old Earth was a real mess twenty years ago. International
conflicts abounded. Just about every country in the world had
some sort of internal strife. War and suffering were everywhere
and it looked as though things would only get worse and worse.
But then suddenly… They arrived.” - from V:
The Second Generation
For more than twenty
years now human beings have shared their planet with a race from the
stars. They have liberated our planet. Saved us from all of its
conflicts. They have cured AIDS and most forms of cancer. True, personal
freedoms are somewhat limited but that is for our own good, to protect
us. And yes the world’s oceans have sunk twenty feet, coastlines extend
miles beyond where they used to. But the water was polluted. The
Visitors are merely taking the water away to clean it. It will then be
returned to us.
In truth the planet has been under the yoke of the Visitor’s for
decades. They control everything. Humanity has grown complacent. Many
still believe the Visitors are indeed our friends. Everyone serves and
least part time as a Visitor Teammate. The wealthy and powerful
have learned to be Players to the Visitor power. Those that
happen to question why so many people have disappeared themselves
disappear. And “scis” i.e.; scientists and their families, those who
might glean a deeper understanding of the visitors if left unsupervised,
live in ghettos under guard.
So is the state of the world as Kenneth Johnson’s novel, V: The
Second Generation begins. Originally written in script form as a
sequel to his own groundbreaking 1983-television mini-series “V” Johnson
has adapted his screenplay to prose form. In Johnson’s new novel, the
science fiction allegory to Nazi Germany the countries they occupied,
and the people they dominated is continued.
Like in the original mini-series, we see the state of the world through
the eyes some very different familial units. One is a middle class human
family that has fully integrated themselves into life under the
Visitors. Another is a scientist and his poor family that live in the
ghetto intentionally reminiscent of WWII Warsaw. And finally a family
made up of a visitor (the fan favorite character “Willie”) his human
wife and their half-breed son. Again like the original, the stories of
these families begin to intertwine and the characters make new
discoveries about themselves and the world they live in throughout the
journey. Others are focused on as well. We see familiar characters such
as Julie Parish, the matriarch of the human resistance, as well as brand
new heroes of the “second generation.” On the Visitor side, Diana
continues to reign. But her tenure may be ending as another ambitious
Visitor commandant arrives with the news that for the first time since
the occupation began, the Visitor Leader is coming to Earth.
We are also introduced to a new alien race, the Zedti. They received the
SOS call sent by humanity many years ago and have arrived to help. But
they harbor a secret of their own.
Johnson explores the highs and lows of humanity in this novel. He also
dwells deeply on the power of propaganda. Having begun life as a
screenplay, many scenes are very visual. For example, the Visitor’s
employ a beautiful young pop star as one of their mouthpieces. And when
the Leader does arrive on Earth, it is in a Triumph of the Will
style ceremony of grandiose pomp and circumstance.
I do have some minor criticisms. The reptilian nature of the Visitor’s
is public knowledge and while I understand Johnson’s reasoning it did
seem somewhat conflicting. Also, too much time is spent dealing with the
plight of the human-visitor half-breeds. To me, twenty years does not
seem like enough time for an entire race to be born, grow into society,
and be universally discriminated against. Johnson explored that concept
magnificently with “space immigrants” in Alien Nation but it
seems out of place here.
And I have to admit, the “fan boy” in me did wince a bit with Johnson’s
use of characters that died in later installments of “V” that he was not
involved in. Ultimately I just accepted it and forgot about it but if
those “continuity” issues concern you, consider yourselves warned.
This book will definitely engross any fan of the original saga. But
those unfamiliar with "V" will also have no trouble enjoying it. The
novel’s themes are timeless and just as relevant today as they were
twenty, forty, or sixty years ago. Johnson pulls no punches here and
thankfully doesn’t need to resort to the constant shock value scenes
that many of today’s Hollywood writers used to mask their own lack of
talent. We can only hope that some nervous Hollywood executive will stop
frantically trying to find something else to remake for five minutes and
finally put this into production as the original television movie it
should be. But whatever “V’s” live action future holds, this novel is a
quality stand-alone piece of work that deserves a place on your shelf.
Now go buy it!