Alien: Out of the Shadows

December 14, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , )

alienAlien: Out of the Shadows by Tim Lebbon

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This is the story that put me on to Audible. I love the Alien movies (the trilogy, that is; anything that came after that is horrid), and a full production of a Tim Lebbon novel set in that universe was too tempting to pass up. The only thing that could have made it better would have been getting Sigourney Weaver to reprise her role.

The problem with the story is that it features Ellen Ripley. This novel (and two others, which are now in my to-read stack) is supposed to be a story that fits in between Alien and Aliens, so going into it, we know two things: that Ripley will once again be the only survivor of the story; and she won’t be able to remember anything about what happens. The former isn’t that hard to accept, but the latter seems like a stretch. Lebbon explains it away, but not in any way that’s convincing.

Ripley’s shuttle crashes into a mining station orbiting a planet that’s just discovered that the aliens are on the planet’s surface. They’ve returned to the station through one of their own shuttles, and of course they’ve brought one of them back through one of the miners with a facehugger stuck to him. It seems like a ridiculous coincidence that Ripley would just happen to crash into this station, but Lebbon explains this away, too. This time, though, it’s a more convincing explanation that fits the story.

Not having read the book this production is based on, it’s hard to judge the story by itself, since I don’t know how much the story changed in its adaptation. In a touch of brilliance, the production has the ship announce whenever a character moves to or from a new location: e.g., “Welcome to the bridge” or “Thank you for visiting the bridge”. Later in the story, this helps move the plot along, as we hear the announcements in the distance so we can hear where the aliens are on the ship. Also, the aliens in the Alien franchise are iconic enough that the characters don’t have to give unnecessary descriptions of the creatures other than to tell us what they’re doing to other people (“That thing just burst out of his chest!”).

I don’t want to give anything away, but the story is peppered with updates that don’t do much to progress the story. They mostly repeat what’s already been covered in the story, just from a different perspective. I get why they’re there, but they seem clunky and unnecessary, and there are a lot of them. They occurred after every scene. I’m not sure if the device is something held over from the book or unique to the production, but it was pretty annoying.

Part of me is interested in reading the book to see how much this differs, and to see if my complaints lie more with the story or the production. Either way, this is an original Alien story that touches on the high points that make the movies memorable. It can’t top Aliens (what could?), but it’s entertaining and satisfying.

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