Every so often, the ridiculous amount of hours I spent watching the same movie over and over and over again when I was fourteen years old actually pays off. Predator was one of those movies. A time did indeed exist in my high school career when I could rip every single line, complete with inflections and accents. To prove my point further, I almost moved to Minneapolis just so I could vote for Jesse “the Body” Ventura when he ran for governor – not because I was particularly interested in politics, mind you, but because I was so enthralled with his character in Predator. I figured that anybody who could deliver “old painless” in such a loving, caressing tone while talking about a mini-gun was destined for greatness.
Since that fateful and awkward freshman year of high school, the Predator universe has expanded to fill us in on all the backstory of these interstellar hunters. Who can forget that old grandpa-looking Predator throwing Danny Glover a flintlock pistol with a backdrop of other trophies (even an Alien xenomorph skull!) hanging on the wall of the ship in Predator 2? Mind freaking blown. The rest mostly runs together and is largely forgettable. I’ve seen ‘em all, but besides some cool stuff in AVP, nothing came even close to Arnold vs the Universe’s Ultimate Hunter and the follow-up with Glover and Gary Busey.
And so, skipping to the mailbox one day, a familiar twinge of that old Predator excitement crackled along my spine as The Predator: Hunters and Hunted, a new movie prequel from James A. Moore and from Titan Books was packed neatly in amongst the bills and advertisements. My plans of cooking a three-course meal with extra trimmings for the family turned into pizza and apple slices as I tore open the package and settled in.
Any Predator aficionado will tell you that of utmost importance is the arbitrary slaying of a few basic prey items. The Predator has to get his bearings, get a feel for the lay of the land. Check that required box with gusto. We filter through a little mush at the beginning of the novel, but quickly find ourselves in a biker bar, followed by a life and death struggle with an alligator. Excellent. Moore takes a very calculated risk by writing from Predator point of view as he goes hand to hand with the old Crocodilia Alligatoridae. It’s very cool. Sharp choice, and I’m sure it wasn’t an easy one to undertake. This point of view also allows Moore to show us the Predator world, instead of telling us. It’s much more effective. From there, the plot moves off into the direction of government agencies who have identified and tracked the Predator and have also established and trained a crack team of killers to catch a Predator for various experiments and studies.
Unfortunately, the Predator is dug in like an Alabama tick. He’s not an easy kill, and capturing one alive proves to be a nigh impossible challenge. I’ll not spoil this one for you in terms of results.
Some minor dings are apparent in the political human side of this novel. Nothing drags down a plot like a military man built for action attempting to navigate the dangerous world of securing funding in a tight-budget economy. Yawn. A large chunk of this novel is a Predator survivor, Pappy Elliott, holding our hand as he outlines his motivations for hating Predators. His unit in Vietnam was killed by one and so on and so forth. As a career military man, he finds himself no longer in the battle ground, but in charge of Project Stargazer – the strike force charged with capturing a Predator. It makes sense, but the largely forgettable political thriller aspect of this novel seems tedious.
All of that changes when the military killers have had enough of the Washington crap and go rogue. The capturing and the scientific study has been fun, but it’s time to kill this bastard. Yes. The last eighty pages are absolutely awesome, reminiscent of Dutch and Billy and Blain and Mac’s last stand in the jungle. Coordinated military might meets alien tech and brutality. It was so good I stayed up to the wee hours of the morning because I could not put it down. Please accept this as a warning – you’ll enjoy yourself through the first seventy percent of the novel, but the ride at the end will leave you bleary-eyed and cursing when you wake up late for work since you stayed up to read until three in the morning.
If you are a Predator fan, nab this book. Regardless of the new movie that just hit theaters or your thoughts on any of the other subsequent Predator fodder that orbits those first two gravitational force movies with Arnold and Glover, The Predator: Hunters and Hunted movie prequel novel by James A. Moore is a force in its own right.