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Aliens: Berserker
S.D. Perry
Bantam Books, 465 pages

Art: John Bolton
Aliens: Berserker
S.D. Perry
S.D. Perry's short fiction has appeared in Magic, the Gathering: Tapestries edited by Kathy Ice plus the novels Timecop (1994) and Labyrinth (1996).

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Todd Richmond

Aliens: Berserker is the ninth book in the Aliens series. It follows an interesting new practice on the war on XT's (extraterrestrials) -- send in a small team, including one very powerful killing machine and let them loose with a lot of firepower. Worried about losing too many men? Use criminal volunteers to make up the Berserker teams and give them a break on their sentence, if they live.

Aliens: Berserker is based on the 1995 licensed comic series from Dark Horse Comics by John Wagner and Paul Mendoza, and sports a cover by comics artist John Bolton. The first part begins with a Berserker team on a routine mission. First they scout out the location -- a deep-space mining operation. Then they send in the bait -- a live team member dressed in protective armor. Evidently if the victim doesn't struggle, the alien drones will happily carry the "bait" straight to the queen, so that an alien fetus can be implanted in the still-living host. The "bait" reports on the number and position of the aliens and then the real firepower is brought in. The key to the Berserker teams is the Berserker unit, code-named MAX (Mobile Assault Exo-Warrior). MAX is reminiscent of a 10-ton transformer toy with a pulse rifle and grenade launcher in one hand, and a flame-thrower in the other. Not just a robot, however, MAX is a cyborg, controlled from within by a human's brain. Severely anti-social criminal volunteers are placed in the exoskeleton and kept under sedation until they are needed. Then they are pumped full of synthetic adrenaline and sent in to wipe out the alien nests. All in all, a much more preferable method to sending in lightly armored marines with just pulse rifles to do the dirty work.

The Berserker teams work fairly effectively. If they find a situation they can't handle, they do the sensible thing. They lift off and nuke'em from orbit ("It's the only way to be sure..."). But you just know that's not how things are going to work in this book. Twenty-four hours after their last assignment, headed for a little R&R, the team is recalled and sent to a remote, massive space station, D.S. 949. It seems that the station hasn't reported in for over two weeks and the company needs some answers. The team investigates, and without even entering the station finds signs of an alien infestation. They do a quick reconnaissance, and soon determine that the problem is too big for their team to handle alone. Inside the station is the largest alien hive in history, nearly a thousand victims cocooned and gestating aliens. They withdraw and prepare to nuke the station. But the Company refuses to allow that. The team is sent back in to retrieve some data files from a ship, and destroy the aliens while leaving the station intact. Promised full pardons if they succeed (and live), the team suits up and heads back in.

Aliens: Berserker is a fairly good book if you're an Aliens fan. It goes without saying that you have to know a little something about the aliens and their habits and the evil, greedy Corporation to fully enjoy it. If you're a fans of the movies, you'll know enough to make your way through. Fair warning, though: if you're expecting the sort of suspense and horror of the movies, you'll be disappointed. It's difficult to cause your heart to leap into your throat when an alien jumps out -- it just isn't quite the same as on the big screen.

If you're looking for a complicated plot or sophisticated character development, keep looking. This isn't that kind of book. It's light casual reading. There's an attempt to probe into the background of the team members and tell us something about the kind of men who volunteer who this duty. And there's a sub-plot about the relationship between one of the female crew members and the psychotically possessive captain. But that's just window-dressing. More interesting is the whole Berserker team concept. They have their own set of problems.

Copyright © 1998 by Todd Richmond

Todd is a plant molecular developmental biologist who has finally finished 23 years of formal education. He recently fled Madison, WI for the warmer but damper San Francisco Bay Area and likes bad movies, good science fiction, and role-playing games. He began reading science fiction at the age of eight, starting with Heinlein, Silverberg, and Tom Swift books, and has a great fondness for tongue-in-cheek fantasy Óla Terry Pratchett, Craig Shaw Gardner and Robert Asprin.

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