Well, I was still in the mood for fast-paced horror fiction. So, I thought that I’d take the chance to re-read S.D.Perry’s 2001 novelisation of “Resident Evil: Code Veronica” since it was the next novel in the series that I hadn’t re-read yet (you can see my reviews of the previous books here, here, here, here and here ).
Although I first read this book and played the “Resident Evil: Code Veronica X” Playstation 2 port of the game it is based on when I was a teenager, I remember more about the game than I do about this adaptation. Still, since the game was probably the most modern “Resident Evil” game that I’ve completed and I have a lot of nostalgia about playing it, I was eager to see if the book would live up to this.
Even though it is possible to enjoy this novel as a stand-alone book, it is worth reading several of Perry’s previous “Resident Evil” novels and/or playing some of the older games in the series in order to get the most out of it. Even so, the novel contains a brief author’s note about continuity differences with previous books in the series.
So, let’s take a look at “Resident Evil: Code Veronica”. I should probably warn you that this review may contain some SPOILERS and some GRUESOME/ DISTURBING cover art (yes, fans of the series and/or the zombie genre won’t exactly be shocked by it – but I thought that I’d include a warning on the off-chance that anyone who isn’t a fan stumbles across this review).
The novel begins on a remote island called Rockfort, owned by the nefarious Umbrella Corporation. A guard on the island, Rodrigo Juan Raval, has just survived a ferocious air assault by unknown forces that has not only left parts of the island in ruins but also released several experimental bioweapons from the island’s labs. With many of his fellow guards turned into shambling zombies and a serious injury to his stomach, Rodrigo decides to limp back to the island’s jail and release a recent prisoner who has also survived the attack.
Claire Redfield – survivor of the zombie incident in Racoon City- dreams about her failed attempt at taking down one of Umbrella’s facilities in Paris before waking up in a cold, dark cell. To her surprise, a wounded guard shows up and lets her out before telling her to run for her life. Although she is initially wary about this, she takes the guard’s advice and leaves. Only to find herself in a graveyard filled with zombies….
One of the first things that I will say about this novel is that it is a fairly fast-paced horror thriller novel that is also reasonably true to what I remember of the game (which is both a good and a bad thing). Whilst it probably isn’t my favourite one of Perry’s “Resident Evil” novels (the first and third ones are better), it is still a fairly entertaining novel.
Still, I should probably start by talking about the novel’s horror elements, which include a mixture of character-based horror, monster horror, body horror/scientific horror, cruel horror and gory horror. Although these elements are reasonably well-written, this novel’s horror often feels a little less intense than some previous novels in the series. Whilst the novel’s many scenes of gory horror are as splatterific as you’d expect from a S. D. Perry novel, they aren’t always as well-supported by the other types of horror as they could have been.
If anything, this novel is more of a gruesome, monster-filled action thriller story than a horror novel. And, in this regard, it works well. Not only is the novel written in the kind of fast-paced way that will allow you to blaze through it in a couple of hours, but the story also includes things like multiple plot threads (although not to the extent I’d expected), suspense and – of course- lots of dramatic set pieces and action sequences 🙂 These are all written in a way that is fast-paced and easy to read, giving this novel the kind of fun, cheesy “late-night B movie” atmosphere that you’d expect from the series 🙂
As for how well this novel adapts the source material, it seemed reasonably close to what I remembered of the game – albeit with some changes. In addition to adding a few references to previous books in the series (including the ones not based on the games), there’s also a brief cameo by a few familiar characters (eg: Barry and Leon), the puzzles have been streamlined a bit (if only it was possible to just shoot the metal detector in the actual game) and there’s a bit of extra backstory, dialogue and characterisation for some of the characters too. For the most part, this is an enhanced and streamlined adaptation of the original game. Plus if, like me, you’ve only played the later “Code Veronica X” version of the game, it’s also an interesting glimpse at an earlier version of the game too.
However, since it was published within a year or so of the original game, this adaptation also includes some brief and/or subtle moments from the original game that haven’t really aged well. The main antagonist, Alfred Ashford, is something of a “feminine villain” stereotype and one of the main characters also makes a rather derogatory comment about this aspect of him too (although, if my memory is correct, it is said by a different character at a different time in the game). Still, this is more of a criticism of the source material than this contemporaneous adaptation of it.
But, although Alfred isn’t really a well-written character (again, more the fault of the original game), the other characters are reasonably well-written. Whilst you shouldn’t expect ultra-deep characterisation, the story adds a bit more personality, backstory and emotion to many of the game’s characters. This works best with Claire and Steve with, for example, the story focusing slightly more on Steve’s immature bravado, insecurities, inner conflicts etc… than the game does. Plus, of course, Claire is also a more confident character thanks to her experiences during the previous novels/games too.
As for the writing, it’s fairly good. As you’d expect from one of Perry’s “Resident Evil” novels, this story is written in a fairly informal, fast-paced and “matter of fact” way that goes really well with the thrilling events of the story. Plus, all of this fast-paced narration is also paired with some well-placed descriptive moments that add extra atmosphere and/or intensity to the story without breaking the flow of the narration too much.
In terms of length and pacing, this novel is excellent. At a gloriously efficient 241 pages in length, not a single page is wasted. Likewise, this novel also maintains a fairly consistent fast pace, with only a few brief moderately-paced moments to give the reader a slightly rest. In other words, this is one of those awesome thriller novels that – like a movie- can be enjoyed in just a couple of hours.
All in all, although this isn’t really my favourite “Resident Evil” novel, it is still a reasonably enjoyable fast-paced zombie/monster thriller novel. Yes, the horror elements could have been creepier and some moments will seem dated when read today – but, this aside, the novel was still reasonably fun to read and is a fairly good adaptation of the source material too.
If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would probably just about get a four.