Every now and then it’s nice take a break from the weighty literary fare that makes up the majority of my reading diet and consume some trash. If for no other reason than occassionally reading bad writing helps me appreciate good writing that much more.
So as an Alien superfan – the first two films are among my favourites – I thought I’d give this new alien trilogy a go. I wasn’t expecting high art but I was hoping for a good, fun read in this universe I love.
Sadly, I got neither. While these three books aren’t directly connected in terms of story they do have a few things in common: poor writing, thin stories, weak characters and downright abysmal dialogue.
The pick of this bad bunch is Christopher Golden’s River of Pain, which tells the story of Hadley’s Hope, the colony that is wiped out in the second film. It does a serviceable – if plodding and thoroughly uninventive – job of filling in gaps that didn’t really need filling in. The plot is stretched much too thin and there’s no tension because we already know that young Newt – who is later adopted by Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley – is the only one to survive the slaughter.
OR DO WE!? Who cares.
Next up was Tim Lebbon’s Out of the Shadows, a book that is fatally wounded by its central conceit: that some time between the first and second films Ripley woke up and fought an alien outbreak on a mining colony. But naturally she has her memory wiped so doesn’t remember an of it when she wakes at the start of Aliens.
Painfully, unforgivably stupid. While the book is certainly more fast-paced than River of Pain – the aliens attack almost immediately and barely let up for the entire book – it’s impossible to care about any of these characters apart from the one we already know lives on.
I can understand why the Alien filmmakers though they needed Weaver for each of the sequels but why does a novel spinoff need Ripley and then go to such forced lengths to deliver her? Surely there are a million stories you can tell in this universe without her.
The trilogy concludes with James Moore’s Sea of Sorrows, which I couldn’t even finish. It’s set on the same planet as Lebbon’s book but is not centred around Ripley – rather it’s based on a guy named Decker who is, you guessed it, one of Ripley’s descendants.
For some reason or another – I didn’t stick around long to find out whether there’s any explanation – Decker has some kind of psychic connection to the aliens, which somehow sense that he’s related to “The Destroyer”.
Yes, part of this book is written from the aliens’ perspective and it turns out they have a little pet name for Ripley. Yep, it’s like Jaws Revenge in space.
Next: something good!