Sunday, October 25, 2015

Resident Evil: The Book

If you guys have seen some of my posts on Google+, you would know that I was planning to review S.D. Perry's Resident Evil: The Umbrella Conspiracy today. As you can tell by the title, that's not the case. Today, we're reviewing a little novel that was rather "creatively" titled Resident Evil: The Book.
Known as Biohazard: The Beginning in Japan, The Book was originally with the limited edition version of the Sega Saturn version of the first Resident Evil in Japan, as part of a compilation book titled; BIOHAZARD: The True Story Behind BIOHAZARD. It was released in 1997, and included a section of supplementary material for the game, the aforementioned Biohazard: The Beginning, and an interview with Shinji Mikami and the rest of the creative staff behind the first game, as well as sketches and concept art.
The supplementary material was titled "George Trevor's Notes" If you'll recall, George Trevor was a character that got cut from the final version of the original game, but was later added back into the remake, and The Umbrella Chronicles.
Since the original book was never released in outside Japan, there wasn't an official translation into English. I was able to find a fan translation, but it wasn't anywhere near being complete. It just translated Trevor's Notes and the first three chapters of Biohazard: The Beginning and stopped there. There were only two copies of the original book on eBay, and both of them were fairly exorbitantly priced for something I'm only gonna read once and then stick on my shelf for the rest of time. So I found the light novel, which actually was officially released in English, and we're going to be reviewing that today!
I have to apologize for the cover. I wasn't able to find an actual scan of it, just a low-resolution photograph of the cover. So I put it together the best I could based on that photo. It's not 100% perfect, but it's close enough for my purposes.
(Insert following message if needed) This review is going to be a little short, since this book is only about twenty pages long.
Having read the S.D. Perry novels in their entirety before having read this novel, I can see that it was a direct inspiration for Perry's books. The details are slightly different, but they're pretty similar. According to, Capcom told Perry to use certain details from this book when writing her first Resident Evil book, The Umbrella Conspiracy.
According to (And their translation of The True Story Behind Biohazard) and, this book was written by Hiroyuki Ariga. I can't find any kind of information on who translated the official version of the book at this moment. Since I didn't have as much time to prepare for this review as I did for the comics and my upcoming novel reviews, I've got to rush to get the review out as opposed to talked about the background of the book as much as I would like.
Compared to the books that follow it (at least Perry's books. I haven't gotten around to the Japanese exclusive novels or the novelizations of the movies) this book is rather unique, in that it's told from the first-person perspective of Chris Redfield as opposed to the third-person viewpoint that later books would take. It actually serves to help you get into the mindset of the characters moreso than a third-person perspective would in this situation, which is something I felt that the Perry novels lacked, but I'll get to that next time.
So, this book is a lot like Marvel's first and only Resident Evil comic in the fact that it takes place entirely before the start of the game, and ends with Alpha landing in the Arklay Mountains.
That's where the similarities enough though, since this book takes us off the rails of the typical Resident Evil story pretty quickly.
Chris and a few of the other characters have their back-stories expanded beyond what we initially saw in the game, as well as having the general back-story for the game expanded upon. Although it doesn't fit into modern continuity, that's not the books fault, since the people at Capcom hired Ariga to write the back-story for the game, and then decided to completely disregard it in future installments. Because Capcom apparently does this a lot.
This is something which irritates me about a lot of ongoing multimedia franchises. Continuity is established between the main series and certain pieces of tie-in material, and then is erased by future installments of the main series, either by simple contradiction, direct dismissal, or simply by ignoring them.
We'll get into this a lot more next year when we cover further tie-ins and adaptations. I have a feeling it's gonna get pretty hairy when we finally reach the live-action movies and the Chronicles games.
So, let's go ahead and crack the book open and start the review! Spoilers inbound, since we're analyzing plot continuity here.
The Book starts out with Chris talking about how he hates being woken up in the middle of the night by phonecalls, since whenever he gets a call late at night, it's usually because someone he knows has died.
In this continuity, Chris's parents were killed in an accident, and that left him and his sister, Claire orphaned. They don't mention what age they were when this happened, so we don't know if Chris wound up having to practically raise Claire like he did in the Perry continuity.
