Aliens, Humans and Predators: REVIEWING Aliens Vs. Predator Omnibus

Hello and welcome back to another book review at The Real World According To Sam!

Just recently I read Alien Covenant: Origins -- the prequel to the film Alien Covenant --- and Alien Covenant the movie novelization. We aren't talking about those though. If you're interested in them, check them out.

NOTE: Alien Covenant Origins is Earth focused and there are no xenomorphs, it only discusses the stretch of trying to get the Covenant to leave Earth and go into orbit, but doesn't explain much of what goes on in the movie itself. Do not read Origins if you just want more xenomorph action or are looking for answers to anything that happened in Covenant, you won't find anything like that there.
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At the same time that I checked out those two books, I also checked out this one:

 This book contains the three novels listed on the cover, all by different authors. I'll be talking about each of them individually within this post with their original respective covers. We'll run down the provided order, starting with Prey, Hunter's Planet, and ending with War.


These books were originally released between 1994 - 1999 by Bantam/Spectra books (Bantam Spectra, Spectra Books) and the omnibus was collected and released in 2016 by Titan Books.


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Prey

Author: Steve Perry
Genre: Sci-Fi Horror
Year: 1994

Synopsis: 

123586Machiko Noguchi accepted the assignment of supervising the ranching colony on Ryushi as a challenge. Little did she know that not only would she have to run the colony, she'd defend it with her life. 

First the carcass of a spiderlike alien is discovered. Then a rancher's family is massacred. Finally a creature unlike any ever seen before is brought to the colony medical center, near death. It soon becomes clear that not one but two strains of alien life have landed near the settlement of Prosperity Wells. One kind -- beetle black with shells hard as steel -- have been spawned as the prey in a deadly hunt. The other kind -- upright like humans but infinitely stronger and just as smart -- are the Predators. Between them are the human colonists, unarmed and vulnerable. With the entire colony at risk, Machiko Noguchi must choose between death and survival -- and may find her greatest ally in a Predator ready to kill her...

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Prey is the best book in the entire omnibus. It is the most gripping and entertaining of all three books. It has a nice blend of combat, perspective, and balance between the three involved parties: humans, xenomorphs, and predators. Noguchi is known as being a very cold woman. She does not show much emotion, she feels shame for her family's past, and does not want to be on Ryushi. Some of the colonists don't want her around either, but when things go up in flames, everyone has to depend on her to come through in a big way. I genuinely liked her as a character and I wanted to see her succeed, because she wasn't just falling apart in the face of impending doom. Two bloodthirsty alien species end up on a human colony planet and things basically go to hell in a handbasket and people are dying off like flies. 

The action in this novel is high energy and invigorating. We see the main character undergo a massive transformation by the end, and we also get one of the coolest team ups that I've read so far. As mentioned in the synopsis, Noguchi does end up with an ally, and its a leader of a Predator clan. What started out as a basic training hunt for juvenile predators, ends up going very wrong, even by Predator standards. The best part of these books is getting a glimpse at "Predator culture". They aren't just mysterious beings that show up in camouflage and kill everything. They're a hunter society, that builds their society around hunting things and honor. Predators aren't supposed to hunt humans (supposedly the greatest prey) until they're "Blooded". This is when they have proven themselves as hunters and get to take part in bigger hunts and prove their hunting prowess with other Blooded Predators. The leader at one point is unconscious and the youth think him dead, so the young Predator that takes over decides they can hunt humans. That is a major taboo so when the leader comes around he has to try and rein in his group or at least kill them for breaking Predator code if they refuse to yield. So we get a human and a Predator HUNTING xenomorphs together, trying to attain separate, but similar goals. Priority is to get rid of the xenomorphs and survive. This is absolutely amazing and something different from other things I've seen done in the Alien/Predator universe. Its always a question of superiority and hubris, and this time it was the unity of two separate species who can't fully communicate working together in ways that you just wouldn't consider possible. It was AMAZING! 

As usual there are a lot of extraneous cast members that can be written off as alien fodder, but that's always the case. This is one of the better Alien novels I've read and honestly, if they would have just done a screenplay of this book, the movie would have been much better in my opinion. Although its generally a short novel from my point of view, it is a complete and satisfying story. AVP: Prey is a 5 of 5 for me. I highly recommend it to Alien/Predator fans. 

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Hunter's Planet

Author: David Bischoff
Genre: Sci-Fi Horror 
Year: 1994

Synopsis: 

131646The best time of Machiko Noguchi's life came in the wake of the Ryushi colony massacre. It was then that she abandoned her human heritage and ran with the Predators as a dedicated Hunter. But it was only two years before she returned to live with humanity and work for the Chigusa Corporation. 

