The Umbrella Conspiracy
by S.D. Perry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Resident Evil: The Umbrella Conspiracy / 9781781161883
I haven't played the Resident Evil games, but I've always been interested in the franchise, and I have to say that I loved this book. I'll give you the bottom-line first: this book held my attention more firmly than anything else I've read in the last few months, and I recommend it highly to fans of suspenseful horror. Also, this is probably one of the best-formatted e-Books I've seen in a month of Sundays and I appreciate Titan Books taking the time to do things right.
"The Umbrella Conspiracy" is the first in the S.D. Perry novelization series for the Resident Evil games and this book is meant to roughly correspond to the original Resident Evil game. Not having played the game, I can't speak to the accuracy of the content, but the book certainly has the perfect feel of a game novelization. Unlike the R.E. movies (and their novelizations), this isn't a "members of the larger group get picked off one-by-one" attrition horror novel; instead this is a very "alone and afraid" suspenseful horror novel. Most of the characters travel solo through the Spencer mansion, and the horror comes from constantly being on the edge of your seat as you worry what terrible thing they will find next.
And I can't stress this enough: if you prefer action horror, you just might find this book kind of boring. But if you enjoy letting your own imagination work you up into a frightened frenzy, then this book will grip you and shake you like a limp rag. And it will be awesome.
I love reading movie and game novelizations, so I'd run into S.D. Perry before when reading her Aliens books. I hadn't been terribly impressed with those; I felt like she was a competent author but the final product was on the decent side of nothing-to-write-home-about. But with a franchise like Aliens or Resident Evil, you never really know how much of the mediocrity is the fault of the author and how much is the fault of the people dictating the content. Here, S.D. Perry really shines, and it's clear on every page -- characters are enjoyable and well-written (to the point where I didn't even mind the frequent switch of POV), the suspense is tangible, the descriptions are lush without being overwrought, and the villain is delightful.
And I want to highlight something else I loved about this book. Resident Evil is a series with a lot of strong female protagonists. I read the movie novelizations and was disappointed that the series had been handed to a male author who decided that all the women in the novel should have some kind of stereotypical female backstory: sexual harassment, glass ceiling, etc. But the characters written here are just people and not "female characters"; everyone's backstory, skills, and actions over the course of the novel would be the same and make the same degree of sense even if you arbitrarily gender-swapped all the characters and made Chris a woman and Jill a man. For me, it was very refreshing to see women characters who are just normal people in a horror novel instead of being beaten over the head every second that HERE IS A LADY.
I will absolutely be reading the rest of the novels in this series, and I will definitely be checking out Perry's other work now that it's clear to me that she has more talent than a zombie has shuffle.
~ Ana Mardoll