Resident Evil: Extinction
by Keith R.A. DeCandido
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Resident Evil: Extinction / 9781416544982
This is the third and final book in the DeCandido novelization tie-in to the Resident Evil series, and I have to say I'm glad to see the back of him as an author for this franchise; I hope whoever they got for Resident Evil: Retribution does a little better on characterization.
The plot aspects of this novel, like the two before it, are done well in my opinion. Extinction was probably the weakest of the first three movies in this respect; the plot was good but there was always the feeling that you were missing huge gaps of backstory and sidestory. This novelization delivers, and does a wonderful job of filling in the gaps between Apocalypse and Extinction, as well as explaining a lot of missing character motivation. We find out how the world went down the drain, why Alice left Carlos-Jill-L.J., where Jill is for the entirety of the movie, how Claire Redfield entered stage left, and how Umbrella is able to control Alice remotely. All in all, if you're just coming to this novel to fill in those movie gaps, I can strongly recommend it.
While I'm giving credit where credit is due, I'll also note that this is a rare example of a novel that handles frequent changes in POV character *and* in timeline without becoming confusing or cumbersome to follow. Because the Before and After settings in this case are so very different, the changes here are easy to follow and the reader is quick to acclimate to chapter shifts. I enjoyed that aspect of the novel, as well as the fact that Extinction is fast-paced and never seems to bog down, despite the many concurrent plot threads.
Where this novels falls down is where its predecessors also failed: whoever is in charge of the characterization for these novels -- whether it be the author or the franchise owners -- is not doing a very good job, particularly when it comes to minority characters. There's a return of the overuse of racial slurs and gendered slurs; this novel never seems to miss a beat to fling out a N* or a B* when presented with the chance, and to my mind it's overused and gratuitous. (I counted over 40 instances of B*, most of which are directed at Jill Valentine, who is repeatedly referred to as "white b*".)
Actually, Jill Valentine is good example of how badly written the minority characters are in this novel. I literally laughed out loud when the book asserts that Jill Valentine had, in the post-apocalypse world, let her "dark hair [grow] down to her ass, as she'd had no inclination to cut it". WHY does Jill Valentine not care about having short hair in a world with grabby zombies, equally grabby scavengers, and no shampoo for miles? Easy! She doesn't care about looking pretty anymore, so she's let herself go. Really, as the reader, you have to laugh or you'll cry, but if you're a woman, or if you've had to take care of long hair, or if you've read the Zombie Survival Handbook, or if you have a single ounce of common sense, you'll probably be ousted from the narrative when you encounter stuff like this. Or later when Jill has to roll into town and remind the local black police officer that he did promise to serve and protect his people, not hole up in his house with all the guns and wait for them to die. You can see how it could be hard to remember stuff like that.
The one character who does improve from the dreadful treatment he received in Apocalypse is L.J. Wayne. He's still not handled extremely well here, but we do at least receive the backstory on why he doesn't share his secret with the rest of the team, which was something that got left out of the movie entirely, so I consider that an overall positive net gain. As expected, he has good reasons for his actions and didn't just wake up one morning and decide to be homocidally careless and selfish in service to the plot.
Really, if you've come this far in the series, you might as well read Extinction and finish off this trilogy set. The plot is good and the facepalmy moments are nothing that you haven't already experienced in this series already. And if you haven't read the previous two books, well, go read those and see if you manage to stick with it.
~ Ana Mardoll