Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Caliban Cove Book Review

by The World Weary

Author: S.D. Perry
Publisher: Pocket
Genre: Science Fiction, Horror, Video Game
Series: Resident Evil Book Two
Pages: 256

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(This review contains spoilers for Resident Evil (PSX/ GC) as well as Resident Evil: The Umbrella Conspiracy).

S.D. Perry’s second book in her Resident Evil series, Caliban Cove, has all the makings of an action movie and almost nothing to do with what Resident Evil fans would recognize. The plot and characters are quite thin, but it’s worth a read if you’re dead set on finding out what happens to Rebecca Chambers between Resident Evil and Resident Evil 2.

At the close of Resident Evil, Jill, Barry, Chris and Rebecca escape with the help of “Chicken Heart” Vickers moments before the Spencer Estate and the Umbrella Corporation’s secret underground labs were blasted sky high. As the group watches the destruction, a fire burns within them. They vow revenge on Umbrella and hope to bring their sick experiments to the attention of the world. Yet, many players (and readers) were left with several questions. Questions that went unanswered at the start of Resident Evil 2. Who else besides Wesker was on Umbrella’s payroll? Was the T-Virus’ production limited only to the Spencer Estate, or were there more hidden labs brewing toxins? And perhaps most importantly, what could four people do against a multinational, billion dollar corporation?

With S.D. Perry’s second book in her Resident Evil series, and the first to have a totally original plot, the author attempts to answer those questions. With this story she chose to focus on eighteen year old Rebecca Chambers, the Bravo Team medic and brilliant biochemist. A month after the mansion incident, a wave of negative press puts the blame for the disaster on the surviving S.T.A.R.S. members and forces them into hiding. At a secret meeting in Barry’s house, Rebecca and the others are introduced to another S.T.A.R.S. member, David Trapp. David informs them all that there is in fact another research facility hidden away in the coast of Maine where Umbrella is continuing research on the T-Virus, and that Umbrella has paid off most of the S.T.A.R.S., and has the ones who won’t turn a blind eye silenced. With this knowledge, Rebecca volunteers to help David and a small group of his fellow, honest S.T.A.R.S infiltrate the facility and collect evidence of the experiments.

With a story structure that’s strikingly similar to the first book, Perry looked for a way to up the stakes. Instead she robs the book of a lot of what made Resident Evil so interesting. Most zombie themed media shys away from explanations for the outbreak and replace it with social commentary and metaphor. Resident Evil, never a series known for it’s subtlety, chooses to gives the outbreak a face, a name, and a villainous corporation to point the finger at. Not only were you shooting the walking dead in the face and surviving, but you were doing it all in the name of justice. In Caliban Cove, Perry must have assumed that the whole “go into a research lab, kill the zombies, and learn the truth” thing couldn’t keep a story successfully suspenseful throughout, so she injects a sociopath mad scientist as a villain, and gives her zombies guns. The result is less creepy and terrifying, and more like a string of bad action movie scenes that play out one after another.

The plot has little momentum and drags for a bit about midway through the book. The most interesting moments come when one of the team is mortally wounded. The rest of the survivors begin to emotionally crumble as they realize they are powerless to save their friend. The tension throughout these moments is high, and the characters begin to show a little depth. However, the rest of the book surrounding that time isn’t as engaging and you may find yourself somewhat bored. Rebecca and David are two finely written characters, but Perry leaves them little room to develop. Obviously, Rebecca is not the same inexperienced Bravo that she was in The Umbrella Conspiracy, but she still seems a little too green and little changes with her during the events at Caliban Cove.

Resident Evil: Caliban Cove is a strange choice for a sequel to Resident Evil and a prequel to RE2, that suffers from an unevenly paced plot and thin character development. Very few things in this book feel like they should have happened within the RE universe, and sometimes it seems that Rebecca is the only thing tying this book to the rest of the series at all. Perry’s descriptive writing is strong, and there are good moments within this book, but the bad outweighs the good and I’d recommend that only the hardcore RE nerds with an insatiable lust for all things Umbrella read this. The rest of you may be disappointed.

Score: 6.7

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