- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Boxtree Ltd (25 Mar. 1996)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0761502351
- ISBN-13: 978-0761502357
- Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 10.2 x 17.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,471,450 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
X-Com UFO Defense: A Novel Paperback – 25 Mar 1996
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Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Recognizing Diane Duane from some of her other work (Star Trek novels, mostly) was a bonus.
Having read the book (it's a quick read) I was left a little disappointed. In terms of content, it's the first half of a novel that was #1 in a series of several. In reality, it's the only X-COM novel I could find.
Character development is minimal, plot is simplistic. Given how little the author had to work with, though, she did fine. At least the human commanders in this X-COM story avoided using recruits as meat shields. (Unlike a lot of X-COM players...)
If you like X-COM and enjoy mindless series pulp sci-fi (Do you have more than one shelf of Star Trek novels? Did you read the Conqueror's Trilogy because Zahn wrote it and you like the Thrawn Trilogy? You know who you are... be honest) then you'll probably like this book. Possibly a lot.
However, if you do like it, you'll be sad there aren't any more.
I hope more of these come out. With the new 'Enemy Unknown' game in the works this year, I would like to see more X-COM universe stuff - novels, T-shirts, posters ... woohoo!
Anyway, I played the original X-COM way back in the day. This novel was a nice return to those earlier times, most of which I no longer remember! Still, the novel had plenty of action. If anything bad can be said I would say, "Too Short!"
I Want More! :)
The novel is certainly readable and kept me turning pages to find out what happened to the characters. However the writing itself leaves something to be desired. To give one example, in the space of no more than fifty words, aliens are described to have 'poured out of' their craft twice - two different sets of aliens from two different craft, but with the same adjective. While this is not a massive problem, it is little things like this that add up together to give the impression of a poorly edited book, or one written with a lack of experience.
Regarding the novel's fidelity, there seems to be no good explanation for why the author has altered several ideas from the core game concepts. While some changes do actually reflect a more realistic alien invasion - having many different alien types on the same mission, for example - this jars with the facts of how the game is constructed. A terror mission in-game would never feature Floaters, Reapers, Snakemen, Chryssalids and Cyberdiscs all at once. A single base would never be able to house four Lightnings, three Firestorms, two Interceptors and an Avenger, let alone having space left over to have researchers wasted and twiddling their thumbs.
The author also fails to make X-COM feel like a military organisation. No sense of discipline is given in the interactions between troops, and the commander protagonist is even described as walking romantically arm-in-arm through a base with one of her pilots while on duty, losing all sense of soldierly conduct.
Small factual errors like this leave a book that is entertaining to a point, but not to a devotee of the games. Given the narrative opportunities offered by the X-COM games - particularly the 2012 release - it is disappointing to find that the only existing novel based on the game, apart from a Russian one I am yet to track down a translation of, is such an ill-understood mess.
As for the required battle scenes, Duane seemed uncomfortable writing them, because she skimmed over them with as little detail as possible. This alienates fans of the game who looked forward to the battles, so what you get is a novel that completely fails to satisfy its core audience.
I think an author who had actually played "X-Com" might have done a better job. I wish the game company had chosen an author with the skills to write a military/action/scifi novel and the respect for the source material to handle it right, instead of tossing money at a brand-name author like Diane Duane to mess it up. If you like Diane Duane, I suppose you'd like this novel. If you like "X-Com," you'll probably hate this novel.