Music of the Spears (Aliens, Book 8)
by Yvonne Navarro
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Aliens Novels: Book 8, Music of the Spears / 0-553-57492-2
As I'm going through reading all the aliens books in order (although all of them have been non-sequential, self-contained stories after the third book, "The Female War"), I have found that few things irritate me so much as an author who felt no need to do any research whatsoever into the aliens universe. The only thing more irritating that this might perhaps be a science fiction author who doesn't understand the concept of science fiction. In "Music of the Spears", author Navarro manages to handily fit both categories.
Navarro has apparently never seen a single aliens movie nor read a single aliens book, a fact demonstrated by her not knowing the first thing about aliens, period. She has decided that the "derelict space craft" she keeps hearing about from that first movie "Alien" was built *by* the aliens, demonstrating a level of sentience and intelligence that the aliens have since "lost" - a puzzle the author solves by having the aliens de-evolving in captivity on Earth.
Now, forget fanboy facts like aliens not being advanced enough to create their own space crafts, as outlined in every book and movie on the subject. Forget that the movie clearly emphasized that the aliens on the derelict ship were not pilots (Navarro hasn't, apparently, seen the famous scene with the desiccated, chest-bursted pilot fossilized to the helm). Forgetting all of that, just consider the implications of the alien species EVER having the ability to build spaceships and navigate the stars: that would make them completely unstoppable. The only weak point in the aliens is that they are 'trappable' on planets and ships, and the human victims have a chance at getting away from the planet/ship they've been trapped on. If the aliens could just up and take off to wherever they pleased, why wouldn't they have conquered the universe at this point, or at least the better part of our galaxy?
Similarly, a new "fact" we're treated to is that the aliens "see" by sonar (similar to bats) and the sound waves they use to "see" their surroundings is a constant, audible hiss. Not only does this contradict all other alien sources, it doesn't make sense: aliens are scary because they can creep silently up behind you and grab you before you even knew they were there, but it's impossible to be sneaky when you sound like a perpetual leaky tire.
Navarro is apparently dimly aware, probably via her franchise contact, that the previous books in the series have featured an alien-human war on Earth that resulted in (a) something like 70% of all humans dead, with the remaining 30% scattered randomly through space in a panicked species-wide Diaspora, and (b) the Earth being physically ravaged by war, alien occupation, and by massive, planet-wide nuclear bombs. A science fiction universe operating under those rules would look just a tiny bit different from our own. Racial lines would almost certainly be completely blurred by the massively reduced population and the mixed genetic content of the hastily-boarded escape pods, a reality that Piers Anthony predicted long ago in his "Race Against Time". Major cities would be completely decimated by war and would have to be rebuilt from the ground up, if they were even built at all - "New York" would literally become "New New York", as "Futurama" satirically notes. Technology would be more advanced for this space-faring race resettling a decimated planet, an obvious fact since before "Star Trek" aired a single series.
In Navarro's Manhattan, however, right across the street from the World Trade Center (unmarred by aliens or nuclear war), lies the music company Synsound which is owned and run by a Japanese man (who has maintained his Japanese language, customs, and genetics despite the Diaspora), and of course he's also an ex-member of the Yakuza (it's nice to see a violent gang maintain cohesion through a crisis). He naturally has at his disposal a group of ninjas who are hand-picked Japanese-American immigrants (the futuristic world government of the previous books having apparently fractured at some point back into the twentieth century governments that Navarro is more familiar with) who, as a prerequisite for joining, don't speak a lick of English (because a species hovering on the verge of extinction has the luxury of avoiding a common language). The ninjas carry ancient family-heirloom Samurai swords (thank god there was room to load the heirlooms on the escape pods, although it's a shame that there wasn't room for Grandma after the swords had been packed). This particular group of ninjas is "perfect" for fighting aliens because, as Navarro patiently explains, Samurai swords cleanly take off the aliens' limbs.
Um...what? Not to sound like a raging fanboy, but taking off a limb should result in a spray of deadly acid. Speaking of which, not only should those heirloom swords *not* be able to pierce an alien carapace, they should not even exist after the first cut. Apparently when they make ancient Samurai swords, they make them acid-proof against alien acids that otherwise melt all compounds! It's just too bad they didn't share that ancient secret with all the ship-makers and armory departments outfitting the marines or that whole Diaspora thing possibly could have been averted.
Anyway, the ninjas come in handy because a rival pharmaceutical company (the music industry absolutely HATES the medical industry) has a secret alien lab and the ninjas are able to duck under security cameras (they can afford an alien lab, but they didn't want to go overboard on security cameras), kill the aliens in a one-on-one battle, and kidnap an egg. All this trouble because Synsound is humoring a musician who wants to re-record Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain", but with alien screams mixed in, which isn't anywhere near as creative as what "Fantasia" did with the same piece five decades before Navarro put pen to paper. The alien cage is constructed according to specifications drawn up from the lead ninja's "instincts" and the alien is monitored by two low-level scientists armed with clipboards and dot matrix printers, apparently still the fashion in the 2100s. It's never clear why the company is willing to break so many laws and spend so much money on this project that they know will be hugely unprofitable, but we get past that by not talking about it.
The rest of the novel is spent moralizing for many, many pages about the immorality of feeding people to an alien for a crappy music re-mix. Oh, yeah, and those people are old college friends of the musician, hand-picked by the company apparently for no other reason than to mess with him. Oh, snap!
Other offensively stupid things about this novel include the tame, muzzled alien named "Old Blue" that the company keeps on hand as a tracker "dog". There's the investigators handling acid-soaked alien corpses with nothing more than gloves on their hands (on reflection, perhaps it's not that Navarro didn't read the books, perhaps it's that she just doesn't understand the concept of 'acid'). There's the return to the god-awful royal jelly plot, with royal jelly being a drug that is magically both a stimulant AND a soporific, and literally impossible to overdose on. There's also the underlying racism that every minority in the novel has to justify their existence by being a stereotypical "angry black man" or "oriental ninja".
Do yourself a favor and skip this novel entirely. The whole thing is a tepid, moralizing screed, more whiny than introspective, and with enough inaccuracies and blatant stupidity to choke a horse. Since the series stopped being sequential many books ago, I can assure you, you won't be missing anything at all.
~ Ana Mardoll
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