The battle between Alien and Predator has been something of a Holy Grail among hardcore science fiction fans ever since the idea was first teased at the end of Predator 2 way back in 1990. Ever since then, sci-action acolytes have been crying out for a big budget movie adaptation of what many deem to have the potential to be the ultimate crossover battle. When we finally did get to see an Alien vs. Predator film in 2004 it turned out to be something of a false prophet, and the less said about the 2007 sequel, AVPR: Aliens vs Predator – Requiem, the better. For those fans who wanted some ‘real’ Pred on Alien action, the best place to get it down through the years has been via the mediums of comic books and video games, and even they have been inconsistent, ranging from entertaining to dire, seemingly with no real middle ground.
Perhaps the best medium to live out our Alien Versus Predator fantasy is through good old fashioned books of paper and text, due to their ability to contain as much detail as the writer sees fit, uninhibited by running lengths or panel sizes. This stripped down form seems to have become something of a lost art in recent years, overshadowed by snazzier and, arguably, more superficial forms of media. Titan Books, who have been making something of a name for themselves in recent times by bringing out books based on many of our favourite TV and movie franchises (including Mad Max and Elementary) have secured the rights to write ‘expanded universe’ stories based around the mythos that contains both Alien and Predator.
The first in what is billed as an epic trilogy of books called ‘The Rage War’, Predator: Incursion takes place in the future where humanity has expanded outward into the galaxy, populating many planets in the process. Aliens are a well known quirk of space travel (for more ‘quirks’ click here), most notable are the warrior race known as the Yautja (often known as ‘Predators’) who have been acting up lately, appearing in human space at an accelerating rate. Could the normally solitary hunters be mobilising for war or is something even more insidious afoot?
Despite containing the word ‘Predator’ in its title, Incursion starts off not with an encounter, not with the Yautja themselves, but with their mortal enemies the xenomorphs. This is a tense and atmospheric opening sequence, as a woman, who will later go on to be one of the book’s main protagonists, attempts to escape from a starship which is on a collision course with a nearby sun and infested with foul xenos (when it rains it pours). There is a great sense of claustrophobia and isolation in this opening chapter as a horrific death might lie in wait around any given corner.
As the focus moves away from xenomorphs to the Yautja, it also changes from suspense to action, admittedly to the book’s detriment. As the story takes place at a time when humanity has reverse-engineered much of the Yautja’s technology, including weapons and cloaking systems, the Predators themselves have lost much of what made them such deadly antagonists in previous stories. As the colonial marines are now a technological match for the Yautja, there is no horrible sense of dread when one shows up as a even a pair of Yautja, despite their impressive physical strength, can be defeated by a squad of tactically astute marines much more easily than one might expect. One of the great strengths of the Predator stories of old was that, compared to us, the Yautja hunters possessed almost God-like abilities and battle prowess. This element has been well and truly lost in Predator: Incursion.
Indeed, such is the declawing that the Predators have suffered in this book that other antagonists must be drafted in when we reach the final third in order to give us a proper sense of peril. An army of xenomorphs commanded by a mysterious faction known as ‘The Rage’ are the real threat to humanity here, with a small group of people attempting to establish a cagey alliance with the Yautja in order to repel this terrible new enemy. Although, given how ineffective the Yautja’s battle tactics prove to be throughout the course of the book, one must wonder why they actually bothered at all. It is a sad state of affairs when the Predators cannot even be the main event in a book which is named after them.
Predator: Incursion is not all bas though. Fans of the respective Alien–Predator–Prometheus mythos will no doubt enjoy the added fluff, particularly in relation to the Yautja’s long history on Earth and humanity’s exploration of strange new planets and technologies. Wider science fiction fans will no doubt appreciate the book’s impressive attention to detail, particularly as an exercise in ‘universe building’.
All that said though, newcomers aren’t all that likely to be enthralled by what they read in Predator: Incursion as it is nowhere near the best Predator story ever written. As part two of the Rage War trilogy is titled Alien: Invasion and the finalé goes by the moniker of Alien vs Predator: Armageddon, the series is obviously building up to something big. However, the opening instalment must be considered something of a let-down in that it fails to give its titular subject the respect it deserves – Predator: Incursion would have worked every bit as well as a standalone story without including the Predators at all. That pretty much says everything you need to know about it.
The quest for the ultimate Alien Versus Predator story goes on…
[Image: Titan Books]