As some of you know, I’m a big Star Trek fan. Whenever I’m browsing Ebay for a new Trek book to pick up, the ones written by Diane Carey always attract my attention. She’s one of my favourite Star Trek authors and has written over thirty novels for the franchise. So when I found out my favourite Star Trek author was going to be writing some of the new Aliens novels, my heart jumped for joy and then dropped right back down when I found out the novel was going to be first person – I’m not a fan of the format. When I flicked open the first page of DNA War, the question on my mind was “Is she going to make me be able to enjoy this?”. Well, I guess you’re about to find out.
DNA War is the second Aliens novel to come out of DH Press’ new line of Aliens novels. Written in first person, it tells the tale of Rory Malvaux, a detective who needed a break from life on Earth. As the son of the head scientist on the planet Rosamond 6, where Jocasta Malvaux was leading an expedition to study the Aliens there, Rory seemed like the idea person to get his mother to evacuate the planet.
Rosamond 6 is a rare planet, a planet that doesn’t need any terraforming for human life to survive. But it’s also the home of hives of Aliens and Earth is impatient to colonize. What should have been an easy evacuation mission which would have left the planet free for extraterrestrial killing robots to be let loose. These robots, Poison-Packers, are deadly killing machines, programmed to kill anything with DNA that isn’t native to Rosamond 6. Of course, everything goes tits up. When the ship’s crew of the Vinza, marines and Rory find huts filled with chest-bursted scientists, it sets in motion a chain of events that leads to the group to discover the hide out of the crazed fanatical scientist Jocasta.
She believes that one day she will walk amongst the Aliens, and is determined to find out everything she can about them. Soon, after a mysterious event, the Aliens turn docile. But after a while, the group discovers they’re caught in the middle of a war – A war between the Aliens.
One of the things that stood straight out was how fresh the writing was. One of my big problems with the older Aliens novel is just how uninspired and bland some of the writing is – particularly from Steve Perry in Earth Hive. Having written over fifty novels, Diane Carey is definitely no amateur to novel writing and it shows with how well she writes and describes events in the novel. I found myself trapped within the novel, being right there with the characters – helped along by the first person narrative – and at times, I was even getting a bit scared which is something I don’t often do when reading.
The characters were a highlight for the novel. The crew itself had that Firefly feeling to it, the feeling where even though we – along with Rory – were outsiders to them, you could feel just how close they were. And how diverse they were. Even the marines weren’t just cookie-cut characters ripped straight out of Aliens. What we had was a mixed-and-matched group of characters from equally mixed-and-matched ships, organizations and etc.
And to go along with the fresh feeling, pretty much everything was different from the movies. Rory, the main character and our voice, wasn’t just a carbon-copy of Ripley or some other character from the Aliens film, he was a new type of character that brought something different to the novel. Now, I don’t usually read first person novels. The last one I read all the way through was War of the Worlds a couple of years ago. I only got halfway through Deja Dead, a novel written by acclaimed author Kathy Reichs, the woman also behind one of my favourite shows, Bones. And that was simply because it was first person.
But combining the first person narrative with a character like Rory took this novel to another level – well in terms of for the Aliens franchise. We ended up with a novel with noir tones. A number of times I found myself thinking of Blade Runner because of how noirish DNA War felt. I’m not sure if this was intentional by Mrs Carey, but it certainly made the novel feel like something new.
Although, I found myself missing that familiarity, those connections to the other entries into the franchise. It wasn’t until the last chapter that I found a comfortable connection. And even then, it was no-way intentional by Diane Carey and I doubt many readers will even notice. DNA War included some interesting elements of Alien behaviour and that was inter-species conflict. It was something touched heavily upon in a previous Aliens novel, Genocide. But don’t let that fool you, this novel isn’t a rip-off of that novel. We’ve got no Red vs Black warring in DNA War, the Alien on Alien action in DNA War is under totally different circumstances. In fact, the Alien behaviour was quite interesting. It dealt with how Aliens interact with other hives and it was nice to have Mrs Carey not try to do something too big.
Something I frowned at was how the Face-Huggers in DNA War were portrayed. We didn’t have an accidental stumbling across a nest, what we had was swarms of Face-Huggers having left the protection of the Eggs to go around and even fly. I wasn’t a fan of this at all. It went against everything we’d really seen in the Alien films. Face-Huggers don’t actively seek out their own hosts.
But all said and done, I found I had another page turner on my hands. Not once did I just get bored and throw the novel down. Diane Carey churned out quite a nice, fresh and original novel. All the combined elements helped me to really become immersed in the novel itself and the narrative didn’t bother me one bit. I’d recommend this to any Aliens fan and I eagerly await Diane Carey’s next novel, Cauldron which from the sounds of it will return to that familiar haunted house style we all love. From Corporal Hicks, here at AvPGalaxy, I award DNA War a respectful 4 out of 5.