Book Review: Aliens: Bug Hunt

“Is this gonna be a standup fight, sir, or another bug hunt?”

Using this iconic Private Hudson quote (one of many) from Aliens as a jumping off point, author Jonathan Maberry has enlisted a team of fellow writers to help pen an anthology of short stories called Aliens: Bug Hunt, which is inspired by the James Cameron classic and the world of the Colonial Marines in particular.

Like Corporal Hicks leading an elite USCM squad into battle, Maberry’s authorial sci-fi super team approaches the Alien universe with tactical precision, and from a variety of perspectives. Bug Hunt‘s 350-some-odd pages are home to 18 shorts by 19 authors (one story is a collaboration). A mix of both canonical and non-canonical, the stories all take place within the span of events between the four main movies, each author expanding the world with his or her own distinct writing style. For those who may not be acquainted with their previous works, half a dozen pages at the end feature brief biographies on all of the contributing authors.

It’s only natural that, at least to my tastes, the standout stories are the ones that extend the backgrounds of iconic characters from Aliens. Reclamation, for example, tells a story about Dwayne Hicks and his wife, fellow Marine Rachel Miller-Hicks, who is presumed dead but officially considered MIA after sending a video transmission home of an alien attack while her squad was on a mission exploring a small moon believed to be holding pirated spacecraft. Five years later, Hicks is mistakenly assigned a mission to that same moon, where he finally gets the chance to uncover what happened to his wife. Hicks also appears in Blowback, which rekindles the action and Colonial Marine camaraderie of Aliens by reuniting familiar faces Hudson, Vasquez, Spunkmeyer, Frost, Wiezrboswki, Dietrich, and Apone against an alien threat very different from what they’ll eventually face in the movie.

Broken is another good one, revealing the first moments in the synthetic life of Bishop as he’s sent on a hostage rescue mission with a squad of Marines. In risking his life to help rescue the hostages, you gain deeper insight into how his behavior is different–how he’s “broken”–compared to other synthetics. Then there’s Dark Mother, which unfolds kind of like an extended deleted scene DVD extra revealing the ultimate fate of Carter Burke after trying to have the facehuggers impregnate Ripley and Newt. Dream flashbacks weave in events from his childhood and the relationship with his mother and father to help show just where Burke’s greed comes from.

I really enjoyed No Good Deed and Deep Background as well. The former is about a bounty hunter named Madison “Mad” Voss and her smartass synth sidekick named Jex–who Mad is constantly telling to fuck off–hunting after a pair psychopathic criminals escaped from the prison ship Tartarus. The latter centers on reporter Nickole Kejela, who’s embedded with a Colonial Marine unit as a field reporter, using the cover of writing a simple profile piece to investigate whether or not the Marines were involved in covering up what happened on Hadley’s Hope.

Completely different from the others, Episode 22 is part of a History Channel-like documentary called “Saga of the Weapon” recapping the history and evolution of the M41A Pulse Rifle, including interview transcripts with various Marines. Dangerous Prey goes off on another tangent, written from the perspective of a Xenomorph protector to bring you into the thoughts of the aliens and shed light on the inner workings behind their hive mind behavior and eusocial insect communications.

Aliens: Bug Hunt covers a lot of territory without ever losing pace or momentum, each story confined to a concise 20 pages or so (though some are even longer while others are shorter). Some of the stories are pure balls-to-the-wall action, others are more atmospheric and tense in line with sci-fi monster horror. Some stories explore deeper human dramas or add love triangles to the mix, others have a humorous edge with plenty of fun character interactions and banter. Some stories stick to the familiar threats of Xenomorphs and facehuggers, while others introduce entirely new breeds of space nasties you won’t see on screen in any of the films.

Unifying threads of betrayal and deception, corporate greed, acts of heroism, and the fact that everyone always seems to act like a bunch of bumbling idiots when it comes to dealing with the aliens, connect the stories to the films in a way that feels authentic to the source material. In addition to some genuinely compelling twists and surprises, Alien fans will definitely enjoy the callbacks and references to the movies, as well as getting the chance to revisit Colonial Marine favorites for richer backstory development while also meeting new characters they’ve never encountered before.

Buy From: Amazon.com for MSRP $16.95.

Disclosure: A copy of Aliens: Bug Hunt was provided to VGBlogger.com for review purposes by Titan Books.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles.

Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere.

Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn’t mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!