“Is this a stand up fight, or another bug hunt?” Those words are spoken by the late Bill Paxton’s character, Hudson, in the magnificent 1986 sci-fi classic Aliens. Hudson was one of ten or so Colonial Marines, armed with kickass weapons and vehicles, who fought alongside Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley. The Space Marines were just supporting characters in the film; in the anthology Aliens: Bug Hunt, 18 different writers put the colonial marines in the spotlight. From all out action, to more introspective tales, there’s a lot of different (non-canon) stories to expand the Aliens universe.
Edited by: Jonathan Maberry
Publisher: Titan Books
I love anthologies. In the best of them you get to experience different styles of writing, find a new author you really like, and can pick it up and put it down without missing a beat. Jonathan Maberry, who along with editing the collection, writes the story “Deep Black,” and got to pick his wish list of authors to bring their unique perspectives to each of the stories. This broadening of the Alien mythos isn’t just a rehash of the action scenes in the movie, as Maberry must have given each author a wide margin to work in considering how different each one feels. There are of course the “bug hunts” referenced in the title, featuring space marines doing what they do best. But others, like “Episode 22,” which opens like a military documentary off the History Channel and relays the history of the Colonial Marines’ pulse rifles, obviously have a different feel. This works in the favor of some stories, but others felt too far from the material it was based on that the only connection I felt to Aliens was the name on the book.
A few characters from the movie (Hudson, Frost, Vargas, and Bishop to name a few) appear in various stories, with Dietrich appearing in two, but for the most part they’re cameos. Hicks is in one of the better stories, though Alien purists might not like the fact that he meets a Xenomorph before the events of the movie. However, it was good example of giving a writer fewer constraints for a better outcome, especially since the beginning of the book warns that the stories aren’t canonical.
Unfortunately, the short story featuring Burke, “Dark Mother,” is the opposite, displaying the shortcomings of the book. If you remember from the movie, Burke, played by Paul Reiser in the film, was the Wayland-Yutani Corporation lackey that locked Ripley in a room with a FaceHugger in order to smuggle the Xenomorph baby back to Earth. He seemingly met his end shortly after, but the story picks up from the last shot of Burke, face to face with a Xenomorph. It was a great idea and started off well, but some of the elements seemed out of place further in the story, as the tone was jarringly different in a few of the flashbacks. It looked as if the bones of a good story were there, but there hadn’t been enough editing passes. Amusingly, but also unbelievable, there is an actual a note from the author of the story left in the text. He seems to be making a note of the timing of the scene with an incident that follows in the movie. It’s easy to pick out and makes you wonder how such an obvious mistake made it to print.
Is It Good?
Fans of the Alien films and novelizations will find enough here to love to warrant a purchase. However, there are some rough edges to some stories that stuck out and ruined some good ideas. Maybe they were just rushed, as I didn’t dislike the concepts; more so the finished products. The good news with an anthology is that you can quickly flip to the next story or to an author you like and get some enjoyment out of it, and there are some good ones. It just felt as if they had cut some of the 18 stories they could have had a better collection in all.