Reading the Screen: A V Good Time
Posted by: David Pitt
You’ve probably heard that V, the ABC alien-invasion series, has been picked up for a second season. The show is based, of course, on the 1983 NBC miniseries, its sequel, and a short-lived weekly series. If you haven’t seen any of these (they’re all on DVD), you can check out the various spin-off novels.
Start with V: The Original Miniseries (2009), by Kenneth Johnson and A.C. Crispin. Johnson created V, and produced other series you’re probably familiar with: The Six Million Dollar Man, The Incredible Hulk, Alien Nation. Crispin, a science fiction writer, is better known, I think, for her multi-volume StarBridge series, two of which are 1992′s Serpent’s Gift and 1998′s Voices of Chaos. She’s also written some pretty good Star Trek and Star Wars novels.
V: The Original Miniseries a lot of fun. It follows the events of the miniseries fairly closely, expanding on some scenes, elaborating slightly on Johnson’s Visitors-as-Nazis metaphor (which I happen to find a very engaging idea). The book appears to be a reprint of 1984′s V, which was credited solely to Crispin, with a few minor changes: some material relating to the second miniseries, V: The Final Battle, seems to be gone, and there looks to be some new material that bridges the gap between this book and Johnson’s V: The Second Generation, about which more below.
Crispin also published the spin-off novels V: East Coast Crisis (1984) and V: Death Tide (’84 or ’85, depending on which source you consult) . Both were written with co-authors: Howard Weinstein on East Coast Crisis, and Deborah A. Marshall on Death Tide.
And there are other spin-off books, too, about a dozen of them, with titles like V: The Pursuit of Diana and V: To Conquer the Throne. They were published between, say, 1984 and 1988, and they’re mostly workmanlike novelizations, long on action and rather shorter on character development or literary style. But two of them, V: The Alien Swordmaster (1985) and V: Symphony of Terror (’88), were written by Somtow Sucharitkul, a name you’ll recognize, if you’re a fantasy/science fiction fan. They’re a cut above the rest.
In 2008 Johnson published V: The Second Generation, which is set twenty-odd years after the miniseries and was, I believe, sort of a novelized version of Johnson’s plans for the new series. It’s an interesting book, well written and full of intriguing ideas — Johnson does a nice job of updating his World War II metaphor, adapting it to a more contemporary story without losing its oomph.
If you’re a fan of the original miniseries and its sequels, you should seek out these books. You should also seek out my previous post on some classic alien-invasion books that were made into movies.