct-2016)

“Predator ships stream into human space in unprecedented numbers. The Colonial Marines, controlled by Weyland-Yutani, respond to the incursion, thus entering the Rage War.

This terrifying assault by the Yautja cannot go unchallenged, yet the cost of combat is high. Predators are master combatants, and each encounter yields a high body count. Then when Lt. Johnny Mains and his marines—the VoidLarks—enter the fray, they discover an enemy deadlier than any could imagine. “

Predator – Incursion is the start of a brand new trilogy of Aliens/vs/Predator novels, a trilogy called The Rage War. There hasn’t been an Alien vs Predator novel since the novelization of the film in 2004 and before that it was the S.D Perry novel, War (an adaptation of the comic series of the same name) which features the Yautja culture made so popular in the Predator community by the Perry’s and their Alien vs Predator novels.

There also hasn’t been a Predator novel since Predator – South China Sea in 2008 which in itself is a hard act to follow! South China Sea was the last Predator novel published by Dark Horse Press and is quite possibly the best Predator story next to the first film in my opinion.

Tim Lebbon has taken the reigns for the Rage War after writing the first of Titan’s recent Alien novel trilogy, Alien – Out of the Shadows. All three of the Alien novels offers potential avenues for a sequel to follow, including Lebbon’s own Out of the Shadows, and Predator – Incursion follows on ever so slightly from the events of James Moore’s book, Sea of Sorrows.

Predator - Incursion cover art.  Predator - Incursion (The Rage War Part 1) Review

Predator – Incursion cover art.

Going into Predator – Incursion I had no idea how Tim Lebbon would follow on from the previous Alien vs Predator or Predator novels and he did it by giving it a completely different feel. We skip ahead to the 27th century where mankind is no longer struggling to expand into the galaxy and we’re now at a very advanced level.

Gone are the struggling frontiersmen and under-prepared military and the almost modern-day feel of the films, The Rage War has all the science-fiction bells and whistles and a completely fresh new feel.

You can tell Lebbon really enjoys the world building opportunities that being set so far into the future and away from the limitations of the earlier stories offers him and it’s really interesting to read. Details of humanities expansion into the galaxy are well described and paint a vivid picture of just how well mankind has taken to the stars but making it clear that their expansion is into only a tiny fraction of the galaxy.

This is where my favourite aspect of Predator – Incursion comes in – it goes further into the galaxy and explores more of the unknown. For me the inclusion of the Derelict and the implication of other unknown cultures in Alien was fascinating and it’s something I missed in the later films. For all Prometheus’s faults, I did enjoy it attempting to expand upon the Engineers.

And I love when the books and comics introduce new aliens too. However, what disappoints me is that for the most part these new species are often forgotten about by the time the next release comes out. Not this time around though! Alien – Out of the Shadow introduced a new extra-terrestrial species that had run afoul of the Aliens. They appeared again in the sequel Aliens – Sea of Sorrows and they make another appearance in Predator – Incursion.

Tim Lebbon teases the dog-aliens further and whilst they don’t see substantial development (I’m hoping they’ll come back in the series and that Lebbon has a plan for them), they do play a significant role in the history and development of the Rage/Founders, a new faction introduced and the subject of the title of the trilogy.

I absolutely love the Rage (or as they’re known earlier in the novel, the Founders)! For what seems like the first time in the expanded universe we finally have a competent and intriguing human based antagonist faction! The Founders are a group of humans that decided to leave humanity behind and head off into the depths of space where they could work unfettered by human law and regulations. They developed ways of prolonging life, advancing their space travel, developing their technology and generally working towards the betterment of themselves.

That all changes when new leadership takes over; one intent on destroying those they left behind in human space and they become the Rage. The early pieces of information released about the book made it clear that the Aliens had been weaponized by this new enemy and I was worried about how they would be handled.

Fortunately it’s not a case of trying to train the Aliens like General Spears does in Aliens – Nightmare Asylum but to do with the knowledge the Rage uncovers out there in the depths of the unknown. It doesn’t receive a lot of attention as it seems to have been setting it up for exploration in the sequels but from what the book tells us so far they’re controlled via some biotechnolgy and that feels so Alien and Engineer that I was intrigued to find out more.

I feel like I’ve already said too much so I wont go further into them but I simply loved the introduction of the Rage. Lebbon has crafted a really interesting addition to the lore of the Aliens and Predator franchise and one I really can’t wait to explore more of in the sequels.

Author Tim Lebbon at Fantasycon 2015.  Predator - Incursion (The Rage War Part 1) Review

Author Tim Lebbon at Fantasycon 2015. Photo by Adam Nevill

The characters in Predator – Incursion are largely solid but I found they were generally drowned out by how interested I was in seeing where all the set-up was taking the story. Two did stand out quite easily to me though – Isa Palant and Liliya.

