Tuesday, 1 March 2011

‘Aliens: Criminal Enterprise’ – S.D. Perry (Dark Horse Books)

Who thinks that they should have stopped making ‘Alien’ films after the second one? I’m not sure what I think here. On the one hand I could live quite happily in a world without ‘Alien Resurrection’ but I really enjoyed ‘Alien 3’ and would miss it if it wasn’t around. Yes, you heard me; I am possibly the only person I know of who enjoyed ‘Alien 3’ (I loved the chase bit seen from the alien’s perspective).

It can be cool to ponder these things (especially on a Monday afternoon when the brain hasn’t quite woken up from the weekend) but it’s all academic really isn’t it? Whether you think ‘Aliens Vs Predator: Requiem’ is a good film or not (haven’t seen it myself) the ‘Alien’ franchise is here to stay and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s a big old franchise by all accounts and has inevitably attracted tie-in fiction of which I’ve read a fair few comics and graphic novels back in the day. I’ve never read any of the novels though and my encounter with Jeff Vandermeer’s ‘Predator’ novel, late last year, prompted me to give the ‘Alien’ equivalent a go.

First up was S.D. Perry’s ‘Criminal Enterprise’ and while you can’t judge a whole line of books based on one effort I’m left hoping that the rest of the books I’ve got lined up show a marked improvement.

The planet Fantasia is home to a large chunk of the galaxy’s drugs, all cooked up and transported from a network of underground tunnels and caves. The planet is also home to a swarm of lethal aliens, transported there as a means of guarding drug shipments from rival competitors and corporate ‘resolution’ teams. Thomas Chase never wanted to be on Fantasia at all but a mistake made by his brother Pete has landed him a short term piloting job to pay off debts outstanding.

However, there are two other parties who very much want to be on Fantasia and when Chase’s craft lands it kicks off a series of events that can’t be stopped. When humans fight amongst themselves there’s only going to be one winner at the end of it all...

‘Criminal Enterprise’ is only two hundred and twenty two pages long, just the right length for a ‘commuter read’ and looking very much like an intense slice of alien action. Well, that’s what I thought when I picked it up... The truth of the matter couldn’t have been more different.

‘Criminal Enterprise’ reads like a mish mash of ideas thrown together with a sprinkling of aliens to tie the novel into the wider franchise. There doesn’t seem to be any attention paid to the fact that the book is only a couple of hundred pages long and rambling passages seem to focus on character biographies rather than moving the story forward in any meaningful way. These characters are then killed off so quickly that I was left wondering why so much space was given to their development in such a short book. If they’re ‘Alien fodder’ then treat them as such and use the spare pages for something else instead (like tying the plot together effectively instead of having a series of random events collide).

The brothers Thomas and Pete read like one character has been cut into two halves, one positive and one negative. It’s as clear cut as that and, unfortunately, as one dimensional as that also. There wasn’t a lot about these two characters that made me want to keep reading; they’re interesting if you approach it in terms of a fractured personality trying to achieve oneness but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the aim of the book...

There are lots of suggestions of aliens being around (banging on the spaceship and so on) but when the aliens do make their appearance you’d better not blink or you will miss it. I know these critters can move fast but you would expect them to be around for a little longer than this! To be fair though, the scenes where the aliens have to be fed is worth sticking around for even though there aren’t any real surprises in its execution.

So why did I keep reading then? Sheer bloody-mindedness is the main reason as I’m resolved to finish more books this year even if I don’t get on with them. I guess I was looking for some of the magic that made ‘Aliens’ such a favourite film of mine but, this time round, there was no sign of this at all. I’ve got a couple more ‘Aliens’ books to try and I will pick them up but I can’t ever see myself going back to this one for a re-read. Very disappointing...

Four and a Half out of Ten


Thomas said...

Aliens is also my favorite movie and while I could have lived without Alien 3 it wasn't a TERRIBLE movie.

I have sometimes considered picking some of the books up but alas none of the authors seem to write anything in the vein of the second film. You know, Marines fighting for their lives against overwhelming numbers of aliens. That is something I would watch!

And throw some predators in there while you're at it! That's what the bloody aliens vs predator films should have been like imo. Will be looking forward to your other reviews to see if anything is worth picking up :)

suneokun said...

Awesome cover though ... what a waste. The difficulty with the Alien genre is that after Scott and Cameron, there's very little 'originality' in the theme.

Ironically, come of the most original ideas have come from the computer games...

Otherwise its just Han and Luke donning the stormtrooper costumes ... again.