In my unofficial and frankly accidental quest to cover everything Resident Evil on this blog I decided to finally read the two novel-only stories written by SD Perry, and to be fair I thought I’d read the novelisation of RE1 and 2 that take place before each of them as well. While I enjoyed “The Umbrella Conspiracy”, the novel original story “Caliban Cove” was less enjoyable, to put it politely. Want to know more? Read on!
Synopsis (of The Umbrella Conspiracy):
When Raccoon City, a remote mountain community, is suddenly besieged by a rash of grisly murders, bizarre reports start to spread, describing attacks from vicious creatures, some human… some not… Victims are apparently eaten.
At the epicenter of these deaths is a dark, secluded mansion belonging to the mysterious Umbrella Corporation. For years’ umbrella has labored within the mansion, unwatched, ostensibly conducting benign genetic research, until one day…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
The original, a.k.a. “good” cover of The Umbrella Conspiracy…
The Umbrella Conspiracy follows the plot of the original Resident Evil well enough that I had fun reading it, following both Chris and Jill down their separate paths encountering Rebecca and Barry respectively on the way. Perry ads some prologue with Jill riding in the quiet town of Raccoon City before heading off, and inserts his own created character known as “Trent” into the story. Trent is a shadowy figure who gives Jill some key information before she gets to the mansion… why? No idea, maybe Trent plays a bigger role in later books, but for now (and in the next story) he’s pretty uninteresting.
Still, as I said, the book follows the game’s plot well, even incorporating the illogical-outside-of-gameplay puzzles, traps and keys into the mix. STARS Alpha team end up in Umbrella-ran Spencer Mansion due to Bravo Team going missing in the area and end up having to fight through various horrors to survive, they find the bodies / few surviving members of the Bravo team and then find out their Captain, Albert Wesker, is actually an Umbrella agent who then unleashes the monstrous Tyrant on them (and seemingly getting killed in the process) leading to survivors Chris, Jill, Barry and Rebecca to destroy it and escape via chopper as the mansion explodes.
The prose is simple but perfectly fine, maybe an over-reliance on the description of smell in order to get the horror across, but that’s only a minor quibble. It won’t set the world on fire, but it’s perfectly fine given the admittedly simple source material he had to adapt.
The new, a.k.a. “Bad” cover of The Umbrella Conspiracy. Just in-game artwork with a generic background…
Caliban Cove, it’s safe to say, wasn’t up to much. Rebecca meets up with the other Mansion survivors and the head of STARS Exeter David Trapp, but they’re assaulted by a force of other corrupt STARS members like Wesker from other counties and countries (I guess). Trent reappears and is willing to give more info on Umbrella, all of which leads to Rebecca, David and three other members of the Exeter STARS called Steve Lopez, John Andrews and Karen Driver heading to a place called Caliban Cove, where an Umbrella research station is based. Their job is to simply arrive, get evidence against Umbrella, then leave. Simple… except, you know, the facility is now mostly full of mutated monsters as per usual!
It’s a perfectly fine set up for a spin-off from the early games, but sadly the actual story in the cove isn’t that good. My mine gripe is that the main threat of the story is a more intelligent form of zombie, able to aim and fire guns. If this was set after RE4 or something I’d be okay with it, a bit, due to the whole Plagas stuff but for what was supposed to be the second story in the timeline its way too advanced. Plus it’s just not very scary! Well, not in a horror way, I’m not saying zombies firing guns at me wouldn’t make me soil myself, but it doesn’t lend itself well to the RE universe as it was when this was set. I wanted more classic Resi I loved, this felt far more like a modern thing. Anyway, these zombies are formed into groups of three, dubbed “Tri-Squads” (and boy is that expression ever ran deep into the ground until it became redundant) and a good chunk of the book is the STARS members fighting off the four Tri-Squads, or in other words engaging in an action-heavy fire fights.
I mean, you could complain about reusing the RE artwork in the background for the second cover in a row, but the original artwork in the middle is good, so… *shrugs*
There are some moments of horror, some mutated creatures chasing Rebecca and co in a tunnel was good, but even the lead villain (generic evil scientist Dr. Nicholas Griffith) had nothing going for him. There were some really simple traps and puzzles thrown in for some extra Resi-ness, but they were often too simple (or used elsewhere, Die Hard with a Vengeance has ruined the St. Ives riddle for me…) and one member of the team is infected, which is good, but the other is instantly turned into an “intelligent zombie” who obeys orders, which is not. In the end the facility is flooded, the bad guy killed and Rebecca and David are the only survivors (no, actually John also survived, now I think about it…) It wasn’t bad, I didn’t throw my kindle against the wall in disgust, but it didn’t feel… right, and was quite dull.
Then just to cap it off, the crappy new cover for Caliban Cove…. They could’ve at least used a different background, maybe?
“The Umbrella Conspiracy” is a decent retelling of the original game, with simple and fine prose and not too much tweaking. “Caliban Cove” is a disappointing follow up with too many elements that either didn’t work, felt completely out of place or both. If I hear the phrase “Tri-Squads” again I’m going to KILL. In other words, a mixed bag… and it may be some time before I read the next two…
The Umbrella Conspiracy: