Friday, August 11

Alien Colony War Review

Written by David Barnett 
Published by Titan Books, London (2022) 
ISBN: 9781789098891

Colony War is a novel by David Barnett set in the ever-expanding Alien(s) universe. Set amid the Frontier World Bombings that almost led to a full-scale conflict between the three major superpowers of the 22nd century. This is a remarkably interesting event that we’ve seen mentioned in the video game Aliens Fireteam Elite. These bombings were also featured in the novels Inferno’s Fall, Enemy of My Enemy, and the Alien Tabletop RPG Campaign, Frontier War. I mention this because while it’s not vital to know the current politics of the Alien universe, knowing it will add a whole other layer to the experience. One of the best things about this book is how much it connects a lot of loose threads from past novels, games, and RPG Campaigns together. You will see this as we look at the characters in more detail. 

So, we follow Chad McLaren during the opening of the book. Fans of the second film, Aliens, will recognise this name as belonging to Ellen Ripley’s daughter, Amanda Ripley-McLaren. This is because Chad McLaren is the husband of Amanda. Fans of either the game, novel, or digital video series of Alien Isolation will know Amanda from that. Outside of Isolation Amanda has appeared alongside her best friend Zula Hendricks in the comic series, Aliens Defiance, and Aliens Resistance. This book also brings the Zula Hendricks stories together with Chad’s travelling companion being Zula’s partner Davis. Then we have the novels, The Cold Fodge, and Into Charybdis connecting into this story with the character Cher Hunt looking for the truth of her sister, Shy Hunt’s, death that occurred during Into Charybdis. Then we have the Frontier War itself from the Alien Tabletop RPG forming the political backdrop to everything. That’s four separate threads all pulled together skilfully. Author David Barnett has a particular talent for taking other authors' characters and writing them faithfully and authentically.

"You sacrificed yourself for Zula many times."

The plot is a very political one and to my delight one that is steeped in British culture and references. Chad and Davis have both recently been separated from their romantic partners. Amanda Ripley has been put into cryogenic sleep due to the cancer that ravages her body. Zula Hendricks is off the grid fighting the Xenomorph threat on her own leaving Davis here with Chad. We catch up with Zula after the events of this novel in Alien Inferno’s Fall. Chad and Davis are on the Three World Empire world of New Albion investing several stolen Xenomorph eggs. Meanwhile, Cher’s working as a reporter on Earth when she is told to travel to New Albion if she wants to learn the reason her sister died. She meets up with Chad and Davis who explain to her the Xenomorph threat and the outbreak that killed her sister. They then ask her, as a reporter, to get the word out about Weyland-Yutani’s involvement in numerous Xenomorph XX121 outbreaks. Meanwhile on the oil drilling base on LV-187 new outbreak of the deadly aliens is occurring. It’s not long before Chad, Davis and Cher learn about the outbreak and make their way to it to help any survivors and break open the story before Weyland-Yutani can cover it up. This story is fantastic in the way it brings the world of Alien together and even fixes a certain plot hole. 

During the special edition of Aliens, the company rep Burke tells Ellen Ripley that her daughter passed away at 66 from cancer in the year 2178. Considering that Colony War takes place in 2186 that means that Amanda has faked her death and entered cryo 8 years before this novel. Interestingly this fixes a plot hole in the Alien timeline. During the novel Alien Sea of Sorrows, it’s a central plot point that protagonist Alan Decker was a direct descendent of Ellen Ripley. However, Amanda is Ellen’s only child, and we learn from Burke in Aliens that Amanda never had any children before her death. Now that we know her death wasn’t real it’s highly probable that at some point Amanda is woken up from cryo and has children with either Chad or someone else. 

"A team of Royal Marines burst in through the doors, peppering the Queen with fire."

My biggest complaint about Colony War is how obvious and yet drawn-out the twist of the story is. I don’t want to mention what this twist is in fear of spoiling anything, but it is stretched out. The mystery is introduced around half-way through the story, and we don’t learn the truth until just before everything is wrapped up. The only other issue I have with this book is the spelling of Chad McLaren’s name. During Sea of Sorrows and Colony War Chad’s family name is spelled “McLaren” while during the special edition of Aliens his name is spelled “McClaren.” This is a minor but confusing and consistent mistake.  

Ultimately Colony War is a very enjoyable book that has a couple of very minor issues. If you’re a fan of this series, then I’d highly recommend it. The more familiar you are with the wider lore of the series the more you will get out it.



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