Friday, December 21, 2012

Review: Resident Evil - Caliban Cove

Resident Evil: Caliban Cove by S.D. Perry

The second published novel in the Resident Evil series (and third in chronological order) is also the first original tale S.D. Perry got to pen in the weird Biohazard universe, serving as a sort of filler between the events of the original Resident Evil (presented in Umbrella Conspiracy) and Resident Evil 2 (novelised in City of the Dead, which I am presently plowing through). Caliban Cove gets a unique opportunity to break away from the video game restrictions on the story and elaborate on a few bits and pieces that are otherwise missing from the games.

Rebecca Chambers (the perky young genius biologist who was a fresh recruit into the Special Tactics and Recon Squad-STARS-stationed in Raccoon City) gets to be the focus of this tale as she and the other STARS surivors of the Spencer Mansion incident are now being hunted by Umbrella hitmen while the press and local investigators dance to Umbrella's publicity department and place suspicion and blame for whatever the hell went down at the Spencer Mansion squarely on the STARS' shoulders.

Rebecca gets an opportunity to do further investigating when David Trapp and his aspiring team of STARS agents from another district step forth with rumors of an accident at another secret Umbrella facility in the unfortunately named Caliban Cove in Maine. David is a handome British gent which means we get to hear about flashlights being called torches for a while.

I'm glossing over some of the surprises, should you wish to read and enjoy this book spoiler-free, but here's the gist of it (spoilers): Caliban Cove is the reclusive haunt of a gaggle of mad scientists who were working with the deranged evil genius Nicholas Griffith, a man who's vision of what the T Virus can do led to a perfection which both allowed him and his team to organize zombies into armed "tri-squads" and also to create true zombies, with a sort of "muscle memory" of their intellect but totally lacking free will. And Griffith, being quite mad of course, has taken advantage of his co-workers to set about his own special plans of zombie-driven world domination.

Luckily, the STARS, always gifted with an impeccable sense of good timing, arrive on scene to disrupt things, suffer horribly, and triumph in the end.

Because the book is not following any sort of game-directed script it deviates slightly from the pacing and style of the other novels, and we get a lot more setup and exposition than is normal, perhaps even too much of it (we're sixty plus pages in before anything evil-lab and zombie related starts hopping). The disaster at Caliban Cove, while suitably appropriate for the series, is also toned down a bit...we get some good, creepy moments, some action bits, and so forth, but its all more measured, more subdued than the novels ripped directly from the games. S.D. Perry does introduce a measure of puzzlers into the story, however, in keeping with RE tradition.

This book wasn't quite as good as, say, Zero Hour (which was written much later) but it's definitely a fun read and adds some background to the setting, as well as providing a great framework in the first half of the tale to explain just what the heck sort of an organization the STARS are, and how deep their membership is in Umbrella's pockets. It also demonstrates how the core conceit of the Resident Evil universe -that of a world in which evil Pharmaceutical Companies generously sprinkle secret bioweapons test labs in the dark corners of Amercia, to be found by daring law enforcement mercenaries- can sustain itself rather well outside of the video game environment it was birthed in.

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