Aliens: Nightmare Asylum, also known as Aliens Book 2: Nightmare Asylum, is a 1993 novelization of the comic book series of the same name, written by Steve Perry and published by Bantam Spectra in the United States and Millennium in the United Kingdom. A sequel to Aliens: Earth Hive, the book follows Sergeant Wilks and Billie as they encounter General Spears, a psychotic Colonial Marine commander seeking to "train" an army of controllable Xenomorphs to help retake an Earth ravaged by Alien infestation.
Nightmare Asylum is the second novel in the original Aliens novel trilogy — much like the comic on which it is based, it is the second part of a three-part story arc, which began in Aliens: Earth Hive and is concluded in Aliens: The Female War.
DOOMSDAY IS HERE.
They shore up at a remote military outpost, prisoners of the crazed General Spears. His weapons production — Aliens. His plan: 'trained' Aliens to recapture earth.
The perfect killing machine — trained???
Aboard the automated cargo vessel The American, Sergeant Wilks, Billie and the damaged Bueller must come to terms with recent events following their hasty escape from an Earth overrun by the Xenomorphs. Billie also struggles with her feelings for Bueller, and the fact both he and Wilks lied to her regarding his android nature. Graphic visions convince Billie that there are Xenomorphs aboard The American with them, and after discovering several Aliens in the hold the survivors are forced to battle the creatures with only limited weaponry. After flushing the Xenomorphs out of the ship, Billie goes out onto the hull to finish them off.
Some time later, the The American's programmed destination is revealed to be a military installation on a small planetoid under the command of General Spears. Upon landing, Spears openly reveals to the new arrivals that he is attempting to train "tamed" Xenomorphs and turn them into a cohesive fighting force that he will then use to help retake Earth. He initially has Wilks, Billie and Bueller thrown into detention, but upon learning of their prior experience with the Xenomorphs, decides they may be of use and wines and dines them as he asks them to join his scheme. He explains that he has been carefully conditioning the Xenomorph Queen held captive at the facility, using the threat of the destruction of her precious Eggs to keep her under control. Through her, he is then able to command her offspring, bending them to his will. Wilks feigns interest and agrees to assist the General; in return, Spears agrees to repair the damaged Bueller, affixing his torso to a crude pair of mechanical legs so that he is once again ambulatory.
Now free to roam the installation, code-named Third Base, Wilks and Billie quickly discover that Spears is truly insane — he has sacrificed an entire nearby civilian colony to the Xenomorphs as part of his experimentation, readily uses his own Marines who fail him as human test subjects or hosts for the creatures, and is utterly obsessed with the glory he perceives his actions will bring him. Given Spears' unhinged behavior, Wilks has no trouble convincing the General's submissive but disgusted subordinate, Major Powell, to help lead a mutiny. While Spears is trapped away from the facility by poor weather, Wilks, Powell and the Marines supporting them launch their coup, successfully taking over Third Base and detaining all those loyal to Spears.
However, Spears leads a counter-attack, breaching the base via a blind spot in the facility's defenses only he was aware of. Once inside, he brazenly unleashes the Xenomorph test subjects on the occupants, while he and his men are rendered immune to their aggression thanks to his control over the Queen. The mutiny is crushed and Wilks, Billie and Powell are caught, although Bueller evades capture. By sabotaging the base's environmental systems, Bueller gives his friends a chance to escape before Spears can give them to the Xenomorphs.
With the complex now overrun by untrained Aliens, Spears accelerates his plans and prepares to abandon Third Base and head to Earth. The Queen and all the surviving trained Drones are loaded onto the cargo ship MacArthur, while Spears takes control of a second vessel, the Jackson. Wilks and Billie also stow away aboard the MacArthur, although Powell is killed in a confrontation with Marines loyal to Spears. Billie is devastated when the MacArthur departs after Spears on automatic pilot, forcing them to leave Bueller behind at the infested base. Spears also abandons the rest of his loyal men and any other survivors on the planetoid, remotely sabotaging the engines on the remaining interstellar craft so they cannot escape. As the men's desperate pleas for help sound over the radio, Spears calmly enjoys a cigar and prepares for his victory on Earth.
As the MacArthur and the Jackson approach Earth, Wilks and Billie find themselves unable to defeat Spears and have to settle for simply fleeing with their lives in an escape shuttle. Undeterred, Spears lands on Earth with his Xenomorph force and orders the attack, but the Queen turns on him and tears off his head, revealing that she had simply been playing along the entire time. Wilks and Billie arrive at Gateway Station, now heavily overcrowded with refugees from a ravaged Earth. As they await debriefing in a conference room, they are interrupted by a mysteriously resurrected Ellen Ripley.
Behind the Scenes
In the Aliens comic on which the novel is based, released before Alien3 was made, Wilks and Billie were originally Hicks and Newt, respectively. Their identities were changed in the comics to keep the story consistent with events portrayed in the film series.
- Strangely, the cover art used on the first UK printing of the book was recycled (albeit flipped horizontally) from the comic Aliens: Genocide, specifically its first trade paperback re-release. As such, it features the Red Xenomorphs from that story, despite the fact no such creatures appear in the novel.
- In the novel, all Spears' ships are named after famous American generals:
- His main ship, the MacArthur, is named after the WWII and Korean War General Douglas MacArthur.
- The MacArthur's slaveship, the Jackson, is named after the American Civil War Confederate General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson.
- The ship sabotaged by Spears, the Grant, is named after the American Civil War Union General and future President Ulysses S. Grant.
- There are several differences between the novel and the original comic:
- In the comic, Spears is killed by the Queen with a Headbite, with his flamethrower incinerating them both afterwards. In the novel, she instead tears his head off with her hands.
- Bueller is not repaired in the comic, he is simply connected to various diagnostic machines in his bisected state.
- In the comic, Spears "trains" the Queen by incinerating one of her Drones every time they kill a civilian let loose in their tank. In the book, Spears threatens to destroy her Eggs instead.
- In the comic, the mutiny is aborted when a Spears loyalist accidental allows the Queen to escape while resisting the mutineers, triggering an alarm and alerting Spears. In the novel the mutiny is better organized, but is foiled by Spears' paranoia — when returning to base aboard an airship, Spears sends a decoy ship ahead, which is shot down by the mutineers. Spears then destroys the mutineers' vehicles, before breaching the base though a blind spot only he is aware of and unleashing the Xenomorphs into the facility.
- In the comic only the MacArthur is present and the remaining soldiers are abandoned and roasted by the ship's engines. In the novel three ships were present during the Third Base evacuation, the Jackson acting as Spears' ship, the MacArthur which contain Spears' "soldiers" linked to the Jackson and the Grant which was supposed to carry the remaining Spears' men but the engines were sabotaged and the soldiers onboard were killed by the Xenomorphs.