Isa Palant is a researcher fascinated with the Predators. It’s her who eventually devises the electronic means in which to communicate with them and I loved all her sections. She served as a very interesting bridge between humanity and the Predators and her fascination into the Predators and their history was really fun to read.

The real star character was Liliya though. We learn in the prologue that she is an android character and artificial people tend to be where authors really like to have fun and Liliya was no exception.

Liliya has the most interesting journey throughout the book and often serves as the nexus for the main plot points of the book. Her own arc is as fascinating and interesting as the mystery Lebbon has her unravel for the reader. I did think there were a few sections where Lebbon over-humanized her anatomy and the ways in which she was described but they were only minor gripes.

I think the only real mistake that Tim Lebbon made was in over-powering humanity – or under-powering the Predators. Understandably with mankind having venture further into the galaxy and developing more powerful and advanced technology, their military capabilities will advance too. Predator – Incursion makes a point of stating the Predators generally counter humanity’s technology or develop at a higher pace but I can’t say I ever really got that impression from the book.

We’re frequently told how dangerous and ruthless the Predators are but I personally found that never came across in the prose. The opening chapter of the book has the main marine characters, the VoidLarks, cleaning up after a Predator encounter having lost a single man. Our first ship-to-ship battle sees the VoidLark’s ship clean up numerous Predator vessels in single exchanges before finally taking a beating. In virtually every encounter the reader gets with the Predator, the human characters easily win.

With the setting and story I understand it’d have been harder to fit in that basic Predator story premise of man without his technology vs the Predator but I wish Lebbon had have shown us more of the Predator’s intelligence and cunning instead because they came across as easily dispatched and underwhelming.

As with his development of mankind, Tim Lebbon also gives a lot of attention to his Predators – particularly how they react following the invasion of an organized force of Aliens into their space. There is one section in the last half of the book where you really understand how desperate and maddened the Predators are when one of the Predators being observed by Isa Palant just goes into a fit of rage and attacks them. I really enjoyed moments like that.

From the very first pages of the book the Predators are called the Yautja. Not once are they referred to as Predators. I love the Expanded Universe and the opportunities it gives us but I don’t love the Yautja. I’m not a fan of the Yautja culture as devised by Steve and Stephani Perry so I was quite disappointed to see this term used. It implied to me that humanity had been able to communicate with the Predators well enough to know they referred to themselves as the Yautja and having characters run around talking in an alien language with plenty of apostrophes was something I never enjoyed in the previous Aliens vs. Predator books.

Predator - Incursion on the shelf.  Predator - Incursion (The Rage War Part 1) Review

Predator – Incursion on the shelf.

But before Yautja and Perry fans start to celebrate – this is completely not the case. As the novel progresses it becomes quite clear that humanity has never spoken to the Predators. For the most part they are a complete mystery and mankind isn’t even able to speak the Predator language (something I absolutely loved!).

Instead Liliya is able to communicate with them because she could physically alter her vocal chords and Isa Palant, the Predator specialist, is able to construct a translator (which wasn’t perfect) device that was able to replicate the Predator language through recordings (and vice versa for English). I loved this. I loved that Lebbon had his Predator’s language so different that humans physically were unable to replicate the language and needed technical aid.

What I didn’t love was that humans called the Predators Yautja. As much as I dislike the idea, if mankind had actually been able to communicate with the Predators and learnt they called themselves that, it would have made sense. As it stands…the Predators never reveal their species name and as such it makes absolutely no sense that mankind refers to them as Yautja. It only serves to confuse readers who might not have any idea what the Yautja are.

You’ll be able to pick it up through context but if I had never heard of the term, I would go away and Google the word and become even more confused when nothing of Lebbon’s Predator resembled the Perry Yautja culture.

Predator – Incursion reads very much like Part 1 of a series (obviously!) and by that I mean that it’s primarily a lot of set-up. It was largely about building this new world that the Rage Wars will take place in and establishing the state of play as far as the powers in our little corner of the galaxy are concerned.

There’s still plenty of mystery left for Lebbon to explore (please give us more of the history of the Rage!) and plenty of new ground to tread on in the wake of the events set-up in Predator – Incursion.

Predator – Incursion continues Titan’s current run of strong novels. Aside from the few issues I had with the book (primarily the underpowered Predators) I really enjoyed Predator – Incursion. Tim Lebbon brings an entirely new fresh feel to Alien vs. Predator and I’m really eager to see where he takes this intriguing new world he’s established.

From Aaron Percival at AvPGalaxy I award Predator – Incursion with 7.2 out of 10.

Rating: 7.2 Stars (7.2 / 10)
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