V: The Second Generation
Written by: Kenneth Johnson
Published By: TOR Books
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
In 1983, a two part science fiction miniseries aired on network television. V described an alien armada visiting planet Earth and subtly taking over. Disguising themselves as a human-like species seeking aide for their planet, the “Visitors” as they were called were actually a reptilian race seeking our Earth’s water and food supplies (namely our oceans and our people). As the story evolved, and people began to discover the true intentions of the Visitors, a resistance was born; small at first, but growing in number as more people were informed. As viewers realized that this television series wasn’t simply a science fiction tale, but a history lesson as to how fascist regimes rise to power, the V miniseries grew in popularity, sparking a second miniseries, V: The Final Battle, which arrived a year later. Shortly afterward, a television series aired furthering the adventures of the resistance fighters and their alien adversaries. The miniseries was short lived.
Since the airing of the last episode of V: The Series with its climactic cliffhanger ending, fans of this cult science fiction series have been clamoring for more. We scarfed up comic books and novels based upon the series. But all of these tales took place some time during the events of the miniseries and television series. We waited as rumors circulated about a miniseries or movie that would finally bring closure to the storyline...an ending to the cliffhanger of 1985. And then, Kenneth Johnson, creator of the original miniseries, gave us what we were looking for. On his website, he told us that things were in the works for a final movie to complete the series. And then, he wrote a book – a book that was toted to be “The highly anticipated sequel to the thrilling miniseries V.” Naturally, I ran out to Barnes & Noble and purchased it. After all, this was a novel by the man who started the whole ball rolling. Who better than Kenneth Johnson to complete the series?
V: The Second Generation takes place some twenty years after the original alien invasion. The Visitors are securely in control of this world after the Great Purge of 1999 wiped out much of the international Resistance force. Much of the Earth is a barren wasteland, its oceans depleted to almost a third of their capacity. Much like the Nazi regime, children have been enlisted to aide the Visitors. Uniformed and trained in the use of various Visitor weapons and equipment, the Teammates help instill order in the mostly conquered world. And yet, there are still pockets of resistance that exist…still people working to end the Visitor tyranny. And perhaps there is help – as we left our Resistance fighters in the original miniseries, they had just dispatched a distress call to any possible Visitor enemy in existence, hoping that this enemy would hear Earth’s cry for help and aide them in their crisis. Now, twenty years later, someone is finally answering the call. But can the Resistance fighters trust their new ally or does this new visiting race have its own agenda in mind?
Now, on the surface, this seems to be the story everyone’s been waiting for, right?! Well, now…let’s not just a Visitor by its outward human appearance shall we? Let’s peel back that human-looking skin and find out what’s underneath. You see, in his own clever way, Kenneth Johnson has deceived us as easily as the Visitors deceived the people of Earth with their promises of health and science advancements. This is not a sequel to the television series, this is a sequel to the original miniseries penned by Kenneth Johnson. In writing this novel, Johnson has completely disregarded the events of V: The Final Battle and V: The Series, and the multitude of comics and novels that go along with those tales. In V: The Second Generation, it’s as if these events in the V canon never took place. Now, I can see if Johnson wanted to ignore the events of V: The Series – much as I loved watching each episode, I can admit to the campiness and sometimes absurdity of some of the storylines. However, to totally disavow The Final Battle? What were you thinking, man?!
I’ll take the extreme liberty of answering for Mr. Johnson (and should Mr. Johnson be reading this review, please, correct me if I am wrong) – he was thinking What If…? What if there had never been a Red Dust? What if Ham Tyler hadn’t been the one to unite the Resistance internationally? What if the Star Child had never been born? He was thinking that he could redo what had been done and reshape the world of V, hopefully for the better. Was he right?
In all honesty, I have to say that as much as I was angered by Kenneth Johnson’s recreation of much of the V world that I had known since my younger years, I truly enjoyed reading V: The Second Generation. Johnson’s vision and creativity is unparalleled and his vision of the Earth after twenty years of Visitor reign is horrifying. Kenneth Johnson has an incredible attention to detail. Through amazingly descriptive and fascinatingly detailed passages, Johnson describes to us a world under fascist control, slowly being robbed of what it holds most dear – not just its water, but its freedom. He describes the frustrations of a group of earnest people still fighting the good fight, but at a relative stalemate, facing elimination at every turn. A master at plot twists, he gives the characters hope, then yanks it away time and time again until that one ray of sunshine seems rather pale and unreachable.
And through it all, he keeps the reader thoroughly captivated. Four hundred and fifty pages of book passed through my fingertips at breakneck speed as I absorbed all of the action, intrigue, side stories and more to be found in each passage. New characters were met, friends lost, optioned perused and discarded. The descriptiveness of the writing made me feel like I was there watching every scene unfold before my eyes. I could actually picture every event, every expression on each of the characters’ faces, every sideways glance, every explosion. It was all very real to me. This was what Kenneth Johnson was looking for – he wanted a more realistic sequel to his original horrific tale, and so, he set out to create just that.
I must admit, I missed the characters that were introduced in V: The Final Battle and were subsequently missing in The Second Generation novel. And I did note that some of the ideas used in The Final Battle miniseries were also incorporated into this novel (I can’t tell you which ones or I will reveal way too much of the plot). However, there are some returning favorites in the mix – Julie’s there, along with Martin, Robert Maxwell (Yeah, I know – he’s supposed to be dead!), Willie, Harmy (Yeah, ditto!) and a surprise that I can’t reveal without ruining things for those who are interested in reading the novel. I must also give props to Kenneth Johnson for introducing new characters, getting the readers totally vested in their lives and then playing a sort of roulette game as to which one might live or which one might die and what their death might actually entail. He’s really quite masterful at keeping you on the edge of seat as you await the fate of your favorite characters.
V: The Second Generation is not exactly what every fan of the science fiction phenomenon was looking for, but it is definitely something that every fan needs to get their hands on. I wouldn’t be surprised if this novel were eventually made into a miniseries of its own…though I wonder how appealing that will be to fans of the V canon. I guess we will just have to wait and see. In the meantime, read the book – if for no other reason than to partake in an extremely well-written, action-packed “What If” set in the V world.