A lot of movie tie in books, especially prequel stories, find it hard to connect to the film that they’re supposed to be a part of. Often times this is because the film makes it hard to create an exciting new story around it without taking away from the events of the movie.
One example that immediately springs to mind is Transformers: Ghosts of Yesterday, the prequel to the 2007 movie. The book felt like it was having to try hard to make a compelling story that didn’t effect the film in any way; and this was something that I was expecting from The Predator: Hunters and Hunted.
Thankfully, however, the book not only introduced a number of the characters that will appear in Shane Black’s upcoming The Predator, but also contained enough action and story to feel like it could have been a Predator film in its own right.
The story follows a group of people from Project Stargazer, a secret government programme to protect the Earth from Yautja incursion, and to acquire both their technology and a living specimen to study. It’s here, at Project Stargazer, that we meet two characters from the film: Sterling K. Brown’s Will Traeger and Jake Busey’s Sean Keyes.
Sean Keyes, as eagle-eyed Predator fans may have spotted, is the son of Peter Keyes (Gary Busey) from Predator 2. His inclusion is one of the things that intrigued me the most about the new project, and his character gets a really good introduction, delving into his reasons for being at Project Stargazer and becoming a xenobiologist in the first place. He doesn’t feature much in the book, but his scenes are very engaging and sets up his motivations and character perfectly for the film.
Traeger, on the other hand, gets much more of the book dedicated to him, taking up part of the sub-plot where he and the project’s commander have to lobby for more funds in Washington DC. Not the most exciting sounding plot, but when it’s revealed that Traeger is actually carefully manipulating politicians in order to oust the project commander and take over, it becomes a little more interesting, and sets up his position for the movie.
The rest ofJames A. Moore’s novel is given over to The Reavers, Project Stargazer’s elite unit trained by a Yautja survivor, Roger ‘Pappy’ Elliott. The Reavers are interesting enough and ‘Pappy’ is engaging as both a Vietnam Veteran and someone who has survived a Yautja in the past. The book makes a point to spend some time highlighting that having faced an alien in combat has left more than just physical scars on him, delving into his recurring nightmares and resulting alcoholism. It also gives some vague hints at other survivors, including mentioning both Alan ‘Dutch’ Schaefer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Mike Harrigan (Danny Glover), without using their names.
This is what I was expecting from the book: a look into the human side of the upcoming film that touched upon some of the characters that would be appearing. What makes it really good is when a Yautja comes to Earth to hunt.
The Reavers are sent out to capture the creature, and actually manages to do so (though they do lose half their men when they do so). When the creature manages to escape from the Project Stargazer facility it returns to its ship, gets some new gear, and sets out to go retrieve its weapons and tech from the humans. It’s here that the best part of the book begins, as the remaining members of the Reavers go out to kill the alien.
Whilst the book is good at crafting human drama and has a fairly epic finale action sequence, the one thing that I feel lets it down is the Yautja; or more specifically, the sequences written from its point of view. There’s nothing hugely wrong with these moments, they’re not as good as in other Predator books and James A. Moore lacks a little something in these moments.
On a whole, however, The Predator: Hunters and Hunted is engaging and entertaining. It’s hard to know how well it fits into The Predator yet, but the story here builds a sense that it provides a good background that shouldn’t step onto the toes of the film’s events. Even if this was a stand alone book that wasn’t a tie-in, it would still be a thoroughly entertaining read.