In the past few years, there have been several entries into the Alien franchise, and I’m not referring to the prequel movies. Titan Books has been publishing a lot of these books by partnering with sci-fi/fantasy writers like Alex White and Scott Sigler, and the results have been terrifyingly awesome. Each author expands the Alien universe in a different direction, which I alluded to in my Alien RPG review. This is breathing chest-bursting life into a franchise that’s been acid-burnt for far too long. The newest book, Aliens Infiltrator by Weston Ochse, is an action-packed story filled with espionage and terror taking place in a United Americas Colonial Marines station at the edge of existence. This tale, however, is not for the faint of heart as the series takes a bizarre Island of Dr. Moreau-like twist that makes an already harsh world that much more disturbing.
The most recent addition reminds us of just how small we are in the vast, numbing darkness of space. And much like the RPG, it’s very hard for our characters to stay alive. Like most sci-fi and cosmic horror, there are a lot of characters–each with their own agenda. It’s actually pretty hard to keep track of all the characters, but I believe this to be intentional as the more relevant characters are easy to pick out. And with 53 chapters, the book bounces around following particular characters at times. I liked this mostly because it emulates the claustrophobic, neurotic mentality that comes with the Alien franchise, and Ochse clearly knows this formula inside and out.
The focus of most of the story is Dr. Timothy Hoenikker, an archeologist specializing in alien artifacts. He’s lured to a Weyland Yutani research site with promises of alien artifacts only to find out the facility is actually the breeding ground for horrifying abominations that mock the notion of life–Xenomorph aliens and various creatures’ DNA spliced with the black ooze (rats, spiders, chameleons, etc.) On the other side of this we have Victor Rawlings, a former marine performing the aforementioned tests and making Xenomorphs. He tries to contain the beasts… but we know how that always ends up. These two, and a massive cast of supporting characters, try to contain the Xenos while they stay on the lookout for a confirmed infiltrator on-site whose agenda is unknown.
This book is actually the prequel for the upcoming video game Alien: Fireteam. I would even go as far as saying the book reads very similar to recollecting a video game’s content. That being said, there’s a lot going on in this book story-wise; there’s not much content that challenges the reader outside of one scientist being arrested prematurely (with the undertones being because he’s black.) The lack of rhetorical argument isn’t a bad thing, but if you prefer the Prometheus-styled philosophy-porn that makes you question ethics and logic, this isn’t the Alien book for you.
Overall, this book is fast, action-packed, and doesn’t disappoint. At times it’s hard to understand certain fight scenes and you may have to re-read a sentence or two, but it doesn’t ruin the experience. If you’re looking for a disturbing, brutal day in the ‘core, this is a must-read for Alien fans.