The HuntersBy Burt Wetanson and Thomas Hoobler (Playboy Press; 1978/79)

A mildly diverting alien invasion horror story involving extraterrestrial tourists on a hunting expedition in a small Montana community. The designated victims are a band of ordinary people lured from their homes by a mysterious man and woman who dub themselves “The Couple.”

This pair claim to be divine beings, and change their forms depending on who’s observing them (to the eyes of a black man they appear dark-skinned, to a young boy they resemble twin Spidermans). They transport the spellbound townspeople via bus to a secluded ghost town, with the promise that they’ll “transcend their physical bodies and enter a higher plane.”

The characters include Sally Elizabeth, the town’s oldest resident; Sam, the token black man; Joshua, a spunky young boy; Jeff and Bonnie, Josh’s down-to-Earth parents; and Eaglefeather, a Native American who periodically dispenses handy bits of ancient wisdom. All find themselves in a major quandary when their alleged benefactors unveil an alien spaceship that fires deadly laser beams, and disgorges a gaggle of gun-wielding creatures intent on killing them all.

All this is related in suitably fast-moving and highly cinematic fashion. The book was evidently conceived with a movie sale in mind, and may indeed have been an inspiration on PREDATOR (which in any event is an altogether superior account). Note the action-heavy narrative and shockingly inconclusive ending, which in true Hollywood fashion sets the stage for a sequel.

A far more grievous complaint is with the frequent alien POV passages. Yes, the authors insist on giving us the aliens’ take on events, or at least that of an all-powerful “Commander” who leads a group of ill-equipped galaxy-hopping tourists. These bits, rendered in English dialogue, are sorely lacking in conviction or otherwordliness, and nudge the proceedings into unintentional comedy–which, given the uninspiring bent of the overall book, is not a good thing!