This article comes from Den of Geek UK.
Be warned, spoilers ahead for The Predator: Hunters And Hunted.
Everyone’s favorite alien hunter is set to make his big screen return in Shane Black’s The Predator. It makes sense Black should be the man to resurrect this particular ’80s icon; in addition to Black’s healthy filmography of writing/directing classic action thrillers (Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang etc) he also played the Jungle Hunter’s first onscreen victim Hawkins in the original Predator. The Predator will bring new additions to the franchise’s mythology such as the hunters upgrading their abilities through DNA splicing, but at its core, it’s still a story about a group of soldiers facing off against the universe’s most lethal taxidermist.
For many, the Predator series is something of a mixed bag with the original considered a classic, while opinions on Predator 2 and Predators can be split. There’s also Alien vs Predator and its sequel Requiem, which are both movies that many agree exist. Time will tell which end of the spectrum The Predator falls on, but for those aficionados looking to get their feet wet, Titan Books have just published a prequel tie-in novel dubbed Hunters And Hunted by author James A. Moore.
The book details the efforts of a group of soldiers called The Reapers, who are part of Project Stargazer, a government task force seeking to capture a Predator and study its technology. Sadly for them the government has lost faith in the operation since the last sighting of the creatures was way back in Predator 2. While those in charge of Stargazer struggle to keep it afloat, the sudden appearance of an especially brutal Predator gives the Reapers the chance to put their training to use – but it will be an even tougher fight than they expect.
Prey For The Hunters
Movie prequel tie-in novels can be a hit and miss affair. They can be gems like War For The Planet Of The Apes: Revelations or duds like Alan Dean Foster’s Alien: Covenant – Origins. The trouble stems from the fact the books can’t contradict anything in the movie – or explore something that might appear in later movies – and often there’s not much that needs to be filled in narrative-wise anyway. This is somewhat true of The Predator: Hunters And Hunted, since it doesn’t reveal much all that shocking ahead of the movie.
That said, the book is a solid action/adventure of its own. Rather than follow one-dimensional cut-outs, The Reapers are given distinct, likeable personalities, and while they’re established in the opening chapters as being just about the most elite soldiers on Earth, they just aren’t prepared for the creature they’re hunting. The Predator that serves as the antagonist is on the hunt with a few days to kill, and basically picks on bikers, drug dealers and cops to test what humanity is made of. He also wrestles an alligator with his bare hands just for the challenge, which may sound silly, but makes for one of the most entertaining battles in the book. There’s also a silent, knife wielding soldier named Hyde who is basically the human equivalent of a Predator, and when the two finally duke it out, it’s a thing of beauty.
In short, this Predator isn’t to be messed with – which is starkly highlighted when The Reapers face off against him for the first time and nearly half the group is wiped out. They just about manage to capture him, which pleases the leaders of Stargazer no end. This leads to the less compelling side of the novel, where CIA agent Traeger (played by Sterling K. Brown in the movie) heads to Washington in a bid to secure more funding for his operation. While these passages establish Traeger as a charismatic snake looking to use Stargazer and Predator tech to advance his career, reading page after page of meetings with senators and politicians being pitched on the potential of the project doesn’t make for nail-biting reading. A character named General Woodhurst also features heavily in these sections, and was set to appear in the movie (played by the great Edward James Olmos) before his scenes were cut out.
Thankfully, these chapters make up a short part of the overall narrative. The Predator: Hunters And Hunted also reveals a Predator was encountered in Vietnam during the 1960’s, with only one soldier surviving a fierce battle with it. This soldier – Roger Elliott – is tasked with training The Reapers in modern day, but he also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and a secret drinking problem. The book actually does a good job of digging into the psyches of the central team and Elliott, examining the effects of PTSD and the emotional toll the loss of fellow soldiers can take.
The book could be summed up as a series of escalating battles with the Predator, who manages to make his escape – more on this in a moment – and is chased by the revenge seeking Reapers. This culminates in an epic battle in an empty amusement park during a thunderstorm. Moore is in his element when writing these cat and mouse sequences, but it’s interesting to read these battles from the POV of the title character too.
Keyes To The Kingdom
For any curious fans, there are some callbacks to previous Predator movies. It’s mentioned that while there were other survivors of Predator encounters in both Mexico and L.A. – aka Arnie’s Dutch and Danny Glover’s Harrigan – they weren’t interested in becoming part of Stargazer. There’s absolutely no mention of the events of Alien vs Predator or its sequel, although this could just mean Stargazer didn’t link them to the Predators – or the book just wanted to ignore them too.
Hunters And Hunted reveals Predator 2’s OWLF (Other World Lifeform Taskforce) – led by Peter Keyes (Gary Busey) – evolved into Stargazer. There’s also a short appearance by Sean Keyes, the son of the late Peter (played by Jake Busey in a nice meta touch). The book establishes Sean isn’t terribly fond of the hunters for killing his father and is hoping for the chance to dissect the captured creature, but then he does something curious. While examining the Predator he realizes it’s trying to escape its confines, but instead of raising an alarm, Keyes decides to let it escape just to see what happens. He doesn’t reappear after this, but it does a nice job setting up his reappearance in The Predator.
The Predator featured in the book isn’t a hybrid or upgraded model like the forthcoming movie, though the creature himself recalls hearing rumors of such things, suggesting the other clans don’t really approve of it. The Predator: Hunters And Hunted is a fun action thriller that sets the stage for the movie, but it’s not at all essential to have read it beforehand. Overall the book does little to reinvent the standard Predator formula, but it’s still an entertaining rendition of it.
The Predator: Hunters And Hunted is available now from Titan Books.
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