Review: V: The Second Generation

This post is more than 2 years old.

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.

Raymond Camden's Picture

About Raymond Camden

Raymond is a senior developer evangelist for Adobe. He focuses on document services, JavaScript, and enterprise cat demos. If you like this article, please consider visiting my Amazon Wishlist or donating via PayPal to show your support. You can even buy me a coffee!

Lafayette, LA

Archived Comments

Comment 1 by Scott Stroz posted on 9/14/2008 at 7:57 PM

That is truly sad. I also loved V as a kid.

This sounds like what V would be if it were done as a movie on SciFi Channel (BSG aside, it sems everythign SciFi puts out is just crap)

Comment 2 by Raymond Camden posted on 9/14/2008 at 8:06 PM

Scott, that (the SciFi movie comparison) is a perfect example. Although I think SciFi probably could not have done it as bad as this book. Close - but not quite.

What makes this even more sad for me is that I just finished reading a wonderful series of books (Song of Ice and Fire). As much as I enjoyed it, I was looking forward to something a bit different and this was a huge letdown.

Comment 3 by Steve &aposCutter&apos Blades posted on 9/14/2008 at 9:35 PM

And who can forget Robert Englund (Freddy Kruger fame) as the bumbling, nice-guy alien helping the resistance. Or Michael Ironside as the hard-ass resistance tuff guy. Sorry to hear that this new book disappoints, but I'm not terribly surprised.

BTW, I saw that there are episodes of BSG '80 on Now, if they'd just get After Mash...

Comment 4 by Raymond Camden posted on 9/14/2008 at 10:14 PM

Willy (the Robert Englund char) is in the book, but Michael Ironside's char is not. He was one of my favorites as well.

Comment 5 by Douglas Knudsen posted on 9/14/2008 at 11:05 PM

oh my, thanks for that flash-back and making me feel even older Ray. :) V brings back fond memories, for one, my first ever encounter with characters on TV eating mice. No matter how sexy that leader-from-another-world was, no way you could get infatuated after seeing a mouse go in.



Comment 6 by Raymond Camden posted on 9/14/2008 at 11:10 PM

I won't spoil it anymore, but I will say that what happens with Diana at the end was kind of nice. Unfortunately the rest of her story in the book was - like everything else - crap.

Comment 7 by Albert Nurick posted on 9/17/2008 at 12:56 AM

Ray, if you like atypical alien invasion stories, check out David Gerrold's superb War against the Chtorr series. Very good writing and a fascinating premise.

Comment 8 by JC posted on 9/17/2008 at 10:52 PM

Thanks Ray. I bought the book a month or so ago but then I got in a large order from Alibris and haven't touched V yet, reading all the books I loved before but only checked out from the library, didn't own... I flipped through a couple of pages when I first got it and it seemed a bit.. off. Now I'll lower my expectations substantially before I read it.

On a similar topic -- ever read the Willow sequels?

Comment 9 by Raymond Camden posted on 9/17/2008 at 10:58 PM

Willow... you mean the movie with the short person and Val Kilmer? If so - no. :)

Comment 10 by JC posted on 9/17/2008 at 11:04 PM

That's the one -- the author of the original story came out with a sequel trilogy of books, taking place many years after the movie. Shadow Moon, Shadow Dawn, Shadow Star. Similar to the V book... better written I'm sure, but a bit off from the original in focus.

Comment 11 by Gary Funk posted on 9/19/2008 at 11:08 PM

I'm so glad I grew up with Isaac Asimov. How many of you rememeber 'The Invaders' from the late 60's?

Comment 12 by Raymond Camden posted on 9/19/2008 at 11:11 PM

Would I lose any geek cred if I admitted to never having read Asimov?

Comment 13 by Gary Funk posted on 9/19/2008 at 11:19 PM

I have the honotr of havng one if his autographed shorts, "Good Taste." I guess I'm real geeky.

Comment 14 by Gary Funk posted on 9/19/2008 at 11:33 PM

However, I will suggest you read some of Asimov's books. Start with his short stories and also check out his 'Black Widowers' series. I think you will enjoy them.

Oh, and enjoy the Force.

Comment 15 by Susanne posted on 10/22/2008 at 7:22 PM

It is a good book! I like it. And a real V-Fan will like it! Diana is on board - that is the most important thing.

Make a V paper-skyfighter

Comment 16 by Raymond Camden posted on 10/22/2008 at 10:25 PM

Hey, I _am_ a real V fan. I just happen to know good writing and this book was sorely lacking in anything even remotely close to it. Feel free to disagree, but you can't say I'm not a fan of V. :)

Comment 17 by PALS62565 posted on 2/1/2009 at 3:02 AM

I think they should leave off where the last episode does.

We could show that Mike & Julie get married and that he has
his own film company and works out of his home office. Willie works for him as a helper. They soon discover through small events that some of the visitors lead by diana never left. Humnan come up missing. there is a lot more I can say but you get the idea. We could use some of
the characters from the origianl and that would explain why
they are older.

Comment 18 by Dylan Dawes posted on 3/6/2019 at 4:39 PM

Only just seen this now (10 years later!). Very well said. I was a huge V (original series / Final Battle) fan-boy back in the 80s (loathed the cheap TV follow up though), and you can plot the graph of excitement to crushing disappointment for reading this book - it's a vertical line down.
I know exactly what you mean about wishing you hadn't read it (I only managed the first chapter of the ebook version), and the folks who feel the same way about the Star Wars prequels.
I feel exactly the same way about Prometheus - I *love* the film Alien (still do); the mystery and majesty of that ship and that weird alien relic at the start of the movie are just incredible - and boy did they ruin it by making those same aliens a bunch of Mad Max rejects from a bad Duran Duran video.