Review: V: The Second Generation

Please consider yourself warned. This review will contain spoilers. If you had any plans on reading this book, you may want to stop reading now. On the other hand, since this book reads like it was written by a high school creative writing wanna-be fan boy, you may not really care. Ok, you have been warned… When I was growing up, the V series was one of the coolest bits of Sci Fi TV I had ever seen. I assume that most of my readers know what V is, but for those who may be too young or just not aware, V was 2 television miniseries and a regular TV series back in the 80s. (There were also a few novels and comic books as well.) The basic premise was that aliens arrive, pretend to look like us and be friendly, but really want to steal our water and use us as sushi. (Well maybe not just sushi, but food in general.) What made it most interesting for me though was how the Visitors (this is what the aliens were called) manipulated the planet. Via deceit, media manipulation, and propaganda, they slowly turned the world against scientists and convinced most of the population that the Visitors were their only hope. V’s most obvious corollary is the rise of the Nazis. In fact, the Visitor’s logo is based on the Swastika.

The show itself was fun, although certainly a product of the 80s. I know part of my love for the show is just nostalgia, but I will give it credit for being a non-typical alien invasion show. (Want typical? See Independence Day.)

I was very excited when I heard about this book. Written by the original creator, the book turns around the original series a bit. It assumes that the second miniseries and regular series did not happen. So there was no Red Dust to push the Visitors back. Instead, in this new history (the book takes place 20 years later), the Visitors had purged most of the resistance.

There are some interesting visuals in this book that I think would be awesome to see. Half the world’s water has been drained and San Francisco is now a city next to a desert. Unfortunately, most of the book is written so poorly it almost hurts to read. When did I know that the book was truly bad? When the flying motorcycles came in. Yes, flying motorcycles. Did you miss them from Battlestar Galactica 1980? If so, you will be happy to know they have returned.

What’s truly sad is that if you look up the BSG Wiki entry on the flying motorcycles (Tubrine), you find that the author seems to have ripped off the entire concept from BSG. Just like BSG, the aliens in this book (these are the allies that finally responded to the Resistance’s call for help at the end of the original series) have a cloaking device on their bikes. But wait - it gets better. Not only do they have flying motorcycles with cloaking devices, they actually have a miniature nuclear missile. On a motorcycle. Read that again to make sure it sinks in. That was so bad it almost flipped around back to cool. (If we had a MAX/MIN-INT for suck/coolness. ;)

That isn’t the only example of the poor writing, but it’s the one that really sold it for me. I will not pretend to be a great writer. I’ve got a lot of experience writing, but frankly, technical writing is simple compared to creative writing. (And it is even easier when you have editors who can fix your silly grammar/spelling mistakes.) But as I said in the beginning, everything about this book reads like a high school hack job. Consider this sex scene. (And don’t worry young readers, it isn’t too graphic.) I’ve found that some authors shouldn’t write about sex because they can’t do it without coming off as more uncomfortable than sexy. Anyway, here is the page that almost made me laugh out loud it was so bad. (Some background - two Visitors are involved here, one of which is a pilot.)

Finally came a moment of synchronicity that took them both by surprise and swept them into their first sexual encounter. It was a carnal firestorm.

Neither had ever before experienced anything remotely similar. They were equally matched in both strength and libido, but Jeremy was particularly aroused by her aggressive nature. Gina had a no-holds-barred approach that was a direct parallel to her skills as a fighter pilot. She was able to make him fly sexually with the same heated passion she brought to her airborne combat adventures. Her subtlety in the handling of his control surfaces would excite him to the very razor edge of quaking consummation, then she would back off as mere hair's breadth to hold him trembling at that preclimatic level for astonishingly long hedonistic moments.

I think the Groovy book I’m reading now would have done a love scene better than this. Even if I ignore the horrible writing and focus on the story (which I’ve had to do for before, specifically Turtledove’s World at War series), the story itself isn’t really that good either. The new aliens are insect based, but somehow look just like us. (In another incredibly bad scene, they explain why the hot female alien has breasts when supposedly they evolved from insects and not mamals.) While they touch a bit on their hive mind thinking, it really isn’t explored deeply enough to leave much impact.

Ok, so now for the full spoilers. If you want to know how things end up without actually buying the book, then keep reading. (And if you do want to buy the book anyway, I have no shame and have included the Amazon referral link up top.) It is discovered that all the humans who were put in tubes weren’t just going to be food, but also cannon fodder for the Visitor’s war against the Zedti (the insect race). While they were entombed, subliminal messages were training them for this and other jobs as well. The Resistance turns this around by planting a message to have them attack the Visitors. Then then, essentially, open all the cell doors, and millions of new Resistance fighters are released on every ship. At the same time, a spy gets Diana to reveal, on video, that they have no intention of returning any of the Earth’s water supply. (Their excuse for having it at all was that they were cleaning it. For twenty years. It was really dirty.) Anyway, the Visitors are basically outnumbered and imprisoned, including their great Leader, and the Zedti’s fleet arrives to help the humans clean up. (With the obligatory ‘are they truly our friends’ open question at the end.)

This book is truly a disappointment. In ways it actually ruins the old series for me as well. It’s rare that I say this - but I actually wish I had never read this book. I know some folks really hate the Star Wars prequels and while I don’t agree with them, I think I truly understand how they were feeling now.

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