Delta Green: Alien Intelligence
Author: Baugh, Detwiler, Glancy, Kruger, Reynolds, Stolze, Tynes, and Winninger
Category: Fiction Anthology
Company/Publisher: Armitage House
Line: Call of Cthulhu
Page count: 194
Capsule Review by Ralph Dula on 05/11/00.
Genre tags: Modern_day Horror Espionage Conspiracy
It was a rather long path for me to go to get a copy of Delta Green: Alien Intelligence. As soon as it was announced that it was available in a TPB format I asked a local game store to order it, and for several months they told me it was unavailable, having yet to be released. I had actually forgotten about it until I walked into the game store after two months of not shopping there and finding it in my special order box. I later learned the reason they'd taken so long to order it was they were putting their money into CCG's. I read through in a few hours, finding it a very quick read, and found myself wishing that the game store had never gotten it in. Delta Green:Alien Intelligence is one of the two-worst books I have ever purchased that Pagan Publishing/Armitage House has published.
First let me say that I get the impression the idea behind this book was that it was designed to be accessible for newbies to the Delta Green mythos, quite possibly to be carried in mass-market bookstores or such. Let's be honest, the people most likely to buy this book are those who have experienced Delta Green in their Call of Cthulhu campaign. The regurgitating of so many facts from the original DG sourcebook in the various stories was annoying and boring to those of us with that book. That gripe out of the way I'll give my story-by-story review.
The Dark Above- I almost didn't read this story, which is very unlike me; in my 22 years I have read every single book I've purchased with only two exceptions. The fact is that every work I've read by John Tynes has disappointed me. His work on Feng Shui, regular CoC, Delta Green, anything that he has done that I have read has left me disappointed, usually with a thought of "How does he keep getting published?" So it was that I almost didn't read this tale, figuring it would be just as bad as his other work. But a little voice in my head said "What if this is his one, good work? You'd hate yourself for not reading it now if you read it later on in life and found it good." So I read it. It was a good story. Not spectacular, not great, I'd say it hovered slightly over the Adequate level. That's the best I've ever found a John Tynes story to be, so my hat is tipped to him for this story of Deep Ones and the men who fight them.
Drowning in Sand- Not impressed by this one at all. I felt the description of Courtis in the original DG rulebook sufficient, and this tale of one of his colleagues did nothing for me; I'd already assumed that the scientists analyzing the Bucket were a bunch of back-stabbing, glory-grabbing punks, so this story didn't contain any revelations or entertainment for me. Also, the puzzle analogy of the Last Equation was an analogy for life I've heard before, and it didn't hold any more water for me this time than it did the first time I heard it.
Pnomus- I almost laughed aloud when I saw Ray Winninger was the author of this tale. Literally the day before I got DG: Alien Intelligences I went through my role-playing game collection. I paged through many books, looking at the authors of them and in several cases wondering "Wow, this guy is a great author, I wonder whatever happened to him?" Mr. Winninger was one of the authors to fall into that category, so when I saw his name in this book I was almost overwhelmed by irony. At any rate the story started out well, but quickly became boring. Mr. Winninger has exhibited an excellent talent for writing in the past, and he could have done so much more with the Great Race-minds-inhabiting-humans plot. I kept turning the pages, waiting for a surprising twist, only to find nothing exciting or noteworthy. I must say I thought the changing of words due to the Race's traveling through time to be dumb; if humans can't notice the changes in reality due to the Race's time-traveling why have a human bring the subject up? I know you can argue the woman had suffered a mind transference with the Yithians and was thus aware of the changes, but it still doesn't change the fact I found it a weak plot device.
Climbing the South Mountain- I'm not a fan of poetry, but I liked the way it showed (however briefly) the way the Chinese government handles the Mythos in the DG universe.
Potential Recruit- Excellent story, simply excellent. I must say that the whole "Imagine You Can't See Red and Then You Cut Yourself" analogy to becoming aware of Shub-Niggurath was a lot like the puzzle analogy in Drowning in Sand, which bothered me some. Still, it was a great story, and I must commend Greg Stolze on it. I must ask if the True Love Study Group mentioned in this story appears in another Mythos fiction anthology, perhaps one from Chaosium or that one from Triad Publication? It sure sounds familiar, but I can't place it.
An Item of Mutual Interest- I first read this tale of Nazis and the Mythos when it was published on the DG website, and it's just as good now as it was then. Given how bad the rest of this book is, I'd recommend just reading it on the web site instead of buying the book to read it.
Identity Crisis- Fun with ghouls is the focus of this tale. This one bugs me on so many levels. I must admit that one of the faults I find is partially due to jealousy toward the author of this tale. Several years ago I submitted a scenario to Chaosium, in which the main villain used a version of the Consume Likeness spell that was slightly more powerful than the one given in the rulebook. I don't even remember the changes I did to the spell anymore, I just remember that in the rejection letter I received the editor devoted a paragraph and a half to how unbalancing such an improved version of the spell was, even if only one character in the entire CoC game world had it. When I read this story and found ghouls just taking a quick nibble of people and invoking the Consume Likeness spell in the span of a few minutes, rather than the several days it is said is necessary in the CoC rulebook to use this spell, thoughts of both jealousy and "Wow, if this is how it worked in the game my investigators would've been hosed a dozen more times than they've been." I know the author can claim artistic freedom, but in a story based on a game I'd appreciate it if they stuck to the rules of said game when they write their fiction.
I also didn't like how the dream key erased itself from the minds of those who saw it; no matter what way I looked at it I couldn't see the point in this. And please DON'T tell me that since it was from the Dreamlands it didn't have to make sense, as that is the kind of cop-out answer I'd expect from Marvel Comics. I think the origin story of Jean Qualls slightly contradicted her description in the DG sourcebook, just enough to bother me.
What was a big pain to me was Joe Stevens encounter with his mother in his dreams. The only way I can accept his mom being all-knowing about what was going on was if she were a manifestation of some benevolent Great Old One or Outer God, and as far as I know Nodens is the only one like that to have truck with humans, and a bunch of ghouls don't seem like something Nodens would want to wreck shop on. Later on in the story the author tries to rationalize her away as perhaps being some sort of ". . .complex, or even a personalized imago from the collective unconsciousness," and I get the impression the author realized how stupid All-Knowing Mamma Ghost was, and was trying to find some pseudo-science/mysticism excuse for her being in the story. And let's not forget that whole deal with you must count the steps leading to the Dreamlands or be lost forever. Dumb! And of course there was Ted Morse's body-jumping and manipulation of Bo Leeds body to turn it into a ghoul form. I ask: What the Heck? There's a lot more to this story that I didn't like, but I think you get the general idea. I just don't understand how a story so bad and so long was published. Oh, wait a minute, the author was one of the book's editors. I understand now.
Operation Looking Glass- A little confusing the first four or five pages, but it quickly turned into a fine read. A contingent of Delta Green agents parachutes in to deal with Mythos activity, only to find themselves seriously outclassed. Then again, what else is new?
Well, those are my thoughts. I'm sorry I had to be so harsh, but they're my honest opinions. I really can't recommend this book with it's $11.95 cover price. If you can find a copy of this one at a flea maket or sale for a few dollars I'd say pick it up, but otherwise just let this Delta Green book pass you by.
Style: 2 (Needs Work)