“You don't see them f***ing each other over for a goddamn percentage!” Ripley famously Burke the yuppie in Aliens back in 1986. This is however exactly what the invaders in the TV mini-series V made humanity do three years earlier . . .

The year was 1983 and the world was glued to their television sets watching V, a mini-series in which aliens pretending to be humanity’s friends and benefactors slowly took over political power by duping us into actually helping them!

As far as celluloid alien invaders went, the so-called “Visitors” in V were pretty clever. Ultimately they invaded Earth without firing a single shot. Unlike the lot in Independence Day they didn’t blow up most of the planet in the process. They also weren’t hydrophobic dumb asses like the lot in M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs either (why invade a planet which's surface is mostly covered by water if the stuff actually kills you?). Actually it was our water which the Visitors were interested in. Water which is scarce on their home world and is required to power their giant flying saucer-shaped spaceships.

Instead the Visitors seemed to be have been studying 20th Century history and took a leaf from the rise of the Nazis in Germany and the Fascists in Italy. Claiming to bring technological advancements for the betterment of humanity, they however soon started making up all kinds of plots that were apparently being dreamt up by their enemies. Stalin used the same tactic to crack down on political dissidents both real and imaginary. Pretty soon all kinds of civil liberties are suspended as the equivalent of Hitler Youth gangs patrol the streets. Like all good sci-fi, the mini-series was actually a clever allegory; this time of WWII era Vichy France with the aliens (or Visitors) as the Nazis and Earth itself as occupied France.

Pretty soon a human Resistance arises upon discovering the truth about the aliens. Despite pretending to be human, they are actually reptiles who subsist on a diet of live mice and, yup, human flesh. And all they are interested in is plundering Earth’s natural resources. But it is an uphill battle: there always human collaborators willing to sell out their fellow man just as was the case in WWII Europe.

"Writer Kenneth Johnson wants to remake his V mini-series as a movie . . ."

The Second World War angle and iconography (V stands for Victory as it did back then) was what made V interesting viewing. This, plus the fact that even though the characters were cardboard cutouts and the story littered with plot holes, V still made for some pretty action-packed viewing.

V the miniseries was followed by another miniseries titled V – The Final Battle (in 1984) and by a TV series titled just V (1984-1985). In V – The Final Battle humans defeated the Visitors by using a biological weapon. However not all the Visitors were killed and in the TV series the Visitors develop immunity to it with the help of humans and the fight resumes.

Now more than twenty years later comes V – The Second Generation, a book sequel to the original V. Kenneth Johnson novelized the script whilst NBC dragged its feet for two years whether deciding to do a new miniseries. The miniseries seems to be a no-go Johnson revealed to The Sci-Fi Movie Page in an exclusive interview. Instead he is actually planning a V movie remake (to which he still holds the rights) to be followed by a movie sequel based on the V – The Second Generation novel.

The V – The Second Generation novel largely ignores the events of both V – The Final Battle and the later V TV series. Instead it follows up on the original V miniseries. It is twenty years or so since the events depicted in the miniseries. Humanity has been under absolute Visitor control in that time. Much of the planet’s oceans have dwindled away thanks to the Visitors. A vicious purge in 1999 by Diana, the leader of the Visitors, has incapacitated the Resistance.

However, the distress signal sent off into outer space by the Resistance has been answered. Three aliens claiming to belong to the insectoid race opposed to the Visitors make an appearance. There seems to be hope, sort of. The insect aliens have fought the Visitors to a stalemate in the past and their space fleet, hiding near the planet of Saturn, is awaiting attack orders. Will the insectoids be able to defeat the Visitors this time around? And more importantly, can humanity trust them?

V – The Second Generation will seem familiar to fans of the original show. It has the human resistance fighting what appears to be a hopeless fight against the alien invaders with lots of narrow escapes and setbacks and the like. Characterization is kept to a minimum as always, something which makes keeping track of the large cast difficult on the printed page. Events would be easier to follow if V – The Second Generation were ever to be filmed. However, the book is slow-going and at times confusing to follow during its first half.

Things however pick up and V – The Second Generation becomes a great nail-biter of an airport read halfway through. V – The Second Generation may lack the sort of hard SF ideas that mark the work of writers like Charles Stross, but that isn’t the point. It is the junk food of sci-fi. But there is nothing wrong with that. If you’re looking for some easy escapist holiday beach-side reading then it is perfect. The book will also make for some great junk food television or even a movie too. Now if only someone will please give Kenneth Johnson the money he needs to make it all happen . . .

V: The Second Generation
by Kenneth Johnson

Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Tor, U.S. (1 Nov 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0765319063




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