Twenty years have passed since I read Predator: Concrete Jungle. Looking back, it was a weird hybrid of the first two films, doing little to really stand on its own. So to discover a trilogy of books with both the Alien and the Predator involved, in a different time frame to the films, was a sweet find.
Life got between me and reading the books immediately, but I’ve now finished the ‘Rage War Trilogy’ by Tim Lebbon. This was initially a review of the first book, but now I’ve finished the three books I’ve amended it to cover the series.
It’s been hundreds of years since the original films, and faster than light travel is now commonplace as Humans expand their sphere of influence. Plenty has changed, but there are still Colonial Marines, and there is still Weyland-Yutani. ‘The Company’ still have their fingers in lots of pies, but for once they aren’t the ultimate shady evil. No, there’s something much worse, and it isn’t what you’d expect.
Can humanity save itself? Can it make the necessary sacrifices? Will I ever pronounce Yautja correctly?
Starting with Predator: Incursion before heading into Alien: Invasion, the series concludes with Alien vs. Predator: Armageddon. I wondered if these titles would limit the story, but they have no impact. A terrible, but more fitting title strategy for the books would have been ‘Humans Colon Something’, as the story is fully focused on them. Anything new we discover regarding the other species is through the human lens.
The story kept pulling me back in, becoming the cause of several very late nights. I found myself engaged and waiting for quiet time so I could dive back. There are some lulls across the whole story, especially when it wasn’t focusing on those I’d consider core to the tale. But all of the characters are set up well, with clear motivations, some of which naturally shift as the story unfolds.
Men, women, android, alien; we see emotion in all of them. They’re all brave, fierce, uncertain, frail, and scared. Lebbon doesn’t hold back from preventing some of them from making it to the end either. This is war after all.
Being in a time so removed from the films affords these books a valuable sense of the unknown. Granted, the Yautja haven’t changed at all really, while Xenomorphs are Xenomorphs. But human’s incessant push forward leaves them in both a more advanced and precarious situation. There’s new tech (no pulse rifles), and new means of blowing up Xenos, but the question of whether or not it’s enough constantly lingers, up until the final pages.
Gripes? Well, the first book being a different size to the other two is rather annoying. Not a deal breaker, but ungainly on a shelf. Secondly, the ending, which is both triumphant and downbeat. You could argue it’s actually a fantastic way to tackle the finale, but I would have liked more payoff, and an epilogue would have worked nicely. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any plan to build off this story, so I’m left with questions. Maybe that’s a good thing, and shows the interest the story awoke in me. Being the glass half guy I am, I choose to see it positively.
If you’re a fast reader, I don’t think this trilogy will take long to read. I’m not the quickest, and in total it took me about a month to finish the trilogy. It’s been a refreshing change from Star Wars books, and a much better use of the licenses than Concrete Jungle. This war didn’t make me rage, and was well worth the time.