Nightmare Asylum (Aliens, Book 2)
by Steve Perry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Aliens Novels: Book 2, Nightmare Asylum / 978-0-553-56158-6
When "Earth Hive (Aliens, Book 1)" finished with the audacious cliff-hanger of Earth completely overrun by aliens and the remaining human population scattering into the galaxy desperate for safety, I couldn't pick "Nightmare Asylum" up fast enough. Author Steve Perry picks up exactly where he left off, with Wilks and Billie in a rickety transport in deep space, hoping to reach their pre-programmed destination (wherever that might be) before they run out of food and supplies.
When Billie begins to suffer from the vivid 'dreams' that empathic humans experience in the presence of aliens, she realizes that their transport is carrying more than they bargained for. And when Wilks and Billie search the ship only to find four recently infected humans, once deep in stasis and now very dead, they receive their first piece of evidence that not every surviving human fully appreciates how dangerous these creatures are.
Their relief at arriving safely to their destination, a distant military compound and civilian colony, quickly evaporates when they realize, almost instantly upon arrival, that the general in command of the base is completely insane, obsessed with delusions of creating his own tame alien army and using them to recapture Earth. General Spears has his own home grown alien queen and has fed more than half his troops and all the colonists to the aliens in order to produce more drone warriors.
Perry handles the exposition perfectly, providing a wealth of detail about alien anatomy, mating, genetics, behavior, and motivation without ever seeming to abandon the plot or get overly bogged down in details. Perry also carefully and realistically explains how the General has managed to keep the queen and her drones under control, as well as provide a somewhat plausible explanation for why the mad general has not yet been fragged by his own troops despite his propensity to throw them to the aliens for the slightest infraction. In a plot device utilized by pretty much every James Axler "Deathlands" novel, it is up to the strangers who just blew into town to kill the bad guy and destroy the monsters, whilst welcoming the death that they've been dodging for far too long.
This novel isn't high literature by any stretch, and contains a few occasional small flaws. General Spears is just a little too smart, the supporting characters are fairly one-dimensional and clearly ancillary to the main characters, and Wilks and Billie step out of character at a crucial moment in order to accommodate the confines of the story. Perry has also slightly upped the nudity and sexuality in this book, including a rather implausible scene where Billie strips naked in order to distract a couple of dim-witted marines. Having said all that, however, the plot is solidly entertaining, the writing is crisp and quick, the tension is thick, and there is a wealth of new details on the alien race - enough to keep the most rabid fan happily content. In short, the novel is a solid four-star book and a must read for die-hard fans of the aliens franchise.
There is even a pleasantly startling conclusion where Ellen Ripley enters the scene - likely because the same writers who had been forced to switch "Hicks and Newt" to "Wilks and Billie" because of the conflict between the novel and "Alien 3" now realized that the plot development of an earth completely overrun by aliens was enough of a conflict to the movie series to justify a clean break and allow Ripley to appear unencumbered in this new fictional world.
~ Ana Mardoll
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