Predator: Incursion is a remarkably strong and complex start to a promising new trilogy of Yautja, Xenomorphs, and science.
The Alien/Predator universe has always been a bit of a rocky one. Look at the four original Alien films, or the Predator ones, or even the more recent prequel film Prometheus, and what you will find is a wide expanse of highs and lows alike. For every Alien, after all, there is an Alien: Resurrection. So what happens when books enter the mix? The answer is actually one of the more effective stories in the universe of the Yautja and the Xenomorphs in years, as author Tim Lebbon pays another visit to the classic fictional universe.
Predator: Incursion begins with humans having spread their influence out into the stars, but just a bit; they have still only explored an estimated 2% of the galaxy, and so have quite a ways to go. Despite all that lies ahead, that which has already been conquered has yielded new bounties of knowledge that have helped them advance. Weyland-Yutani and the Colonial Marines are as present as ever, and the latter have developed armor featuring resistance to Xenomorph acid blood, as well as stealth capabilities that give humans their first real chance to go head-to-head against their extraterrestrial foes on an even playing field.
While Xenomorph attacks have gone down with time, the Yautja (the Predator race) have begun attacking human space in increasing numbers. At first, the Colonial Marine force sees no other choice than to gear up to fight off a full-on invasion of Yautja forces, but soon it becomes clear that all is not what it seems. The Yautja are, themselves, fleeing from a new and mysterious force; one that has managed to weaponize the Xenomorphs for tactical use. Only a select group of people is made aware of this unsettling truth, though, and so must do everything in their power to survive against fearful, angry Predators and Xenamorph killing machines. Predator: Incursion is the first book in a trilogy that has here been given some great setup, and holds a lot of promise for the future books to come.
There is no single main character in Predator: Incursion; instead, various chapters are dedicated to the viewpoints of different characters. This can be jarring in some of the early chapters, which throw a LOT of names around while introducing main and background faces alike, but readers willing to tolerate some memory name-games will find themselves recognizing and becoming attached to a surprising number of characters. From Isa Palant, a scientist obsessed with studying the physiology of the Yautja species, to Lilya, first presented as a human but then quickly revealed to be an android, there are a lot of unique threads at work here. What’s great is that they all tie together very fluidly, creating a story full of tittle twists and “aha!” moments as actions from 50 or 100 pages ago come back into focus.
This isn’t to say that the humans in the story are the only life forms we learn about. Indeed, Predator: Incursion takes a closer look at the Yautja than just about any canon movies, books or comics to date. Author Tim Lebbon is very effective at presenting the Predator people as something other than simply an antagonistic force of evil, making the reader question the species’ role in the story before the true enemy is even introduced. Between the Yautja, Xenomorphs, and humans from various factions (such as Weyland-Yutani and multiple teams of Colonial Marines), the world of Predator: Incursion feels far more populated than humanity’s 2% of a galaxy.
Wielding a great rising sense of tension, a consistently interesting cast of characters, and a well-written story with surprising complexity, Predator: Incursion is a surprisingly potent triumph. Nobody really sees “movie-licensed novel” and goes in expecting anything spectacular, but whether you’re looking for a new chapter in the world of Yautja and Xenomorphs, or simply want a first novel in what is shaping up to be a really fun science fiction trilogy, Predator: Incursion will treat you well. I rate it 4 snarky Colonial Marine troopers out of 5!
Final verdict: 4/5
Note: this review was based on a copy of the novel provided by the publisher, Titan Books.