Back in 1979 when Ridley Scott’s Alien hit the big screen, I was oblivious at age nine. It wasn’t until several years later during the video age when I caught more than a glimpse of the shiny black creatures that would later haunt a corner of my nightmares in such movies as Aliens and Prometheus over the next several decades. But Scott’s original set the tone and created a world I’m happy to revisit time and again.
Titan Books and New York Times Best-Selling author Tim Lebbon have teamed up to kick off a new series of novels set in that world. Alien: Out of the Shadows explores a chunk of the time between Alien and Aliens to flesh out what may have happened in those intervening 57 years.
Now if you’ve seen the films, you are probably wondering what events we missed. SPOILERS. Once Ripley goes into stasis on the shuttle at the end of the first film, nothing seems to happen to her until she’s rescued nearly 60 years later and goes back to work for Weyland-Yutani as a cargo loader. If she doesn’t remember anything in-between, what could these books possibly focus on? Eventually it becomes clear, though not right off the bat.
Out of the Shadows begins on the deep space mining ship the Marion. Chris Hooper, or “Hoop” as he’s called, is the ship engineer. And almost as quickly as we come to know Hoop and some of the rest of the Marion’s crew, things aboard the ship take a turn for the worse. A dropship from the mine below runs into trouble on its way back up, causing widespread damage during a collision. The Marion’s captain is killed, leaving Hoop in charge of the wreckage and trying to keep the rest of the crew alive while figuring out what happened on the dropship.
Not long after the accident, Ripley’s shuttle appears on the scene and docks with the Marion. Hoop and crew wake her and question her about how she came to show up at the same time all their trouble started. Who was she really? How could she possibly know anything about the strange aliens they thought caused the collision?
As I dove headlong into the world of Out of the Shadows, I had many questions that Lebbon eventually answered. How did Ripley get to the Marion? What did the miners find on the planet? And how did the aliens get on board the dropship? All of these questions and more were answered during the narrative action on the Marion and in the mine.
The writing was excellent. The pacing was spot on. Lebbon nailed Ripley’s voice so that every time I read a line of her dialogue I heard Sigourney Weaver’s voice in my mind. And just like watching the original movies, I was sucked into a world where I looked on in horror as the characters I liked got knocked off one by one. Even so, I was troubled by the fact that Ripley didn’t remember any of the events of the Marion later on in the movie series. How would Lebbon explain that little fact?
Well, that’s where I have a problem with the story. A bit of “deus ex machina” was applied to solve it with a classic Star Trek-style MacGuffin. I won’t spoil it for you, but let’s just say that technology occasionally works in mysterious ways when you need it to.
Ultimately that detail didn’t spoil the fun of the book for me. This boiled down to a story about Ellen Ripley and I’m quite curious to see where authors James A Moore and Christopher Golden go in the next two books in the series. They have 20 years to play with between the end of Alien: Out of the Shadows and when Ripley is rescued in Aliens. That’s more than enough time for another MacGuffin or two and for the aliens to destroy dozens more innocent people.
Alien: Out of the Shadows is available now on bookshelves. If you’re a fan of the movies, you’ll probably enjoy Ripley’s continuing adventures as she survives each new encounter with the vicious aliens!Powered by Sidelines