Review - The Annotated AvP: The Story, part 2

Last month, I opened up the Pandora’s Box that was my 13-year-old self’s attempt at writing a novel. Without spoiling too much, it’s an adaptation of the excellent computer game Aliens versus Predator 2 and an unintentionally hilarious example of fan fiction at its near worst—though not the absolute worst. Thankfully, late grade school me had little interest in crafting harrowing slash fiction, unlike some of the borderline sexual deviants prowling the Web. Make no mistake, however: it’s thoroughly terrible, so much that I felt this poor excuse for literature deserved a Mystery Science Theatre 3000-esque treatment.

This week, I’ve selected some of the funniest/weirdest/most embarrassing moments from AvP: The Story, focusing on the introduction of the Predator protagonist, the aptly-named Swift-Death.

General Vasili Rykov, the general of the Weyland-Yutani military, stood facing some computer monitors in Control Room 05. He was a tall, burly man in his fifties, born in Moscow, Russia in 2176. He was powerful, with almost complete control over WY, better known as the Company. For ten years, he had headed Earth’s second-most powerful army, and had helped spread the human race’s reach to over sixty colonized planets. Right now, he was second-in-command of the operation here, on Lv-1201, for the last five years.
Ladies and gentlemen, the above paragraph contains everything you have ever wanted to know about General Vasili Rykov (who is, you’ll be surprised to learn, a general). There isn’t anything particularly humorous here, I’ll admit. I’m just intrigued by Preteen Me’s desire to eliminate any and every last ambiguity regarding Rykov’s history as quickly as possible. I did something similar in the previous chapter with WY scientist Allan Eisenberg, establishing him as capital ‘E’ evil the moment he showed up in the text.

It’s relatively easy to distinguish a novice writer from their more seasoned counterpart as the former prefers to tell rather than show. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the realm of characterization. An amateur writer makes the mistake of simply describing his hero as “cool” or “super special awesome” instead of writing actual instances of said hero being cool (donning sunglasses after uttering a witty one-liner) or super special awesome (casually instigating chainsaw duels). Though the excerpt I chose is more of a biographical overload, lacking in pacing or subtlety. But I digress.

Here’s an example of much better characterization:

He was startled by someone behind him clearing his throat. Rykov turned around to see a thin, young man, with short, blonde hair, and donning the WY military blue and green armor. This was Lieutenant-General Ivan Smitchuk, his American right-hand man.
“You’re overdue for your medication,” he said.
“It slows the mind,” responded Rykov. “I wish to be effective.”
Ivan frowned and objected. “Pain won’t make you effective. The doctors told me that if you don’t take it every twenty-four hours, you’ll be on the floor, writhing in pain.”
“Sure,” Rykov chuckled. “Damn doctors. They treat me like an old man.”
“Well, no offense sir - “ a technician nearby started.
“Don’t start,” Rykov growled.
Note how the technician calmly teases General Rykov for being old and crippled. This is a lot more effective than simply writing “Chuck the Technician had really, really big balls.” Unfortunately, it seems I didn’t learn anything from this experience, as evidenced by the following exchange:

Swift-Death turned to one of his fellow hunters, Unseen-One, and spoke. “Do you think the Black Deaths will come in packs, or will they stalk us?”
“I suggest they would use packs,” Unseen-One suggested, tapping his razor-sharp Wristblades. “This area is wide open and it would be hard to stalk us.”
“I think you might be right,” Swift-Death said.
“So, we don’t cloak, right?” the third Predator, Blade-Wielder asked. He was a slight amateur at hunting and was new to the sport.
To my credit, writing a character’s defining traits right into their Goddamned names is the apex of linguistic efficiency.

Suddenly, he grasped his left shoulder in pain, irradiating from a dull green scar. It had been there for over nineteen years. He reached into his medicine pouch and pulled out a sap-covered leaf. He pressed it against the scar and winced. The sap stung a bit, but it eased the pain of the wound. Soon, all the pain was gone.
As he pulled the leaf off his scar, he remembered. He remembered a lowly human being shooting rounds into his left-shoulder, and hearing his own, blood-chilling roar. That human did what should never happen to one of his species: a mark that would never heal. Of course, Swift-Death had done the same to that human, but it was a crime against the Predator religion that any other species should leave an unhealing mark on their own people. The man that did this to Swift-Death would be ever looked for, and Swift-Death hoped he would have the human pay the price.
The Predators: some vain motherfuckers.

