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Viva La Resistance

February 25th, 2008 No comments

Almost 25 years ago, NBC premiered the miniseries V, an allegory about fascism in America with a sci-fi twist. A fleet of alien “Visitors” encircled the Earth, offering universal friendship as well as medical and scientific advances. However, their handsome, human exteriors masked a jaw-dropping secret…

In truth, the Visitors were reptilian space-Nazis out to steal our water and turn the human race into sushi-to-go. Masters of propaganda, they trumped up a phony conspiracy among our world’s scientists which served a twofold purpose: the imprisonment of those who might see through their deception and the institution of perpetual martial law.

Some humans eventually caught on and formed a resistance movement bent on driving the Visitors from Earth. The first miniseries ended with an interstellar SOS sent in hopes of contacting the aliens’ habitual enemies.

The following year brought a sequel miniseries, V: The Final Battle, which more or less wrapped up the storyline. Unfortunately, creator Kenneth Johnson left the project over creative differences, and while the new production team more or less followed his plot outline, they made some questionable decisions, not the least of which was granting a half-human, half-Visitor child the Power of the Glowing Deus Ex Machina to save the day.

The less said about the brief weekly series which followed, the better.

A few years back, Kenneth Johnson was engaged to write a new V miniseries for NBC. His script ignored the events of both The Final Battle and the series, instead picking up the story two decades later.

While that proposed production remains in limbo, Johnson has just published a novelized adaptation, V: The Second Generation. As promised, it provides an alternate account of life under the Visitors.

The “red dust” bacteriological weapon which defeated the lizards in The Final Battle has been swept under the carpet, and in this version of the story both the Resistance and the Earth itself appear to be in their final days. The rebels have suffered since the evil commandant Diana’s great purge of 1999. More and more people have disappeared, cocooned in storage aboard the hovering alien motherships. Much of the world’s oceans have been drained away, leaving behind massive deserts, and new technology from the Visitor homeworld threatens to finish the job in a matter of weeks instead of years.

Fortunately, hope arrives in the form of three mysterious infiltrators, advance scouts for the Visitors’ longtime foes, the Zedti. The good news is that they’ve got their own fleet of warships hidden behind Saturn. The bad news is that no one is sure that they themselves can be trusted.

In general, I found The Second Generation to be a solid wrap-up. The writing style is awkward at times, but the plot is riveting, especially as things ramp up in the final hundred pages. Be warned, though, that the darkness before the dawn is especially dark. Damn, some of the early chapters are depressing.

Initially, I was a little disappointed that more wasn’t made of recent real-world events; I was interested in the possibilities of Johnson’s take on the War on Terror. (Of course, in this alternate history, 9/11 never happened.) In the end, I realized that he’d already covered much of that ground the first time around. Still, I do wonder, given that both the original film and this book are dedicated to freedom fighters everywhere, what uncomfortable parallels he might have drawn between his heroic Resistance and certain real-life insurgents.

The science is as wonky as ever. Not only are there the usual improbabilities about people and reptiles breeding offspring (and there’s an awful lot of interspecies sex going on in these pages), but the book also presents in the form of the Zedti three different races of aliens which have evolved from insects yet which can pass as near-human.

I appreciated the opportunity to revisit some old friends. While many of the original miniseries’ characters are never heard from–presumably killed in the purge–half a dozen play integral roles in the storyline, including three who were killed off in the earlier sequels.

The book provides a good bit more closure than I expected. There’s a huge uprising, a countdown to destruction and a final reckoning with the Visitors and their heretofore-unseen Leader. There’s enough of an opening for another sequel which would presumably cast the entire world in the role of Bush-era Iraq, but if this is the end of the story, it’s a satisfactory final battle.

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