"Alien: Out of the Shadows" Book Review
Written by Tim Lebbon
2014, 352 pages, Fiction
Released on January 28th, 2014
It's good to grab a book I expect to like and like it. However, it's even better to go in expecting to hate a book and end up liking it. I enjoy Tim Lebbon's work, but when Alien: Out of the Shadows landed on my desk, I was very skeptical. You see, I'm the kind of guy who abhors remakes, spin-offs, and ridiculously unnecessary sequels and prequels. On top of that, the four films in the Alien franchise (especially the first one, of course) are among my favorite science-fiction horror movies. From Ridley Scott to Ellen Ripley to H.R. Giger, Alien is fantastic, so having someone go in and write a novel about the creatures and main character made me feel like they were treading sacred ground without permission. It only took Lebbon about ten pages to make me forget all that.
Alien: Out of Shadows picks up where the first film, Alien, ended. Ellen Ripley is floating around in space in the Narcissus, oblivious to the world for years, but just before the events depicted on the second film, Aliens, she is found, and she's not the only thing that's found. There is a mining ship hovering above a planet from which it’s extracting a precious element, but something goes wrong. There are issues establishing communication with two ships that are returning from the planet to their mother ship, the Marion. Almost simultaneously, the crew of the Marion crashes with one of the ships and they learn that everyone inside the craft is dead. Unfortunately, the things that did the killing are still in there and still alive, so right after Ripley awakes from her deep stasis, she learns that the horror she thought she had left behind is right there with her. What follows is a fast-paced splatterfest full of death and mayhem.
Lebbon jumps right into the action in this book. Instead of giving you a lot of back story, he understands that probably everyone digging into this narrative is probably familiar with what came before it. As a result, the carnage and fear start rather quickly, and that's a good thing because a book about nasty aliens killing people trapped in a ship in space shouldn't be about back story and dialogue.
One thing I really liked about Alien: Out of the Shadows is that the author doesn't pull any punches. I became a fan of Richard Laymon's work many years ago because he gave me great characters...and then killed them without a second thought. Lebbon does that here, and it adds to the quick pacing and the feel that you don't know who's dying next. Also, it's obvious that the author did his research because everything having to do with the ships and its operation, inner workings, and computer equipment is written in a way that would give any science-fiction author out there a run for his or her money.
Despite its brisk pace, Alien: Out of the Shadows is a tad too long. The book comes in just above 350 pages, and it could easily deliver the same great narrative in less space. Also, readers should come to it looking for action, gore, and entertainment and leave the profound deconstruction and plot analysis at the door. This is a book about aliens killing people in space and it works beautifully in that regard.