Aliens: Earth Hive (Steve Perry)
Aliens: Earth Hive is the first book in a trilogy of set after the events of Aliens. Basically serving as the further adventures of Newt and Hicks, Earth Hive is among the more derivative books that I've read and is certainly a bad example of tie in fiction. Ripping nearly all of its plot points directly from previous source material and relying on flat characters to make up for the lack of intrigue in the story, Earth Hive is an all around sub-par book with only a few redeeming qualities.
For people who have actually seen the movies, the story will often seem very, very cliché. In crafting yet another situation where a semi-willing Alien expert leads a crack team of marines onto an isolated planet to deal with an alien menace (all while a massive conspiracy is being set up to bring one back for testing) the story finds itself in danger of not being taken seriously very early on. Unfortunately the central narrative of Billie and Wilks being forced to encounter the Aliens for the second time in their lives is very dull and never manages to bring anything new to the table. There are a few fight scenes, but certainly nothing we haven't seen before and definitely not described in a way worth reading. The marines encounter Aliens and fight back, blow up a nest, then escape into orbit and nuke the planet. I don't even feel bad about spoiling the entire basic plot of this book because it was so similar to the movie.
There are a few wrinkles to mix up the otherwise laughably derivative premise. We are treated to several scenes on Earth after Billie and Wilks leave, all of which help set the stage for future books in this series. It turns out an Alien has already been captured, but of course a bunch of rabid fanatics complicate things by throwing themselves at this Alien's offspring and escaping the top secret government facility where it is hidden with the embryos of future Aliens in them. This small incident leads to a massive shift in the Earth's population and by the time Wilks and Billie return at the end of this book the stage is set for a massive battle to retake Earth. I was happy with this ending and hopefully it manages to move the series into slightly unexplored territory in the second book. This promise is the only thing keeping the story from being an utter wreck however, as it is otherwise an Aliens rehash with none of the charm or spectacle.
Billie and Wilks, the only characters of any substance, should be familiar to fans of the movies. The characters seem to be based off of Aliens characters Newt and Hicks, and in fact were named as such in the comic book series that this book is named after. The characters were then renamed in order to avoid conflict with the Aliens 3 opening scenes. Knowing this makes them much easier to accept, as otherwise they were such blatant rip offs of the characters that it felt extremely lazy and contrived. Of course, they still don't match perfectly: Wilks is a bit too hard edged to fall into the compassionate and level headed role that Hicks had in Aliens, and Billie's background doesn't line up with Newt's outside of the most basic details. Characterization is by no means a strong suit of this book, but the two establish a nice rapport by the end and reading it as what (could have) happened to these two post Aliens is far more interesting than reading it as two random people who happen to be almost exactly like the people from the original movies (especially considering how similar the plot is.)
There isn't much else to like about any of the supporting characters. The marines accompanying Wilks and Billie on their mission are literally robots, and Billie's quick and random relationship with one of them is very surprising not because it happened, but how it happened. They go from being total strangers to deeply in love for the rest of time over the span of about twenty pages-it isn't even written like a random fling created by the desperation of the situation, but more like a monumental pairing surely influenced by the cosmos. This romantic element was so fake and useless that it brought down both people involved and made it even harder to buy into Billie's character. There are a handful of other characters such as a hacker employed by the aforementioned cultists, two unnamed corporate executives, and the government forces looking to claim a new Alien sample, but no one else in this book stood out to me.
I was expecting pretty much exactly what was delivered in terms of the writing style, which means that this book is mostly inoffensive but rarely spectacular with its conventional and unimaginative structure, dialogue, and narrative. The best element is by far the world building. Unlike the films, we do get some exposition concerning the Aliens universe as a whole, and quite a few scenes building up Earth as seen in the distant future. They aren't the most vividly imagined details ever, but little things like having the characters swear to Buddha or outlining the moral decline of humanity towards slavish excess and greed (any scenes with the two unnamed executives fit this bill) help to bring the universe to a more fully realized state. The dead creature at the beginning of Alien is also referenced in one of the more promising plot points to be continued in the next book, and of course there are plenty of outlines of the Alien's physiological makeup and special abilities (including the ability to change gender when needed.)
Aliens: Earth Hive is a very mediocre book only of interest to hardcore Alien fans interested in learning a bit more about the setting. The derivative plot, bland characters, and thoroughly uninspiring prose prevent this book from being anything more than mush brained filler. I do have higher hopes for the next installment of the series, but only due to the fact that it may explore new ground in the Alien universe as opposed to treading the same water once more.