There are four films in the original Alien franchise. Two extra if you’re counting the amusing but unremarkable Alien vs. Predator films, which are more fun than the two sloppy prequels. Want more? Okay; there’s a movie adaptation for each film, a game and web series adaptation both called Alien: Isolation, a slew of comic book adaptations and, of course, original novels and “omnibus” story collections. That’s a lot, but don’t worry; I’m only here for one piece of that pie. Herewith, my thoughts on Volume 7, which contains the stories Criminal Enterprise and No Exit. It’s the most recent collection, though with seven more novels, I’d expect more twosomes as time goes by. To make things easy, let’s break this into two main parts, shall we?
Criminal Enterprise, by S.D. Perry – An easy drop-off-illegal-drugs-to-an-illegal-manufacturing-planet mission is anything but for Thomas Chase. As he wakes from cryosleep, his bungling criminal of a brother (that got Thomas into this mess) starts making friends with the other criminals. But that’s not all; a(nother) criminal group wants to hijack that valuable payload, and a revenge-bound man wants to settle the score with the people who made the drugs that killed his son. That’s a helluva lot to keep track of, and there are definitely moments where I couldn’t remember who had what goal, and what was happening. But then things start to rev up as the planet’s “bugs”- Xenomorphs, natch – become less of a security system and more of a deadly problem. Yes, this is a Ten Little Indians-esque story as characters get picked off one by one. But what Alien story isn’t?
What drew me in was the way the Xenomorphs were used; as defense for the planet’s massive drug-running operation. Well, until things go wobbly and humans start getting real up-close and personal with ‘em. Perry sketches out compelling characters, though a lot of them aren’t around for long. Maybe a focus on fewer characters would have showcased the author’s way with third person narrative. Still, if you’re looking for slam-bang Alien action with characters you manage to care about as many of ‘em get picked off? Here you go.
No Exit, by B.K. Evenson – Damn this story starts with a bang. as Anders Kramm wakes from cryosleep thirty years after the death of his wife and daughter at the icky hands of Xenomorphs. The alien threat has gone from extinction-level event to a nuiscance for terraformers. Well, so they think. When Kramm gets tasked with figuring out the deaths of twelve scientists – hey, he’s got the knowledge of how these aliens operate after all – espionage and double-crosses lead to blood, acid and human.
There’s lots of time jumps at the start; flashback so long it’s hard to remember what’s going on in the main story. But dang this story cries out for an onscreen adaptation, especially with all of the corporate twists and turns. It’d also help with the padding in Section Five of the story, which felt like so much blah-blah ‘til the end. Evenson puts the main climax in the middle of his story, so as the survivors slog on toward hope for escape, it feels leaden. Though as with Perry, Evenson knows how to hook a reader into caring about characters; I wanted secondary folks like Bjorn and Jolena to make it through, and that lent an urgency and excitement to the final four chapters.
The ending feels like a cop-out, as if the author dug too deep into the story and then couldn’t figure out how to wrap things up without leaving strings dangling. I didn’t like it in Angel, and I’m not a fan of it here. Like Angel, No Exit is a fun franchise extension, but unlike that television show, Exit has boring moments that made me want to skip ahead to the good stuff. Pity; there’s a solid story here, and perhaps with a co-author (or editor to keep the writer on point) it could be really good.
This is definitely a book you’ll want to Kindle; having to keep this 576 page paperback open was a real pain after a while. But damn if I’m busting a book’s spine, weakening the glue holding the pages together. (I busted it anyway.) Flipping Kindle pages is much easier, and more portable too. Yeah, I bought a Kindle copy a book I received for free. My wrists couldn’t take it after page 173. This is what getting old is, kids. Enjoy the ride.
Plus, there’s an extra added bonus to reading these two tales on a tech-type device; these stories are made for reading in the dark. Cue the spooooooky music! But either way you read it, if you’re a fan of this mythology (because let’s face it, this behemoth of a franchise is large enough to warrant that descriptive), you’ll want to dig in. Both stories had me flipping pages as fast as I could, just to see what was next. And any further info on those Xenomorphs is a good thing. Well, from this vantage point, anyway. I’d probably feel differently if I was a part of the gory goings-on.