Livermore Evanston is an ambitious developer who has built the ultimate hunter's paradise: a world just beyond the reach of human regulations, populated by ferocious genetically engineered animals. But Evanston didn't plan on being patronized by the galaxy's most ruthless Predators -- or the Aliens they brought along as prey. As his human customers fall victim to the unscheduled hunt, Evanston realizes that the Predators must be curbed, and there's only one woman for the job. But there's even more to this world than meets the eye, and Machiko Noguchi may only have one way out: to take complete control of the deadliest planet in known space!

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This is where things start to get messy for this collection. By the time this novel starts, Noguchi is back with humans. This is bizarre, because she had gone off to live with the Predators and hunt with them, so all of that aspect is largely absent from this book. She occasionally reminisces about her time with the yautja (Predators), but it just isn't all that interesting to read about when its already happened and is included as a kind of afterthought. 

Hunter's Planet takes a pretty generic premise and adds more science fiction elements to it and tosses in Aliens and Predators. Generally speaking though, this has been done before, to different degrees. There's a planet that has been designed specifically as a kind of game reserve for hunters to enjoy if they have enough money to pay for it. This kind of premise (a hunting preserve centric story) has been done in Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series and at its base reminds me of the short story The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell, where a man is given time to run before he is hunted by a big game hunter who wants more of a challenge by hunting the world's most dangerous game (prey)...Man. I had serious tones of both of those stories when reading this, just slap in some mercenaries, xenomorphs, Predators, and a factory where the big game for the preserve is genetically created. Also add some human hubris and power hungry tendencies and you've got Hunter's Planet in a nutshell. 

This story feels too short to be fully developed. It doesn't do much beyond that basic plot. You get a bit of insight to Predators, but not like what was given in Prey. Noguchi doesn't change too much, she just has to re-establish her sense of humanity that she shoved aside by having joined the Predators for a while, but it isn't as intriguing as her character arc in Prey. The best part of this book had to be Noguchi's android companion, Attila. He was one of the most interesting and entertaining characters, which is odd, considering that he's really just a robot and human leads should often take the lead for enjoyment in stories like this. He also had the most intriguing mysterious background, but I feel like it was just tossed in for mystery and not as fully developed as it could have been. 

Overall, Hunter's Planet is just mediocre. Its too short or at least majorly underdeveloped in the 272 pages it has to tell its story. Its a good bit of temporary enjoyment, but its not something that I can recommend unless someone just wants to kill some time with a bit of Alien/Predator fluff. That's all it really is. I have to give this one a 3 out of 5. It isn't all that good, but it isn't the worst, and it kept me occupied enough for me to get through it. 

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War

Author: S. D. Perry 
Genre: Sci-Fi Horror
Year: 1999

Synopsis: 

WHERE ONLY THE FITTEST SHALL SURVIVE, HUMANS STAND THE SLIMMEST CHANCE OF ALL.

131645Machiko Noguchi lived for the thrill of the Hunt. She ran with the Predators until her human ingenuity marked her as an outcast. Now the thrill is over. And the fierce warriors of her Hunting band are tracking her. Meanwhile, Jess, Lara and Ellis, remnants of a bug-hunter team that wiped out an Alien infestation in a Company space station, know too many secrets to be allowed to live. They are being set up by a ruthlessly ambitious Company boss who will stop at nothing to silence them forever. 

An outcast human Hunter and a trio of bug hunters. They are the most unlikely allies. Yet on the swamp planet Bunda, they must join in a desperate fight. Company hit-squads are already moving in for the kill. Fearsome Predators are heading for a showdown with a ferocious colony of Aliens. And between them stand four brave warriors in an all-out war between the galaxy's most savage lifeforms -- a war nothing human can survive. 

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Aliens vs. Predator: War OR the one in which things just really get screwy with the timeline, the title is misleading, and it isn't really a sequel to Hunter's Planet. At this point I'm wondering if the editor of the omnibus actually knew what they were doing and what the writers thought they were doing. They must have read the previous works and thought "I'm going to rewrite this", they didn't fully read the previous stories close enough, they were told to rewrite the story as though Hunter's Planet didn't happen, or they just didn't CARE and did whatever they wanted. Here's why:

War is the story of Noguchi during and after her time with the Predators. But not entirely. This one literally takes a scene from the beginning of Hunter's Planet, which is a big hunt for Noguchi involving taking a live xenomorph queen captive, and redoes it just a little. It runs the beginning of the hunt the same way, then changes which Predator locks her in with the Alien Queen, and shows us why she felt unaccepted and what led to her needing to turn on the Predators by the end. It summarizes her general treatment and we get a small snapshot of her daily life there, but it still doesn't fulfill the desire I had for a direct sequel to Prey involving her life with the Predators. It just takes the scene from Hunter's Planet, tweaks it only a tiny bit, and then goes on to the next thing, which isn't related to the previous two books at all. 

