Review: Resident Evil: Retribution The Official Movie Novelization
“In writing this book, Shirley has gone through the motions as quickly and as thoughtlessly as possible, clearly confident that his readers’ familiarity with the material will make them inject style and mounting tension based on their own, presumably positive relationship with the series.”
John Shirley’s Resident Evil: Retribution, The Official Movie Novelization opens with a brief, twenty page synopsis of what has happened so far in the Resident Evil franchise. The writing in this section is brisk and efficient, summarizing the events of four previous installments as quickly as possible and in as few words as possible. Though there’s something to be said for the economical use of language, the writing is dispassionate, simplistic and devoid of anything even remotely resembling depth. It’s unfortunate then, that the twenty page prologue serves as a microcosm of the novel as a whole. Even for fans of the long running video game and film franchise, this book should be avoided.
The plot of the novel finds series protagonist Alice trapped in an underwater Umbrella Corporation base in the Arctic Circle. While in the underwater base, she is joined by several old allies and enemies who will be familiar to longtime fans of the franchise, including Jill Valentine, Carlos Olivera and Rain Ocampo. There are a few twists and turns here, (There’s quite a bit of business with simulations of major cities as well as the existence of an Alice clone) but all feel trite and are written with a kind of bored, mercenary-like desire to get the job done as quickly as possible.
“With its over-reliance on ellipses and a strong grounding in the passive voice, the novel is reminiscent of a poorly written YA novel.”
John Shirley is a vet of the novelization business, writing official tie in novels for the likes of Constantine, Batman Begins, and the Predator series. Presumably, with all those previous credits under his belt, Shirley has the writing novelizations of major studio films down to a science. It is unfortunate then, that whatever formula he has developed is so poorly, immaturely written. With its over-reliance on ellipses and a strong grounding in the passive voice, the novel is reminiscent of a poorly written YA novel. All that is to say nothing of Shirley’s insistence on having point-of-view-character Alice think in italics what has already been tiredly spelled out to the reader, an annoying tendency to say the least.
Most damming though is the tone of the book. It has been a long, long time since I have read any published science fiction novel that is this devoid of anything even remotely resembling mounting tension. Every single scene takes the same passive, detached and uninterested tone. When a fleet of airships attack a ship that Alice and friends are stationed on during the opening pages of the novel, it’s presented so casually and passively that it’s almost a marvel to behold. In writing this book, Shirley has gone through the motions as quickly and as thoughtlessly as possible, clearly confident that his readers’ familiarity with the material will make them inject style and mounting tension based on their own, presumably positive relationship with the series. That’s not enough of an effort to put into a book like this, and that’s not enough of an attempt to make anyone, fan of the Resident Evil series or not, want to pick up this poorly realized, sorry excuse for a novel. I’m not a particularly big fan of the Resident Evil movies or games, but even I felt insulted by the novelization of Resident Evil: Retribution.
You can not purchase Resident Evil: Retribution The Official Movie Novelization here.
You can find more reviews by Chris Vanjonack here.