Tuesday, 13 November 2012

'Resident Evil: Retribution' - John Shirley (Titan Books)

I know, I know... :o) 'There are far too many zombie books out there and I can't be bothered with it any more!' I said. Fast forward a few weeks and what do you get? A review of the latest 'Resident Evil' movie novelisation, that's what you get. Didn't take me long to come crawling back, did it...? :o)
To be fair, David Moody did write a very convincing guest post about why I shouldn't give up on the genre just yet. There was also the fact that I'd just finished Joe Abercrombie's 'Red Country' (review in the pipeline) and was after a read that was a little lighter. The bottom line though is, well... Zombies! Once you've been bitten then you're infected with a craving that will never let go.... A craving for a genre that can be a lot more intelligent than you'd think.

With that last sentence in mind, a 'Resident Evil' movie novelisation might seem like an odd choice then but, like I said, I was after a light read and this book came through the door at just the right moment. I've enjoyed the 'Resident Evil' films that I've seen, by the way, and was looking forward to catching up with what had happened. What had been going on? Not an awful lot if 'Resident Evil: Retribution' was anything to go by. Check out the blurb...

Just as she finds a safe haven, free from the Undead, Alice is kidnapped by her former employers the Umbrella Corporation. Regaining consciousness, she finds herself trapped in the most terrifying scenario imaginable. As the T-virus continues to ravage the Earth, transforming the world s population into legions of flesh-eating monsters, Alice must fight her way back to reality in order to survive.

I can't help but think that some films are meant to be just films. Don't mess around with the novelisation; just leave the film where it belongs and let it do what it does best. 'Retribution' is very much one of those films.

I haven't seen the film but, reading the book, you can imagine how it would look on the big screen. Flashy and full of action packed spectacle; certainly enough to disguise the paper thin plot and the fact that this is a whole film designed to get everyone in one place before the final film kicks off (I'm guessing the next one will be the last). The problem is though, a book isn't nearly so forgiving when it clearly has so little to work with. You can't be distracted by crazy images of exploding zombies and other monsters. All you have are words on a page that give away a lot more than the author perhaps intended.

'Retribution' is basically a big ol' slug fest, from start to finish, and John Shirley doesn't portray this as effectively as he could have done. Instead of keeping these fights relatively short and sweet, Shirley takes his cue from the script and tries to capture every single little thing that happens. This approach works fine on the big screen as it all happens very quickly, this is far from the case in the novelisation. What you get here are confrontations that are drawn out so much as to lose any impact that they might have had. When I start skimming paragraphs, to get to the end of a fight sequence, I know there's a pretty big problem. That was very much the case here. Shirley says, in his introduction, that some of these scenes were inspired by the screenplay and don't actually appear in the film itself. If this is the case then my argument goes double for those scenes.

Dragging the fight scenes out also just shows the reader that there isn't much in the way of plot going on and I wonder if that was why Shirley chose to introduce a sub-plot of his own. I can see why Shirley chose to branch things out but this sub-plot really doesn't gel that well with the main one. There doesn't seem to be a lot of point to it and it slows things down even more, something that this book really doesn't need.

One good thing about 'Resident Evil: Retribution' is that it promises a great finale to come but I wish I hadn't had to sit through this book just to get to that point. If Shirley had trimmed things back then this book would have been a different deal. I reckon this book could have lost a third of its pages and been the better for it. As it was though, 'Retribution' is the very definition of a throwaway read. If you were to ask me about this book next week, I probably wouldn't be able to tell you a single thing about it.

Five out of Ten

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