Written by: T.R Napper
Published by: Titan Books
Copy Provided For Review
“It was strange. Whenever he tried to focus on the subject, Bishop’s mind turned away. He was not quite sure why. Perhaps because he was embarrassed that he had been dishonest to Michael. Yes, that must be it. Michael still believed Bishop had asked to be shut down because he feared being a suspended model. This was the closest to a lie that Bishop had ever come to telling his creator. An omission of the truth – the simple and uncomfortable truth, that he had nothing to live for without friends.
Everyone he cared for had died, everyone who treated him as an equal was gone. He could find no reason that he had been spared and the rest had not; there was no deserving in it. Bishop knew, of course, that this was how the universe worked.
The rain falls on the just and unjust alike. Yet sometimes he wondered if there were two kinds of knowing.
Lance Henriksen’s scene-stealing synthetic returns in the massively readable and richly textured Aliens: Bishop. The latest novel from Titan Books’ rapidly expanding Alien/Predator tie-in range. Though set in the direct aftermath of Alien3 (a franchise favorite around these parts), author T.R. Napper juices the intrigue and Weyland-Yuanti machinations with plenty of Colonial Marine action. Bringing back another icon from James Cameron’s Aliens, but just maybe not in the way one might expect. Alongside ANOTHER scene-stealer from the prison colony world of Fiorina 161. Culminating in a pulse-pounding reading experience that is sure to be a real hit with Xenomorph fanatics.
Allright, people, on the ready line. Are you lean?! Are you mean?! We are gonna go get some.
Right from the jump, author Napper hits the ground in an absolute sprint. Synthetic genius (and absolute madman) Michael Bishop and his ship, the USCSS Patna, the very same craft he intended to spirit Ellen Ripley and her growing Queen embryo away from Fury in, have been found. Naturally, the Colonial Marines take a keen interest in its recovery. In particular, Captain Marcel Apone, brother of the doomed Master Sergeant Alexander Apone from Aliens, who jumps at the assignment despite heading into the engagement with a largely untested group of grunts.
These sections, punchily peppered throughout the novel in named chapter groups following specific characters, gamely recreate the ball-busting, hard-knuckled energy of Aliens. Hinged mostly around the new Apone and Australian new recruit Private Karri Lee, Napper introduces us to a robust, instantly charming group of characters. And then promptly throws them into a Weyland-Yuanti-themed meat-grinder until the very final page. Spiking the engaging interplay and affecting character work with truly shocking Alien violence and constantly thrilling set pieces.
But while Apone and Lee handle the action, fan-favorite Bishop more than carries his sections. For while the Marines are in pursuit of the Patna, Bishop is running his own chase. Toward the nature of humanity and the colossal political power-shift the Xenomorph could herald. Provided a new body by his creator, but shackled to his expectations and macabre goals, Bishop wants more from his “second chance”. While his creator dreams only of domination and control of the unknowable.
Though these sections continue the body horror and action, they also reveal a depth of scope that I have often really craved from Alien works. Questions of the synthetic soul, the poverty and inequality of the far-future, the impact of alien life on society and politics, and even a pretty substantial look into how other nations are taking on their own Xenomorph research (and the awful atrocities they justify to themselves in it’s pursuit). All these elements and more are brought to the table and the novel, overall, is all the richer for it.
Also, just to be up front, it also doesn’t hurt that it’s all spearheaded by one of my favorite characters in the whole of the franchise.
But ultimately Aliens: Bishop stands as a consistently entertaining and well-constructed Aliens experience. I somewhat worry that those unfamiliar with Aliens and Alien3 might be a little lost. However, thanks to the rich characters and driving shocks, Aliens: Bishop has something for everybody. Now we just gotta get a David novel…