PrintE-mail Written by Andrew Marshall

After Roland Emmerich’s long-gestating sequel blew up cinema screens in the summer, does this novelisation of the mediocre blockbuster go any way towards improving it?

The book starts off well, treating the events of 1996 not as an integral story that needed to be known in advance, but as backstory to the plot of this one, thus allowing it to exist as a standalone tale. The first part of the story gets a bit of expansion as minor characters are created from whose viewpoint the aliens’ advancement through the solar system is seen, giving a much-needed human perspective to the countless anonymous lives sacrificed in the film for the sake of a few minutes of CGI devastation.

However, any potential for narrative enhancement falls by the wayside once the action kicks off. The initially wide scope of the story increasingly narrows until only the core group of characters have any relevance to events, but at the same time the writing doesn’t maintain the same sense of spectacle, excitement or shock that is really the purpose of the film’s entire existence.

One of the advantages of novelisations is the written medium providing far greater room for character introspection, giving the opportunity to further develop them that the pace of a movie fundamentally lacks. However, in this case not much insight is given to the characters’ thoughts and motivations that weren’t already apparent from the dialogue. Also, while it was interesting to be given a little backstory for Jake and Charlie explaining why they’re such close friends, would it really have been that difficult to take some of the characters who got short shrift in the film – such as pilot Rain Lao or warlord Dikembe Umbutu – and actually flesh them out a bit? Likewise, the most important developmental aspect of the film, the psychic link the aliens can forge with humans and the PTSD-like mental scarring that remains after it has been severed, is afforded no further consideration.

Overall, the book is little more than a novel retread of a not especially distinctive sci-fi action sequel, which given the potential it had to distinguish itself, is a missed opportunity.


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