The Umbrella Conspiracy was the first entry in a series of novels based on the popular Resident Evil video games that eventual reached a length of seven books. The original Resident Evil game for the PlayStation, the title this book is based on, is one of the greatest and most influential video games of all time, so it’s obvious that gamers (such as myself) have pretty high expectations for a novelization of the game.
Of course, life is full of disappointments.
About a week after I read Zero Hour (review), the series prequel which I rather enjoyed, I decided to pursue the series and read more of S.D. Perry’s RE novelizations. When I picked up The Umbrella Conspiracy, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what kind of quality to expect based on my experience with Zero Hour: a mostly faithful, largely nostalgic novelization of one of my favorite games that manages to hold my attention and entertain me throughout the experience.
While almost exactly what I wanted, The Umbrella Conspiracy still manages to disappoint on multiple levels.
The Umbrella Conspiracy is told the eyes of a few of the game’s key characters. Of course there’s Chris and Jill, the only two characters players were allowed to control in the game, but readers also get deeper looks into the development and minds of characters like the gentle giant Barry Burton, STARS rookie Rebecca Chambers (who is returning from the events of Zero Hour), and one of the biggest bad guys in all of gaming, Albert Wesker.
For the most part, this is an intriguing and informative element that the games never offered. Chris and Jill are the most accurately portrayed, I feel, and it would’ve been an insult had Perry altered either of these characters in any way. The thoughts that went through Barry’s mind when he was being forced to betray his team and the emotions he endured really bring his character to life much more than the original PlayStation titled (or any of its subsequent remakes) ever did. Rebecca Chambers’ character is spot on, I feel, and her inexperience, timidness, and bravery all really shine through S.D. Perry’s rendition.
But of course, then there’s Wesker. I understand fully how hard it must have been for Perry to expand upon a character as mysterious as Albert Wesker, especially when this book was written, before the character was as intimately developed as he is today. Based entirely on the PlayStation game, Perry had very little to go on when writing for Wesker, and, while she tries adamantly, she just fails to create an accurate character based on Albert Wesker.
For the most part this novelization is fairly faithful to its source material. Obviously it doesn’t detail and describe every single puzzle, monster, and event in the game, but it does a decent job of focusing on the more memorable moments. There is also stuff added, like a mysterious character named Trent who hands Jill some helpful equipment before the events of the Spencer Mansion begin. Whether or not this character is Trent Reznor, who adamant fans of the games are no doubt familiar with, isn’t made clear throughout the book.
My biggest complaint about The Umbrella Conspiracy? It is boring. It took me a few months to finish reading this 262 page novel simply because it was incapable of harvesting my attention. I’m not a particularly efficient reader to begin with, but the fact that this book was written in such a dry manner really didn’t help things at all.
A mostly faithful novelization of one of the greatest games ever created, The Umbrella Conspiracy does a decent job of presenting the many events of the video game within its pages as well as expanding upon the beloved cast without offending fans too much. Perry stumbles her hardest with struggling to portray Wesker, but she doesn’t fault so bad that it is a deal breaker by any means. What is a deal breaker, however, is the stale way the book was written. At times it is utterly unbearable to continue reading, especially if you’ve played through the games as many times as I have and know what’s around every turn.
- A novelization of one of the greatest games in video game history
- Faithful expansion of Barry, Rebecca, Chris and Jill
- Wesker’s portrayal is rather weak
- Extremely dry throughout
- If you’ve played the game, there is little point in reading this book
- Not suspenseful or frightening in any way
Score: 5.5/10 (Mediocre)