Thursday, February 8

Resident Evil Caliban Cove Review

Written by S.D. Perry
Published by Pocket Books, New York (1998)
ISBN: 9780671024406

Caliban Cove is a sequel to both the original 1996 Resident Evil game on the PlayStation and its novelisation: The Umbrella Conspiracy. While most of the PS1 Resident Evil games got novelisations, Caliban Cove, stands apart as the first original novel set in the Resident Evil universe. It’s no longer considered cannon but that doesn’t stop it being a fascinating part of the franchise’s history.

The story bridges the gap between Resident Evil 1 and 2. We pick up after the events of the Spencer Mansion but before Raccoon City’s overrun. Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, Barry Burton, Rebecca Chambers, and Brad Vickers are the only survivors of the first novel. Since then, they have attempted to blow the whistle on Umbrella, the organisation behind the virus that infected the mansion. Due to Umbrella’s deep pockets and far reach our heroes have been discredited, fired from the Raccoon Police Department, and publicly humiliated across town. Luckily, they were also members of S.T.A.R.S, a private police force independent of the RPD. This is unlike the games, where the S.T.A.R.S are a department within the RPD. The team tries to reach out to the central S.T.A.R.S branch for help. It’s then that they discover that Umbrella has even got undercover agents deep within the S.T.A.R.S as well. I like this detail as it paints Wesker, the traitor from the first book and game, as one of many dirty agents instead of a unique figure like he would become in the games. Details like this show how different the later games could have been. They also help Perry’s Resident Evil story stand out from the other games, films, and TV Series.

All is not lost though as Barry’s friend, David Trapp, is one member of S.T.A.R.S still after justice. After learning of the S.T.A.R.S corruption and agreeing to help Barry he is given information on a second Umbrella facility in Maine that’s recently gone dark. This information is delivered to David by the mysterious Mr Trent who also provided Jill with information during the mansion incident. The mystery behind Trent is what ties all the Perry novels together. He seems to be on the side of our heroes, but he also knows far too much about Umbrella for someone unconnected.

"Trent ignored him, disappearing into the rain-drenched shadows."

David, and the mansion survivors realise that Trent will have to wait for now. His information seems reliable, so they plan to break into Caliban Cove, obtain evidence of Umbrella’s guilt, and then hand it over to the FBI. David recruits Rebecca Chambers to his team while Chris, Jill, and Barry remain in Raccoon City. This new team is made up of Karen Driver, John Andrews, Steve Lopez, and of course Rebecca and David themselves. Besides David and Rebecca, these do not feel like interesting characters, it feels obvious that they are bodies for the kill count and little else. The relationships they have with Rebecca are what feel important here. Rebecca is one of the most underused characters in the Resident Evil franchise. These shallow characters do a great job of deepening hers.

Not long after reaching Caliban Cove they quickly learn that whatever happened here wasn’t an accident like it was in the Spencer mansion. The entire facility has been wiped out by the new villain created solely for this story, Doctor Nicolas Griffith.  He is a disappointing replacement villain for Wesker. As much as I love seeing new villains in place of the overused Wesker, Griffith just lacks the same impact. 

Griffith has taken Dr Birkin’s T-Virus and reengineered it to strip humanity of independent thought. It’s his intention to release this virus world-wide. He believes that only those who are worthy, like himself, will be left with any control. The rest of humanity will become mindless slaves to the worthy. This is similar to Wesker’s plan during the Resident Evil 5 game to saturate the world with the Uroboros virus. The problem with Griffith next to Wesker is that Griffith has no connection to any of our main characters. He never even learns who they are. I don’t know why but Perry decided to kill off the main villain of this story without him even learning the names of our protagonists. Wesker has a personal history with Chris and Jill during the first game as he’s their captain. This connection is strengthened over several games after the first one leading up to the emotional payoff during Resident Evil 5.  Griffith, meanwhile, is both introduced and defeated in this one story. Why should we care about this mad scientist when there is literally no history between him and our main characters? Simply put, there isn’t.

"It occurred to him suddenly that he'd never bothered to find out who they were, who had sent them..."

Let’s talk about other interesting connections to the wider Resident Evil franchise I found while reading Caliban Cove. Firstly, there are the Trisquads. These are groups of three zombies that have been trained to use assault rifles while acting as a three-man squad. We’ve never seen this appear in any of the games or other media directly. They did remind me of the ‘Cleaners’ from Resident Evil Survivor on the PS1. These were trained zombies that Umbrella used to attempt to clean up the Sheena Island outbreak. Outside of the games we did see zombies trained to use guns during the live action, P W Anderson film; Resident Evil Retribution. These shared a lot less in common with the Trisquads than the Cleaners do but it’s still worth mentioning. Then we have the docile zombies that take simple commands from someone in command. We see these during an earlier film in the P W Anderson series; Resident Evil Extinction. During that film we see Doctor Isaacs create a new strain of the T-Virus capable of creating an ‘intelligent zombie’. He even creates simple tests for these new zombies that we see within the Caliban Cove facility in this book. I find it fascinating how many ideas from the Perry novels have been adapted in live action Resident Evil films. 

Ultimately it was an interesting idea to write a book explaining what was happening between Resident Evil 1 and 2. Back in 1998, when these games were first being released, the fandom really didn’t have any information on what Chris, Jill, and the gang were up to between the two games. Perry tried to expand on this period and came up with some interesting ideas. Ideas that would be used elsewhere in the franchise. That alone makes this a worthwhile read for any fans of the series. It’s not a masterpiece, hell, there are times it’s not even that good, but it’s fun and interesting for fans like me.


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