Alien: Sea of Sorrows

January 26, 2017 at 6:00 pm (Reads)

sorrowsAlien: Sea of Sorrows by James A. Moore

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After listening to the production of Tim Lebbon’s Alien: Out of the Shadows, I decided to read the rest of the so-called canonical trilogy, since they supposedly tied in with the four movies. Out of the Shadows wasn’t great, but neither was it terrible, and I figured that I like the Alien movies well enough (the first three, at least) to see what others could bring to the canon. If nothing else, it would be like an Expanded Universe for another set of my favorite movies.

Sea of Sorrows picks up about 300 years after the events of Aliens, and takes us back to the world that was featured in Out of the Shadows — LV178. It’s not quite a rehash of that book, but there are certainly some retreads as a new group of freelance marines and a later generation of Weyland-Yutani executives clash in how to handle the threat of the xenomorphs. Much of the action will be familiar, since we (a) know the aliens and their physiology, (b) know that Weyland-Yutani sees capturing the xenomorphs as a prime directive, with any crew being expendable, and (c) know that most everyone will be dead before the end of the story. Morrow at least concludes the story in a different way than expected, and tells the events well, but it feels like a mix of Alien and Aliens without being nearly as good as either movie.

The main problem is the action is very visual, and the aliens themselves are better seen than described. Anyone reading the book will know what the aliens look like, but the book feels like it would make a better movie than a book. Even then, the events are too similar to events that have already been told in the movies, so making a movie would be redundant. In addition, the characters don’t feel fully realized, so we don’t feel the same sense of loss and sacrifice that we did with the characters in the first two movies. Save for one moment of courage near the middle of the book, there weren’t enough moments when I found I cared about what happened to the characters

The story also suffers by having the main character an empath who can pick up on others’ emotions. (This isn’t a spoiler; it’s covered in the first two chapters.) The Alien movies are strictly science fiction, and while it’s not without the realm of possibility for empaths to develop in the future, it’s never been something that’s been a part of that universe. Even when you consider Alien: Resurrection (which I don’t; people have a lot of hate for Alien3, but I save all of mine for the fourth movie), Ripley’s empathic abilities there are due to her being a clone of Ripley and the alien, so there’s no precedent for empaths in that universe.

The story is entertaining enough, but nothing necessary. That it’s set so far in the future makes its connection to the movies tenuous, and it doesn’t add anything to the universe to make it worthwhile. Hardcore fans will probably like it, but like me, they might just wind up wanting to go back and watch the movies after reading it.

Fortunate Musical Connection: “Sea of Sorrow” by Alice in Chains

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