What we do know is that in the universe of this novel, Chris had a childhood friend named Billy Rabitson, who went on to work for Umbrella after college, while Chris went into the Air-Force, where he then met Barry Burton. Absolutely no mention of Forest Speyer, who is supposed to be Chris's best friend. Mind you, I can't find anything telling me when Forest was established as such. It's definitely implied, if not outright stated in The Umbrella Chronicles, but I can't find out if it was established prior to the writing of this novel. The closest thing I can find is an offhand mention that they clicked immediately when they first met in the manual of the first game, but there's no mention of when they met. I even checked out the UK version of the manual, and the Directors Cut manual. Surprise, the UK version of Forest's bio was copied and pasted from the American manual, and the Directors Cut manual had the content of the cast bios changed almost entirely.
I asked around on social media to try and find out, even searching out a few Resident Evil fan communities to try and get an answer, but all I got was people telling me that they didn't know.
Anyways, Chris is rather perplexed by this call, because Billy is supposed to be dead, having apparently been killed in a air-plane crash with twelve other people about three months prior.
Billy insists that he's not dead, and tells the naturally suspicious Chris to meet him in Silent Hi- I mean the park near Victory Lake so he can explain what's going on in person, because he's worried about Umbrella listening in on their phone-calls. If he was worried about that, why did he call in the first place? Why didn't he just show up on Chris's doorstep and talk to him if he was that worried about it? Maybe he was calling from a payphone, who knows?
Chris hops into his Shelby Cobra and speeds off to the lake, and reminisces about his history with Billy. Billy was a straight-A student, while Chris barely made passing grades.
I'd just like to point out that up until now, the only places that actually mention Chris's history were the manuals for the game, and from what I've read out of them, they consistently state that Chris is extremely intelligent.
After that, Chris then goes on to recap the rest of his back-story, which seems to fit into the current lore of the series fairly decently.
Then Chris almost runs a woman down because he was going at well over twice the speed-limit, and he swerves to avoid her. He then gets out of his car and finds out the woman was covered in gaping wounds.
Naturally, this makes Chris a little uneasy. He hears a cry from a nearby car and dashes to his vehicle to get his Samurai Edge out. He's then attacked by what I presume to be a Hunter (Although it could easily be a massive Cerberus) and he empties his gun into it. The result is a little strange, because the book describes his bullets as bouncing off of the creature. Whereas in the game, the handgun had some effect on the Hunters, and got used pretty often (In my playthrough at least) against the Cerberus. And if it's not a Cerberus, then it doesn't make sense, because Chris later describes it as a massive dog.
Chris then investigates the car and finds a man whose body has been torn to shreds. He then radios the RCPD to come cordon off the area and waits until he hears them approaching before leaving the scene of the crime..
Naturally, this makes Chris late for his meeting, and he finds that Billy has apparently left the lake area. He searches the boathouse, the surrounding woods, and finds one half of a matching pair of necklaces he gave Billy and his fiance, Rose.
He then returns to the scene of the murders earlier, and is confronted by Brian Irons, Chief of the RCPD, who asks why Chris left the scene of the crime.
This would be a perfectly legitimate question if we didn't already know that Chief Irons was evil, and part of the conspiracy.
Chris naturally doesn't explain to him what his actual intentions were, since Irons is a massive tool, on top of being a self-righteous prat, and wouldn't appreciate his motivations even if he wasn't on Umbrella's payroll.
Apparently in this continuity the case has been going on for about six months, and the Chief is on Chris's back for not solving the case immediately.
Chris then decides to go over the back-story of the town and S.T.A.R.S. It was a small town before, but then Umbrella came to town and the population started to increase exponentially. With that, came an influx of crime and terrorism, so they decided to form S.T.A.R.S., the Special Tactics and Rescue Service, which was paid for in half by Umbrella.
Chris gives an abridged summary of events to the Deputy Chief (Who hates Irons as much as everyone else does) and then takes off back home, wondering how he was going to get in touch with Billy.
The next day, Chris shows up at the RCPD building to find Barry and Wesker having an argument. Something I really like about this book is that it doesn't make Wesker an obvious villain, and that it doesn't make Umbrella's involvement seem quite so obvious. Wesker being the main villain of the series is so ingrained in popular culture that it's refreshing to see a potentially non-villainous version of him ever now and again. The Marvel version seemed more like a reluctant participant in the whole ordeal, and he rounded up Alpha to rescue Bravo at the earliest opportunity he had. And who knows? The Wesker in this book doesn't even seem to have any kind of participation in the conspiracy. Based on his dialogue, he seems about as irritated with Iron's inaction as Barry and Chris are, he just doesn't get nearly as angry as Barry does about it.
Chris notices that Jill and Joseph are as frustrated as he is with the situation, since S.T.A.R.S. was formed as a proactive group, the kinda team that can respond to a situation quickly and efficiently. Not a glorified SWAT team.
