I’ve been a fan of the Alien films for, well let’s just say from before the much-maligned Alien3 came out. I actually saw the first two films; Alien & Aliens, out of order so my first experience of the series is intrinsically linked with the idea of the Colonial Marines. So I was naturally curious to try this selection of short stories focusing on other encounters.
As with any anthology, the quality of the stories does vary, with some being more memorable than others. While the majority do follow the same basic outline; the marines are sent to a location, encounter a hostile alien species (sometimes xenomorphs, sometimes something else) and havoc ensues; there are some that take a different path.
Probably the two most unique stories in the collection are Episode 22 by Larry Correia and Dangerous Prey by Scott Sigler. Episode 22 is likely the more divisive of the two since it essentially has no characters. The basis of the story is a documentary program detailing the history of the M41A pulse rifle, the marines' primary weapon. It may sound dry or boring, and it certainly isn’t for everyone, but I found it entertaining. Dangerous Prey takes the difficult task of trying to give the xenomorph understandable motivations, following various stages of the life cycle; from drone, egg, face-hugger, and finally, the queen. What’s impressive is, that for the most part, it succeeds.
Of the more straight-forward stories, barely a third feature familiar characters. The majority of these did feel like they added or explained something, whether Bishop’s seeming uniqueness in Broken by Rachel Caine or Hicks’ protectiveness in Reclamation by Yvonne Navarro. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work. Having Executioners feature Dietrich and Frost serves little purpose and swapping them out for two unknown marines wouldn’t have detracted from the story in any way. The fact that it comes immediately after Blowback by Christopher Golden which also features Dietrich as the main character, but which does add to the sense of camaraderie shown amongst the squad from Aliens, only serves to highlight the matter.
Overall, it’s a decent read; one that will appeal to fans of the series but unlikely to convert people who aren’t.
3 out of 5 dropships.