Before Sarah Conner’s life was turned upside down by a creature of implacable will and deadly determination, before even the birth of her son and the knowledge that he had to live so that the world could live, a man named Marcus Wright was executed by the State of Texas, and a man named John Conner fought to keep the remnants of humanity alive.
Confusing? Don’t’ worry – every time I try and wrap my head around the time-travelling aspects of the Terminator mythos I also start thinking, “What the hell?!”
But that’s only because the story of humanity’s fight against Skynet is so entertaining that I don’t give myself time to think about anything deeper than what I’m watching or reading.
After reading Alan Dean Foster’s novelization of the soon-to-be-released Terminator Salvation, I find myself becoming a fan, once again, of the Terminators (only because they’re so damn cool, of course), of John Conner, and even of Sarah Conner: I will be watching all the movies again and going through the first two seasons of Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles before buying my tickets to watch Salvation.
You see, Alan writes damn good books. Whether he’s writing his own novels (and by that I mean non-franchise) or novelizations, Alan knows what makes a good book work, and gives that to us in spades!
Case in point: if the first chapter of the book doesn’t hook you, nothing will. As I said to Alan himself, that first chapter (wherein we meet Marcus) could very well be a story on it’s own – Alan takes us right into Marcus’ head while also giving us a brutal view of what it’s like to sit in a cell and wait to die for the crimes you’ve committed. Another character is also introduced that will make a surprising appearance later, but none of that, don’t want to spoil you!
One of Alan’s greatest strengths as a storyteller, too, is his ability to make the characters live and breathe in their worlds. Whether that character is a Resistance fighter with the ground troops, a field-doctor battling to save the wounded and dying, a pilot tasked with giving air support to whichever mission needs air support, or kids trying to stay alive in the shattered remnants of cities, Alan brings them all a measure of life and living that helps you sink even deeper into the story.
The action sequences are incredible, too! Even though you’re holding a paperback in your hands, it feels like you’re watching the events unfold on a wide, wide screen with an incredible sound system; sure, Alan probably worked from a script for this novelization, but hell, you try translating the very-cut-down scenes of a screenplay into the action-scenes that populate this novelization! It’s nowhere as easy as it seems – believe me, I’m engaged with a screenplay project myself – but Alan makes it seem effortless!
Is this a Terminator story? Definitely! (And no, not because it’s titled Terminator Salvation) Alan really sinks us into the world of the Resistance and what they’re fighting to preserve. Not only are the descriptions of Skynet-tech very cool, with plenty of T-600s and H-Ks, but Alan also uses events and what characters say to refer back to the previous movies – the characters that have made the Terminator movies so cool are all there, some in spirit, and Alan has written the book in such a way that you’ll find yourself flashing back to scenes from the previous movies without realizing it, deepening your submersion in the story.
The next thing I s’pose I should tackle is: Why read this book when I can watch the movie? Well, I’m going to be standing in line for my tickets – but only in June! Terminator Salvation only reaches our theaters then- and I’m still going to enjoy the hell out of the movie! You see, I’m pretty sure that I’ll understand the characters better, that their motivations will make more sense, that all the little details we miss when watching a huge action movie like this are missed because Christian Bale or a T-600 are on the screen. You’ll enjoy the movie more because of this book, and then you may just find yourself tracking down other novelizations that Alan has done (and will still do) so that you can read them and then re-watch the movies. It’s almost like having special features available to you that open the world of the story even wider! So, I’m pretty sure that you’ll love this book, and then enjoy the hell out of the movie, too!
Last words: Marcus Wright is awesome, and John Conner is not going to disappoint!
And don't forget to read the prequel, written by Timothy Zahn! :-)