Book: V – The Alien Swordsman

Book: V – The Alien Swordsman

V: The Mini-series was a ground breaking TV show for it’s time and I was obsessed with it. Not only was it sci-fi but it was also a parallel of WWII and the rise of the Third Reich – something I was really into and still am. I fell in love with the first mini-series and the second was satisfyingly enough for me. The TV series that followed was a little more than disappointing and in the end, I kind of wished that they either ended it with The Final Battle or maybe left it a little more open ended then they did.

When I learned of the book series, I tried to keep up with it but it slowly lost my interest because the TV series did so badly. Many of the books took place after the Final Battle, where I was more interested in the year (or years) between the first and second series. I love the insidiousness of the Visitors and the secrets they held. I loved imagining being a resistance fighter and taking them on. I was completely enthralled in the Universe or at least, the Universe I imagined, not what they TV writers gave us.

I am revisiting my interest in V (I think it’s worth a watch again with all that is going on today) and thinking of doing some Savage Worlds adventures in the setting. This has brought me back to my collection of books that I still have from the 80s ( and expanding it with the occasional purchase on Ebay). I picked up the first one I could find – The Alien Swordsman by Somtow Sucharikul and read it in a couple of weeks (fast for me).

I had the opportunity to chat with an author who also wrote for this series. He wasn’t too proud of his work. I would imagine that was the case with the author of The Alien Swordsman. I don’t know the ins and outs of the licensed business but the author I spoke with gave me a ;little incite into it. It is basically how writers get started. It’s not their greatest work, nor is it their ode to some great concept – it’s to make money. They really do not try hard and I don’t think Mr. Sucharikul tried hard with this one.

There are some good concepts in the book, but overall it’s chock full of issues and plot holes. I am not sure if he intended them or it was just rookie mistakes but I struggled with this book. It reminded me that these things were really written for 13 to 16 year old kids who watched the show and wanted more. I remembered not liking the other books I read and perhaps that also what drove me to stop reading them. The one I liked – East Coast Crisis – I liked because it took place during the mini-series (I think). Then the Pursuit of Diana was terrible, and that’s where I stopped.

I have had The Alien Swordsman for years but never read it. It involved the Japanese culture and karate, something I was not overly interested in. I respect those that are into that but it has never been something that drove me. However, I am looking for ideas for the Savage worlds games I want to run and so I decided to rip the band aid and read it anyway. While I didn’t like the overall book, I did get some ideas.

The book overall had a very 80s feel to it, from the video game playing kid to lizard ninjas – yes, they had lizard ninjas. Of course, there are the things that date it like the constant references to Galaga, which being good at apparently makes the kid a wiz at hacking and alien computers (convenient!). Of course, there were many moments where you think – well, if you had cell phones, it wouldn’t be a problem, but that is a problem with all dated material.

The book is an attempt to imagine what happened to Japan during the arrival of the Visitors and after. It taps into a lot of Japanese culture including shogun, Zen and Seppuku.


The basic concept is that after the Red Dust was released, many Visitors were left stranded when the Motherships left and scrambled like cockroaches to survive somehow. In Japan while the Red Dust was falling, the supreme leader of that region just so happened to have a prototype “thermal pressure skin” that happens to block everything including the Red Dust but still allows oxygen. Did they plant in the previous text that this guy was working on such a thing or was forward thinking enough to imagine the humans would create something like the Red Dust? No. The Red Dust is released, he finds a way off his ship and out of the blue, he has this suit that adhere to his outer skin like the human skin they use as a disguise and it protects him. The Thermal Pressure Suit isn’t just a throw away thing, either. It becomes a central plot point. What frustrates me is that there is no background to it and it’s creation – a missed opportunity, as far as I am concerned.

Another important plot point is the isolation of Japan and how easy it was to recurrent some did social beliefs and norms. After the departure of the Motherships, those that figured out how to survive in a world with Red Dust managed on their own, without any contact with the Motherships, in hopes that one day they would return. In Japan, because of the aforementioned pressure skins and the number of Converted in the country, the Visitor hold was still pretty strong. The supreme commander was missing so his evil second has taken over and she is pretty evil. We will call her the Evil Visitor Queen. She taps into the ancient cultures of Japan to inflict mass shame on the culture, making all human citizens miserable and causing many to wish they were dead. Seppuku is common. Instead of just letting it happen, the Visitors give them an option to serve a greater purpose and create Seppuku (slaughter) houses for those that wish to die, feeding her troops at the same time. I found this to be an interesting incite into the culture. I am not sure how realistic it is though, but I wouldn’t know.

The lack of supplies from the Motherships was also a key point that I found a little hard to believe. While I understand that the Motherships are no longer on Earth, they still could have sent limited supplies on shuttles with Converted pilots. They had plenty of humans on board and could have enslaved them.

The Lizard Ninjas have to be addressed. The Evil Visitor Queen was in a country that had limited military force (which I suppose made it easy to take over). So when the Motherships left, she had few resources to supply her limited army with, and even if she did, she had a very small Army. Her plan was to build a new army of walking weapons using martial arts. She needed Grand Masters to train these armies but all the Grand Masters in Japan killed themselves, knowing they would be Converted and used by the Visitors in some way. So the Evil Visitor Queen kidnapped as many Grand Masters as she could outside of Japan with her Lizard Ninjas. I have questions though. If you didn’t have Grand Masters, how did you train an army of ninjas to be good enough to kidnap martial arts Grand Masters? Chicken? Egg?

Additionally, the book plainly states that the Conversion process used by the Evil Queen causes severe damage to the victims brain and psyche. They literally become less effective at what they used to do. So, the Converted Grand Masters would have been not so masterful. That I saw as a major plot hole but I would only assume the author left it in to illustrate the arrogance of the Visitors.

All these subtle issues left me a little unsatisfied as a reader and fan of the V-Universe. I just don’t think the author tried. I don’t think he respected the material, much like the author I spoke too. I don’t think many authors did.

What I liked about this was the aspect of Visitor Warlords taking control of whatever territories they can. If a Visitor can find a way to survive the Red Dust and has enough Converted in place, they can control a certain amount of their region like a warlord. Thus the Evil Visitor Queen was able to do this because Japan was small, culturally easy to control (at least in this setting) and isolated enough. This can happen anywhere in the world.