Friday, May 18, 2012

Book Review: Simon Vector by JAK Holding

Hidden in the subbasement of a prison on a desolate moon is the body of the military hero Simon Vector. He led the battle against a nearly unstoppable alien force called Harvesters, and paid for victory with his life. Only he’s not dead, his body has been enhanced with cybernetic parts and though he doesn’t respond to outside stimulus his vital signs indicate that his body grows stronger every day. The only problem is, humans don’t have the technology to do what’s been done to Simon Vector – these are Harvester implants.

Dr. Feen is a recent arrival at the prison, and he has quickly learned to hate it there. He’s anti-social and disliked by prisoners and staff alike. On top of that, his own strong phobias make him more susceptible than most to the pheromones given off by the alien guards – their method for keeping the prisoners in line. Because the staff don’t like Feen, they don’t protect him from the scum who inhabit the prison, people like mass murderers, mad doctors and serial rapists.

Then there’s political prisoner General Mason, who’s immune to the guards manipulations of his feelings. He’s plotting his escape, using the weaknesses of his captors against them – endearing Dr. Feen to him by saving him from another prisoner, and manipulating the warden into giving him a map of the prison. But just as his plan for escape goes into motion all hell breaks loose in the prison.

Ana Bolo is an accountant who has discovered some discrepancies in the funding which was sent to the last doctor at the prison, and she’s gone to audit the site. What she finds is Simon Vector, and when he wakes – the Harvester army becomes aware of his presence and immediately resumes their invasion from decades earlier. Using the prison as a foothold in our dimension, they begin to convert prisoners into horrifying creatures with only one intent – convert and assimilate anything usable into material for the Harvester invasion.

I recently described this book as something fans of the movie Alien, or the videogame Dead Space, or the Star Wars horror themed books by Joe Schreiber might enjoy. That’s all true, and as a fan of those things myself, I very much enjoyed Simon Vector. The book starts out a little weak – it takes a little too much time developing each of these characters before “things go bad”, and it takes a lot of the urgency out of the early part of the story. I actually felt like Feen’s internal monolog about Simon Vector’s original battle against the Harvesters was placed oddly in the book. It should either have been the prologue to the story (showing us real-time the battle that occurred) or it should have been brought up later in the story by Simon himself once he has awakened and the characters are in the fight for their lives.

But once the action ramps up, the book is very good at maintaining a high level of suspense. Like a good horror movie, the reader can never be sure who is going to survive the escape from the prison, and because of the setting many of the characters are reprehensible so you begin to wonder if you should be rooting for them at all. The Harvester hybrids are grotesque creatures; bits and pieces of humans, aliens and machinery sewn together who are looking to tear apart any living thing they come into contact with. In a prison that’s gone into lockdown, with a master computer that’s been infested with a virus and is slowly failing and speaking in maddening phrases, with a human military force bearing down on the planet to contain the infestation – the odds are stacked against anyone surviving.

Simon Vector could easily be the beginning of a larger story, told in any sort of medium from more books, to comics or videogames. I could easily see this being adapted into a movie. I’d be curious to see in what direction this story might go next, as I would expect (like the Alien series of movies) future stories would have to move past the more horror oriented story in this book and into some greater military scifi story. But, Simon Vector stands alone very well as a novel complete on its own – while story threads could be picked up again in the future, it is not necessary and you won’t feel as if you didn’t read a complete book upon finishing. This was a strong horror themed scifi story, and I’m pleased to recommend it.

1 comment:

SQT said...

I'm glad this is good. Glad I got my copy last weekend. :)