By T R Napper
Who doesn’t love the Alien series? But which subset are you talking about? Like any science fiction property, once you investigate it and expand upon it, the series begins to fragment. You have Alien, Aliens, Aliens vs Predator, Prometheus, and more. They are all the same universe but split off in different directions. A purist will look to the original trilogy for their fix, but with Ripley being dead who is left to follow? According to the latest follow-up, Bishop by T. R. Napper, the bits of the android that did survive have a tale still to tell.
The various factions of the near future still have not learnt their lesson when it comes to the threat posed by the new breed of xenomorph they discovered. They all want a piece of what could become the ultimate weapon or a cure for countless diseases. One troop of Colonial Marines are sent out to find and recover the remains of Bishop, the company owned android that was destroyed. Are they saving Bishop because no Colonial Marine is left behind, or because his brain has a potential information goldmine in it?
I love the books based on the Alien series of films and they invariably do a fantastic job of recreating the claustrophobic and horror filled feel of the films. Bishop does this among the best as it is so close to the action of the second and third films. The book is set just a little after the events of Aliens 3, a group of Marines are tasked with hunting down Bishop and bringing him home, but Captain Marcel Apone is the younger brother of one of the marines lost on LV-426. Is this a mission of vengeance?
The story is told from several perspectives giving you an insight into various factions. A young grunt new to the Colonial Marines looking to discover her role and save her family from poverty. The grizzled Apone questioning his motivations and actions. A young Vietnamese smuggler captured by a Chinese faction and experimented upon. An officer in the Chinese faction questioning her orders. Finally, we have Bishop himself, woken in a new body by the original Michael Bishop.
The novel follows on the legacy of the films in both tone and feel, but also has strong female characters. The three female leads have the most exciting and interesting stories as they are flung around by fate. Like Ripley before them, they must take matters into their own hands.
Although the book is named after Bishop, he is only part of the ensemble. The key part, being the MacGuffin for several other factions, but also because he is discovering himself. Bishop develops the character as the original Bishop provides the android with a new body but also the ability to have free thought. The book explores the development of AI once it is set free. We discover that Bishop can make mistakes, but also learn what is truly important to him.
The book flits from action set piece to analysis of the self and back again. As an Aliens fan I enjoyed the action the best. Tapper captures the arrogance and stupidity of the various faction perfectly. They all have a great plan until they come face to face with their first alien and then the terror and acid blood takes over. There are some wonderfully visceral action set pieces in the book, but also some moments of classic horror.
Bishop is a worthy direct sequel to the third film. It captures the feel of the second and third films well. There are some nice cameos in the book that link the story to the films, without disregarding later books. The treatise on AI will interest science fiction fans, but it is the action and the aliens that will impress fans of the films the most.
Written on 21st December 2023 by Sam Tyler .