Keith DeCandido penned the two previous Resident Evil novelizations and he developes his maturity with the Biohazard material with this adaptation of Resident Evil Extinction. The previous two novels were somewhat restricted as they had to play within the confines of the film's screenplays; that of being trapped underground in a secret research lab, or trapped inside an infested city struggling to escape. It is welcome therefore that the scope of the third instalment opens the narrative into a `before and after' post-apocalyptic event landscape showing the further struggles of the survivors of the Raccoon City disaster: Carlos Olivera, LJ, Jill Valentine and Alice. Actress Sienna Guillory, who played Jill Valentine, was noticeably absent from the cast of the third picture (having been promoted to leading lady status in Eragon) and this could have presented DeCandido with a puzzle as to how to explain the character's absence. The author easily traverses this problem by having Jill act as a diversion for the pursuing FBI agents during a scene at a motel parking area, allowing Carlos and the others to escape. Jill is then taken into custody and is interrogated thoroughly as to her part in the alleged fraud of the chemical spill video tape and possible complicity in the disaster. After giving rock-solid testimony she finally manages to bend the ear of an agent in authority and manages to convince them that it is Umbrella that has been solely responsible for not only the tragedy at Raccoon City, but the alleged sightings of unusual genetic mutations seen prowling throughout the city and the surrounding mountain range. Upon being released Jill hooks up with a rag-tag band of miscreants and establishes a boot-hold of safety inside a stadium complex. She decides to make a stand with the various survivors and attempt to live through the apocalypse.
The main plot of course opens up with Alice on the road astride her high performance motor-cycle answering a distress call from a group of survivors holed up in a bunker somewhere in the desert - a distress call that turns out to be bogus, and an attempt to capture her by a group of cannibals. Carlos and the rest of the gang meanwhile have formed a Mad Max style convoy and roam the desert wasteland searching for food, supplies and anything else they can salvage from the ruins of civilization. Making her first appearance in the film/novelization franchise is Claire Redfield, a regular character from the successful game/game novelization series - here appearing as a joint leader of the disparate band of survivors. After LJ is bitten by a zombie during a recce of an abandoned motel (before concealing his injury), and an attack by a T-Virus infected murder of crows, the team are saved by Alice and her burgeoning telepathic abilities. It was the best sequence in the film, and is well-described here: a misfire from a truck-mounted flamethrower deflected to purposefully incinerate the entire swarm of attacking crows. After a moment of reflection for their losses, Alice joins them for the latter part of their journey; one that suggests a possible destination for their seemingly endless wanderings.
Meanwhile, hundreds of feet beneath the surface, malevolent Umbrella Research Scientist Dr Samuel Isaacs is monitoring Project Alice whilst attempting to duplicate the spectacular results of his prototype by putting dozens of identical clones through their paces. He also has a side project involving the conditioning of the undead into near invincible super-soldiers, via the administration of a new strain of the T-Virus. The results are dangerously unstable, yet are employed by Dr Isaacs when he sends them after the team of survivors when they enter a ruined Las Vegas to search for fuel. Stumbling upon his plans, Alice and the others hatch a desperate plan to storm the secret compound and put an end to the nefarious scheme. A finale that introduces one of the game series' most popular villains: Chairman Wesker, appearing very briefly during a holographic video conference from a remote location inside another Umbrella facility.
DeCandido's writing takes a huge step forward as he very competently depicts this ravaged landscape, adding a whole extra dimension to the story as shown on screen. I became genuinely compelled during some chapters and was particularly impressed with the Jill Valentine interrogation scene where she lists in meticulous detail the chain of events that has lead to the apocalypse. There is one area where the author does lose some respect however: as mentioned in my review for Resident Evil Apocalypse, he writes some chapters from the mindset of the LJ character, who only seems to think with the use of profanity. One can understand the need to show LJ as streetwise, but there is little need for quite so much use of foul swear words - a mistake that plagues the previous novelization and which is not corrected with this publication. Despite this pitfall, Extinction is a well written novel and is a compelling read for any who wish to enter the world of survival horror.
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