The story of the three humans, Ellis, Lara, and Jess, began in an Alien novel which I have not read and that my library doesn't have. It also is not included in this omnibus because its just Alien, not AVP. So this is a dual sequel, that wrecks the timeline created by the first two books. At first it seemed like this could have been the story that happens BEFORE Noguchi ends up on the Hunter's Planet. It could have...except that the one Predator that REALLY despises Noguchi gets killed off in both novels, DIFFERENTLY. Noguchi doesn't fully speak the Predator language, because some sounds aren't physically possible for humans to make, but she learns some and also gives mental names to each Predator so she can differentiate between them. One is smaller than the others and so she dubs him, Shorty. She embarrasses him a few times, and they really don't get along. They end up fighting each other in BOTH Hunter's Planet and War, and she kills him both times....on different planets, under different circumstances. So no, this book doesn't happen before Hunter's Planet, one just exists in a vacuum or some kind of parallel world that nobody knows about besides the author. 

That is a pretty big problem, but even if you get passed that, there's another issue I had, and that's with the name. Wars are long, drawn out conflicts with insane amounts of casualties usually, or at least long periods of strained conflict even if no one is actively dying (ex: Cold War). This book discusses a conflict that already happened in the 1998 book Aliens Berserker that involved humans and xenomorphs (but really ends up being a planned occurrence by a large corporation...big surprise there....😒). Then this conflict is basically the Predators come to hunt humans and aliens on a planet where Ellis, Lara, and Jess (survivors of the Berserker events) happen to be quarantined and dealing with a company guy trying to move up the company ladder. Predators kill humans at random, Ellis, Lara, and Jess team up with Noguchi to survive, and that's basically the story. Its a forest squirmish with aliens. How is that a war? The company doesn't know they're going to the planet, the company didn't send the corporate head to the planet to deal with the people, he's just trying to give himself brownie points by getting secret, very sought after information that isn't even available. Its a chaotic squirmish at best. I guess the only kind of "War" going on is the one Noguchi is fighting within herself. Maybe they meant the title metaphorically. Noguchi has been with the Predators for a while and finds out they are going to hunt humans after being defeated in a one-on-one match with Shorty that leaves her back on the ship. She's on the ship, hears a distress call from humans and recognizes the trademarks of the Predators, so she decides to forcefully take the Predator spaceship, go down to the planet and save the humans. She still uses hunting instincts she honed with the Predators, but now against them. 

Noguchi has the best arc in this particular novel, but this story still feels pretty rocky compared to the first one. This is just another generic killing spree/survival story involving xenomorphs, predators, and corporations getting in over their heads in some way. The rehashing of exact scenes from Hunter's Planet bored me and wasn't rewritten to be any better. The writing style was naturally different, but that didn't make the event any more or less interesting. I was bored, having to get through things I already read previously, not being able to just skip ahead since I didn't know if there were major changes until I'd already read it through (not really) and the story didn't pick up too significantly after that point either. It was about the same to me as Hunter's Planet. Generic, full of alien/Predator fodder, and a time killer to get some alien/predator fluff. This one also gets a 3 out of 5, although I'd say its more of a 2.75. It was short enough to be moved through quickly and the premise was interesting enough at its base, but the execution was nothing special and it tore apart the established timeline of the collection. 

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Final Thoughts: 


Overall, this collection wasn't the best I've read. I loved the first book, and while the next two were okay, that's all I can say about them. I didn't really feel like I got the sequel that I actually wanted after the first book. I thought we would get a whole book about life with the Predators, and then maybe a book that was the story of life AFTER the Predators. That a sequel would provide an unrushed look at why life with Predators isn't what Noguchi hoped it would be, and then one that showed her having to return to humanity, maybe face the Predators from the other side again, but in a more dynamic way. What I actually got after a promising start was a lot of failed potential. Generic entertainment, but nothing more than what I would see as a dollar novel to get more alien/predator fodder fill while waiting for a new movie or for a better title to come around. From what I've managed to understand online, both Prey and War were based on comics published by Dark Horse, and the Aliens: Berserker novel that takes place before War is also based on a comic of the same name, which I've actually read. I haven't read the AVP comic of Prey or War so at some point I am going to try to do that to see if either novel missed or improved upon the source material. Hunter's Planet was the only one to not be based on a comic within this collection, and it was alright. I thought it was better than War to a certain point, but neither comes close to Prey. 

I give this collection a 3 because I think it could've been compiled better and I would rather just have the first book by itself and skip the rest. They may all be connected through Noguchi, but it is just too messy for me to want to read the whole "trilogy" in its entirety over and over. My recommendation is to just check out Prey and skip the rest unless you really want an AVP version of Connell's The Most Dangerous Game. I don't feel this one is worth much in the long run and it only gets a 3 because the first book was so good. Without it, this would be a 2 at the most. 


Thanks for reading another review here at The Real World According To Sam! See you soon!

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