Audible, out now
The xenomorphs are back – and Ripley finds herself caught in her worst nightmare…
Tim Lebbon’s novel was the first of the original Alien stories that Titan Books produced a couple of years back (the second trilogy, in which Lebbon features Aliens and Predators is currently being released), and is set between Alien and Aliens. No, that doesn’t seem to make sense going in; yes, it does, by the time you finish the story.
Dirk Maggs has adapted, directed and produced this version for Audible which runs to 4 hours 29 minutes (shame it wasn’t 4.26!) of sheer Alien excellence. Streamlining certain elements of Lebbon’s novel, and adding elements in that help the audio experience (“Welcome to the bridge; thank you for visiting the bridge”), it’s a fast-paced ride that doesn’t stint on the horror – part of me doesn’t want to know what was really used to create the sound effects for the aliens’ massacres because they’re so effective.
One of Maggs’ innovations for the audio version is giving Ash a voice – in the book, Ripley can communicate with her former science officer simply using the keyboard, but having the words vocalised adds an extra element to the relationship between the two, particularly when the voice is that of Rutger Hauer. There’s a menace and malign intent inherent even in the coldest, most neutral statements…
There’s a really effective cast: Laurel Lefkow has huge boots to fill as Ripley, and Maggs throws her in at the deep end, starting the story earlier than Lebbon did in the novel. Lefkow gives her own interpretation of Ripley, but there are times you’ll swear it’s Sigourney Weaver you’re listening to – the inflections and tone are spot on. Corey Johnson – Doctor Who’s Henry van Statten from that first 21st century Dalek episode – is at the heart of the story as engineer Hooper, the reluctant commander of the Marion, and accompanied by strong performances by all those around him.
One of the key elements to the success of the Alien franchise has been its music – from Jerry Goldsmith’s compositions for the first film onwards – and James Hannigan puts his own stamp on the score for this while still maintaining the feel of the universe. I’d love to hear this on its own, as I suspect there are some hidden gems in there.
If you’re a fan of the Alien saga but have steered clear of the books or the comics up to now, then I strongly recommend giving this a try – and I hope it’s just the first in a series of Alien adventures from Maggs and his team.
Verdict: A stunning addition to the Alien mythos. 10/10