These two paragraphs establish the mutual hatred between Swift-Death and Rykov that lasts for the rest of the book. The instance Swift-Death refers to, which also sees the Predator ripping out the general’s spine, is depicted in the first chapter. Unfortunately, that passage seems to have been lost to the sands of the Internet.

Incidentally, fully half of this dynamic is utterly ridiculous. While Rykov has every reason to hate his Predator foe, Swift-Death wants the general’s skull for simply giving him an entirely cosmetic—and usually hidden—scar. It’s silly to the point of being comical, and it inadvertently makes the Predator seem really petty. Unsurprisingly, Swift-Death’s contempt for Rykov is my addition, with the conflict in the game being almost entirely one-sided. Weird modifications like this one are fairly common in fan fiction, with the author genuinely loving the parent work while simultaneously feeling it’s in need of improvement. It’s kind of passive-aggressive, when you get right down to it.

“So,” one of them started, “this is where Eisenberg and his research team ran into trouble, back seven years ago.”
“You’re right,” the other answered. “Though, this is the rear entrance. The main damage was over by the front, where their Operations was located.”
“Hmm. Eisenberg was the only researcher there to come back alive?”
“Yeah. Rest were, as the rescue Marines said, ripped to bits. It’s these Aliens, man. They’re vicious.”
“That’s right. I also heard from one scientist at the Pods, that these things might be smart!”
“No way.”
“The guy said so. Smarter than a dolphin or a chimp.”
“Weird. All along I thought they were just animals.”
“Aren’t we all?”
“Heh. Good philosophy.”
“That was science, man.”
“Yeah, uh-huh. Wait. . . what’s that on your forehead?”
“What’s what?”
“It looks like a triangle made up of three little red dots.”
“Well what the Hell is tha - “ CRACK. The first man’s head separated from his body as a thin shard of metal, shaped like a small, barbed spear, pegged his head and nailed it to a wall.
“Holy - “ the other stopped short as three of the same spears soared into his chest, tearing it open and spraying gore everywhere. 

Oh daisies, this is just precious. To think I once proudly presented this gore- and awkward dialogue-filled masterpiece to my Grade 7 and 8 teachers. I’m really surprised they didn’t call my parents. Or, for that matter, a shrink.

He made his way across the small canyon, and saw eight human soldiers heading toward him. He charged at full speed, and beheaded two of them before they could react. As the others loaded their weapons, Swift-Death cut down three more. In less than ten seconds, he had the entire group of them lying on the ground, dead. 
Corporal Bill addresses his troops:

“Alright men, the eight of us have been assigned to take out the extraterrestrial hunter currently approaching our position. He’s approximately seven feet tall, possesses superhuman physique and intelligence, and is decked from head to toe in armour and weaponry far more advanced than anything we’ve ever encountered. He can also turn invisible without a moment’s notice. Our plan is to charge him head-on in a single group. Not one—I repeat, not one of you will attempt to load your weapon until we’re within stabbing distance of the creature. And if any of you attempt that ‘flanking’ bullshit I’ve heard you gossiping about in the barracks, you’ll find yourself cleaning the latrines with your tongues. Any questions?”

“Sir, does the creature hunt extraterrestrials or is he an extraterrestrial that happens to be a hunter, sir!”

That’s when he heard more human voices. He followed the sound until he came to a steep cliff. Down below he saw his two partners, dead by gunshots. Human scientists were carrying them into transport trucks. The hunt was no use now, and it was time for him to go home. 
He stopped in his tracks. Unseen-One had the ship’s activator, the Predator equivalent of a car key. And he wasn’t about to hotwire a plasma-driven vehicle. He stood and thought about his only option: he would have to go to the humans’ base and call down a rescue cruiser. It was going to be tricky, but it was his only ticket off. Putting on his helmet, Swift-Death turned toward the trucks, now driving away, and he followed.
These two paragraphs pose a lot of unanswered questions: Why does the supposedly honourable Swift-Death abandon his mission the moment he discovers his fellow Predators are dead? Why is his only option going deep into the heart of enemy territory? How does he waltz right into the middle of an enemy ambush and survive while both of his comrades are presumably taken out pretty easily? And perhaps most importantly, how does a Predator know about car keys?

That does it for the second instalment. Check back the end of next month for the next edition of the Annotated AvP: The Story.

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