Venture, a direct rival to the Weyland-Yutani corporation, will accept any risk to crush the competition. Thus, when a corporate spy ‘acquires’ a bizarre, leathery egg from a hijacked vessel, she takes it directly to the Venture testing facility on Jericho 3…
Eons ago, as a kid, I watched movies about aliens at every opportunity. Spaceships, Reese’s Pieces, flashing lights, mounds of mashed potatoes formed into a shape that means something: it all coalesced in my mind into an idea that life was out there, and it would be so damned interesting and adventurous to discover it. My life was forever and irreparably changed in the early ’90s when I first watched a VHS copy of Aliens and was enlightened to the idea that perhaps life was out there, and it was an acid-blooded, murdering hive-mind bent on infestation and domination. The only way to save the human race was with cool guns, heavy machinery and witty soldier dialogue. I was hooked.
As the universe and orbit of the Alien franchise broadens, an impressive array of new types of xenomorphs are introduced, bred by the creativity of the good folks in charge of expanding the world to the delight of fans across the world. Tim Waggoner has taken up the mantle of “Alien Steward” in the newest installment from Titan Books, Alien: Prototype. Mr. Waggoner has concocted a new type of xenomorph, and turned it loose on a scientific and proto-colony population on a facility named Jericho-3.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Alien franchise is the recurring connection of corporate profits and the engineering of a weaponized xenomorph. Weyland-Yutani has for years unsuccessfully attempted to establish and control this alien species, much to the dismay and dismemberment of colony populations and spaceship crews around the galaxy. However, Weyland-Yutani is not the only corporation sniffing around at the possible profits of being the first to do so. In Alien: Prototype, Waggoner introduces us to the Venture Corporation, who have suddenly found themselves in possession of a live specimen of a fledgling alien: a facehugger.
The Venture Corporation mercenary who recovered this prized facehugger pod in deep space, Tamar Prather, finds her path crossing and circling with the usual suspects in the Alien universe — scientists, Artificial Intelligence, soldiers and, well, prey. The scientists, under scrutiny of a corporate boss, manage to jimjack the whole thing up and accidentally release a hybridized alien on an unsuspecting population of soon-to-be-dead colonists. The human host used to accept the implant from the facehugger had also recently been used as a test subject for a deadly virus named cellular necrosis, and the alien who pops from his chest cavity now sports pustules of this virus and infected, acidic blood all over its carapace.
The hive-minded, hybridized, viral-driven killing machine descends on the colony. The soldiers are there to stop it. The unwitting population is in the way, dying with fantastic gore splatters and horrendous viral infections. It’s a standard, formulaic Alien adventure with a little twist. The xenomorph sports very impressive weaponry with the added virus, but the viral-hybrid aspect seems to use up a lot of pages and effort and doesn’t really affect the plot. In the end, it’s just another bug hunt.
Waggoner explores a few themes along the way, most of them standard fare — a mercenary struggling to determine morality but eventually seeking profits and finding death; a soldier discovering leadership and courage while facing an insurmountable challenge; and, noble Artificial Intelligence that ironically seems to be the only voice of humanity in the whole crowd. Waggoner carefully picks his way across the stream with the thematic elements, and refuses to take any specific risks with his characters. In any other world, that might be detrimental, but here, where there be aliens, I found it quite comforting. This ain’t Jane Austen; this is Aliens. You need soldiers and mercenaries and guns and creative ways for secondary characters to meet their demise. Waggoner delivers the crucial aspects with inspiration and innovation.
Fans of the Alien franchise will want to pick up Alien: Prototype for all the right reasons. The hybridized alien, the new enemy of the Weyland-Yutani corporation, the snappish pacing of the plot trajectory and the hidden gems that give us a greater understanding of the Alien universe — most notably, a fantastic new discovery about some human-attracting pheromones released when the flower pod opens to release the facehugger — all deserve our attention.
Novels like this further our understanding of the Alien films that defined creature science fiction. Waggoner’s writing revels in the harsh comforts of Ridley Scott’s genius, while at the same time introducing brand new facets of the xenomorph species for our consideration. Settle in and enjoy as Tim Waggoner explores the consequences of dabbling in corporate xenomorph inquiries.