Chris explains what happened in the road last night (Leaving out the part about Billy) and Wesker asks him for a written report. Jill then tells Chris that his story didn't seem complete, and he tells her that he's waiting for the right time to fill in the rest of the details.
Chris then goes over Jill's back-story, explaining how good she is with kids, and how she became the hero of many of the youngsters in the town. And then this whole incident started, and a pair of little girls that Jill had practically been a surrogate mother to had been killed. They'd wandered away from the family campsite, and had been found after an hour-long manhunt, mangled horribly.
Chris then goes on to mention that a city as small as Raccoon shouldn't be able to afford to be as posh as it is, with a tax-base of about 300,000. Naturally, this is all thanks to Umbrella.
Chris drives up to the Umbrella Corporation headquarters, and he describes how opulent it is. Chris BS's his way into the Human Resources office, and fails to get any relevant information out of Umbrella, except for the fact that they're not saying a single word to him about what Billy was working on. Chris heads back home and checks his answering machine. While he does so, he senses something is wrong and goes to grab his shotgun, and Colt .45. He is then promptly attacked by zombies, and barely survives, managing to drive them away before meeting Jill, who was on her way to talk to him when her motorcycle broke down.
They get into Chris's car, and he takes her to Billy's cabin to investigate. On the way, Jill explains that Irons is hounding Wesker to find out where Chris went after his encounter with the creature, and that Irons also got a call from Umbrella HR about Chris's visit earlier. Chris fills her in on the details of Billy's case, and they then head off to his cabin.
The cabin is locked, so Jill picks it open, and after some investigation, they get attacked by some zombies, and Billy shows up out of nowhere to tell them that they need to shoot for the head, as it's "The only way to kill a zombie"
Yeah, all those zombies I killed in the first game by slashing their shins would like to disagree with you, William, buddy.
Chris and Jill manage to fight off some of the zombies, but the remaining trio of undead Crimson Heads (At least, that's what they've got to be, otherwise the mentions of their claws doesn't make any sense.
Billy barely manages to tell them about the secret laboratory he escaped from, and the effects of the T-Virus before he succumbs to his wounds.
Chris and Jill escape the cabin and speed off in Chris's car, making their way to the RCPD building to tell their team-mates what happened.
This is where the possibility of continuity with the game breaks down a bit, since Richard Aiken is still in the S.T.A.R.S. office, as opposed to being with Bravo Team like he's supposed to be. I don't know if this was something changed before this book was published, but I'd doubt that, since the original printing came out a whole year after the original game hit shelves, and there are demo builds from before then that showed Richard being part of Bravo Team.
Speaking of which, Bravo Team has just vanished, and Aiken and Wesker are worried.
Wesker tells Chris and Jill that he noticed a pattern to the attacks, that they were all surrounding the old Spencer Mansion, so he sent in Bravo to investigate the mansion. That was three hours prior, and they haven't had any communication since.
Chris and Jill fill Wesker in on the entire situation. Billy, the zombies, the dogs, the T-Virus, and the faked plane-crash.
Wesker says that it's crazy, but it makes perfect sense. So he rounds up Alpha Team, arms them to the teeth, and sets out for the mansion in force to bring Bravo back.
All in all, this is a very good novella, and it's well worth reading if you can find it. It's just a shame that it was never given a proper conclusion. It stands on its own as a unique version of the Resident Evil story, and if it was part of an ongoing series as opposed to a one-shot light novel, I'd gladly pick up more books in the series. But, as we'll see, this is a trend with the Resident Evil books.
Now, does it fit into either modern, or then-current continuity? Unfortunately (Or fortunately, depending on your perspective) that's a no on both counts. There are a few members of the in-game Bravo Team listed as members of Alpha Team, Wesker seems like he's a good-guy in this continuity, and finally, Alpha goes into their situation with far too much knowledge for the events of the beginning of the game to realistically happen to them. I wouldn't believe that anyone from Alpha would have died in the ways they did in the opening FMV of the original game. Plus, we don't even know if Brad is still a coward in this story.
So, all in all, this was a great book that was let-down by the fact that it was never given a conclusion.
Then again, if it had, there's a possibility it could have gone completely off the rails. But we'll get to that when we review the Code: Veronica and Zero Hour books.
In the end, I give this short little book a 10.1* rating. Next time we see each other, I'll be concluding this year's 31 Days of Evil with what I was scheduled to do today, S.D. Perry's Resident Evil: The Umbrella Conspiracy!