Okay, stop me if you’ve heard this one before…
Girl walks into a spacecraft filled with marines. They’re off to a planet called Hiveworld. Our gal’s badass but scared, having something of a history with the Alien sons-of-biatches they’re going to hunt. But that’s okay because there’s a company guy there and, sure, he’s a bit sleazy but she kinda likes him and thinks she can trust him and…
What? You know that one?
Safe to say, David Bischoff’s GENOCIDE, the first of two novels collected in this second volume of Titan Books’ new omnibus series, treads familiar ground. It’s basically a remix of James Cameron’s ALIENS, with a few things shifted around a bit, and while for some people that might be a turnoff, it kinda worked for me. It’s a page-turner, you see. Cliched characters, maybe, but Bischoff makes them work and I found myself buying into all their little dramas. The writing itself remains accessible. Clipped and very dialogue-driven. There aren’t a hell of a lot of aliens and you could say it’s heavy on the opera, light on the space. But for some reason… well, I just really enjoyed reading it.
The second book in this volume, ALIEN HARVEST by Robert Sheckley, was not just as enjoyable. In many ways, it’s a problem with tone again – unlike the novelisations, or indeed the new canonical series from Titan, penned by Tim Lebbon, James A. Moore and Christopher Golden, this book is laissez faire with the source material, creating an old-school pulp adventure that boasts more of a jovial, Dan Dare esque vibe than the darker, Gigeresque tones of the movies. Set within the context of a post-alien-invasion Earth, ALIEN HARVEST follows a ragtag band of mercs in search of a vast store of Alien jelly, a cure-all nectar with narcotic properties. Pivotal to their mission is a robot named Norbert. A replica of the aliens themselves, Norbert’s character is so far out that you have to wonder if Sheckley himself was imbibing on some of that Alien Royal Jelly that his story, and the characters populating such, are so obsessed with. It’s very readable, mind, and will certainly pass the time, but definitely the weaker of the two stories on offer here.
I’m glad that Titan are collecting these stories. Most, if not all, are long out of print, and, for those who missed them first time around, these omnibuses offer a second chance to check them out. But they’re not a patch on their new series.