Alien: Review: 1: Out of the Shadows

Alien ShadowsBy Tim Lebbon

Titan Books, out now

On her journey from the Nostromo, Ripley is woken – to face her worst nightmares…

In an age where whole sagas can be interpolated into the miniscule gap between episodes of Doctor Who, it should come as no surprise that someone has come up with a (clever) way of adding an extra adventure for Ellen Ripley between the events of Alien and Aliens. Without spoiling Tim Lebbon’s ending, nothing that happens in this book contradicts what we learn from either film, and in fact explains a certain amount of the differences between the character in the two.

A mining expedition has uncovered a nest of xenomorphs, and the book begins with a chilling description of their destruction (decimation doesn’t come into it – it’s a nonodecimation, if that’s the right word for 90% killing). One of the more haunting images involves someone who isn’t killed straightaway, but knows that there is no chance of escape – and it’s made all the more terrifying because we only know of this through the eyes of those who are watching it on a video feed.

The chief engineer of the expedition, Hoop, is our other key point of view in the story, left in charge and desperately trying to find a way to survive – and protect all those under his control. Which isn’t easy when one of them is Ripley, one becomes crippled, and another has a close encounter with a xenomorph. There’s a third point of view as well, but part of the pleasure of the book is deducing how that can be…

There’s some nice foreshadowing of elements of Aliens, in particular the way that Ripley sees the world, and more than a few surprise twists in the plot – there were aspects of the ending which I really didn’t see coming. Unlike some of the earlier Alien novels (and I must admit now that I’ve only read the 20th century ones, not the more recent batch) or indeed the Alien vs Predator movies, this feels as if it’s part and parcel of the same story, and I’m now really looking forward to seeing what the “far-reaching impact” is that’s referred to in the ad for the second book, out in July…

Verdict: A well-crafted, suitably horrific and gruesome continuation of the Alien saga. 9/10

Paul Simpson

Click here to order Alien – Out of the Shadows from Amazon.co.uk

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