The Female War (Aliens, Book 3)
by Steve Perry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Aliens Novels: Book 3, The Female War / 0-553-56159-6
Having thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in the Aliens series ("Earth Hive" and "Nightmare Asylum"), I have mixed feelings about this book.
We join the series almost precisely where we left off in "Nightmare Asylum" - with Wilks, Bille, and Ripley mooning about on the lunar rescue station and plotting how they can help in the grand scheme of human against alien. Ripley has come up with a daring plan that involves gathering together the Dreamers on the lunar station - those empaths who pick up the telepathic communications of the aliens in their dreams - for a mission that will ultimately doom the aliens on Earth to extinction. A great deal of attention is lavished on the supporting characters, making this motley crew of Dreamers the most fleshed-out supporting characters in the series so far, and providing me with actual concern that they might die on the mission, rather than mentally consigning them off as anonymous cannon fodder like so many before them. The plot expositions is nicely done as well, with the authors considering carefully the logistics of their plan, and how to pull off the technical details of Ripley's daring and drastic scheme.
These details are a case of 'too little, too late', though, because the actual plot of "Female War" is very thin, verging on the ridiculous. You see, empaths sense the presence of aliens, which is why Dreamers have been used in the past to pinpoint nearby alien nests. However, it turns out that the empaths have not been sensing the nearby alien nests *directly*, but have rather been picking up the ambient telepathy waves directed *at* the nearby aliens *from* the Queen of Queens (QoQ) back on their home planet (not the 'home' planet from "Earth Hive", incidentally). The QoQ knows where each of her children are in the universe and send them constant telepathic commands to come back to her. The Dreamers are able to pick up these commands and pinpoint the location of the home world, by remembering star layouts from their dreams. Ripley realizes that if the QoQ can be kidnapped from the home world and dropped on Earth, then all the aliens will flock to her in a single localized spot and it'll just be the work of a few nukes to take care of the alien infestation forever. This plot has more than a few problems associated with it, not the least of which is WHY the QoQ sends this constant signal - what's the point of having all your drones gathered to you rather than spreading out, hunting, and perpetuating the species? Some half-hearted attempts are made to suggest that the aliens might be bio-weapons, with the suggestion that the QoQ might be some kind of return beacon or something, but this never really pans out and frankly seems somewhat silly.
Anyway, Ripley decides to gather up all the Dreamers, or as many as are game, hijack a ship from the lunar station, travel to the alien home world, kidnap the QoQ, drop her off on Earth, and then set off a long-dismantled nuclear bomb to wipe out the aliens when they gather at critical mass. Easy peasy. To heighten the tension and provide motivation, the authors include a pretty implausible scenario: the military is still sending regular sorties down to Earth to engage the aliens (despite the ridiculous odds of a dozen marines against a planet-wide infestation) and to look for survivors (despite the fact that there really shouldn't be any more at this point, and despite the serious risk of contamination of the lunar station if one is infected). These sorties, however, give a useful excuse to take the stolen transport ship out on 'maneuvers', so we let it pass.
The ship of Dreamers travels to the home world in relative peace and quiet and here is where I get a little annoyed. The theme of the victim hunting the hunter via a telepathic link is a time honored tradition, used at least as far back as "Dracula". However, it is reasonable to pose, as Stoker does, several serious questions: Is the link merely one-way, or does the hunter have full knowledge of the victim's plans and is laying in wait for them? Are the actions of the victim truly their own if they are under telepathic influence? Will the telepathic victims be able to maintain their own minds in the overwhelming presence of the hunter? These are questions that can and should be posed, and the authors hint at a possible twist: Did the QoQ call them to her intentionally? Are their plans really hers? Is the QoQ aware of their plans and prepared for their arrival? All these hinted questions are then completely discarded, which really bugs me. At the very least, a few non-dreamers should have been brought along as backup, in case the dreamers lost control of themselves on the planet, but no.
Then the silly become ludicrous: the QoQ is not buried deep within a mountain, surrounded by thousands of drones, but rather is resting placidly on the planet's surface, readily available for Ripley to hover a ship over her, goad her into a rage, and trick her into scrambling up into the ship. Despite the fact that even the drones on this planet are giant-sized, the group escapes with implausibly minor casualties. Several point-blank shots to the aliens fail to slosh gallons of acid over the main characters, a serendipitous fact that they chalk up to extraordinarily good luck. The QoQ thus secure, they race back to Earth on the double. There, the plan is to drop the QoQ off near the main cluster of nukes, hope to god that she nests in that general area, and wire the nukes to go off after a six month delay allowing most all of the aliens to travel to this new nest. In the meantime, Ripley and Billie decide to rescue the last little girl on planet Earth and will do their best Rambo impersonations, fighting off waves and waves of hundreds of stampeding aliens without sustaining a single major injury.
If this weren't enough, I have to register a complaint with regard to Ripley in this book. A twist has been introduced in order to explain the one question I didn't care about (How can Ripley be here when she's 'supposed' to be dying on the prison planet in "Alien 3"?) whilst ignoring the massive amount of new questions this ridiculous twist brings up, not the least of which being Who, What, Where, When, How, and Why? This is, in my opinion, an inexcusably sloppy way to resolve a continuity problem and I would have preferred they just stick with the time-honored tradition that books don't have to match movies. Anyway, they are still stuck with a problem if they want to match the movies, because there's really no way to reconcile the problem that the cast of "Alien Resurrection" have never seen or heard of the aliens, despite the fact that (according to the books), they destroyed Earth and nearly wiped out humanity.
Really, I didn't regret reading this book. The writing was okay, even if the plot was ridiculous and sometimes rushed. It's worth a look if you just want to finish out the tale of Wilks and Billie from the first two novels. However, if you're not already a big fan, there's nothing really here for you. And even if you *are* a fan, most of the 'alien details' included here are just nonsensical and stupid, which may well leave you frustrated.
~ Ana Mardoll
View all my reviews