Alien: River of Pain Audiobook Review
Written by Joel Harley
Published by Audible
Directed by Dirk Maggs
Written by Christopher Golden
2017, 294 minutes, Fiction
Released on 26th April 2017
In space, no-one can hear you scream. In the case of Alien: River of Pain, hearing is about all one can do. An audio drama adaptation of the popular novel by Christopher Golden, it fills in the last of the gaps between Alien and Aliens, detailing a power struggle between the Colonial Marines and scientists of LV-426 (Hadley's Hope, to you and I). And then, of course, a certain xenomorph shows up.
This Audible drama tops its previous entry in terms of star power, counting Anna Friel, Philip Glenister, Alexander Siddig and Colin Salmon among its cast, as well as a few key (but not A-list) Aliens stars. I have trouble staying awake for audiobooks at the best of time, let alone without factoring the dulcet velvety tones of Colin Salmon - and it’s Salmon who gets the bulk of the story, as the newly posted Captain of the settlement’s Marines. Also spliced in with River of Pain’s original story are early scenes from Aliens, kicking off with Ripley’s rescue from the deep freeze.
It's a distraction, but a welcome one, and adds to the sense of canonicity of these stories (beginning with Tim Lebbon’s Out of the Shadows), especially given the excellent Sigourney Weaver impression by Laurel Lefkow (so spot-on, I thought they had actually hooked Weaver). More of the machinations of Weyland-Yutani are revealed here, and further reason to enjoy seeing Carter Burke get his just dessert in Aliens. Not only that, but the story also works in elements of the story from the film’s Director’s Cut and the tie-in graphic novel Newt’s Tale. Both work better than they did and would have done in the movie, without the worry of undercutting its big reveal. Probably could have done without the marital strife of Newt’s parents though.
Directed by audio play maestro Dirk Maggs (whose Judge Dredd: The Day the Law Died adaptation is legitimately better than any Judge Dredd movie), River of Pain boasts impressively high production values, the sound effects and applied filters doing a great job of making it feel like an Alien movie proper. The voice acting is generally high quality too, save for its wooden, irritating Newt (a problem the film also shared, in places). In addition to Glenister and Friel, fellow Brits Mark Warren and Michelle Ryan also round out the cast – you’d be hard-pressed to recognise any of them though, all of them being saddled with dodgy, comically gruff American accents.
At five hours long, River Of Pain is one to be savoured rather than demolished. Those who are similarly afflicted with sleepiness when trying to do audiobooks will have weeks’ worth of listening here. And, given that the Alien doesn’t properly turn up until after the three-hour mark, it’s not as though you’ll be up late pumped full of adrenaline either. At times, it’s less river of pain, more of a stream.
A well-acted, well-told adaptation of a mostly strong story, Alien: River of Pain is the next best thing to watching the movies (okay, playing Alien: Isolation aside). It even offers something the franchise has been missing for a while now: badass Colin Salmon vs Aliens (ssh, Aliens vs Predator doesn't count). A cinematic Aliens experience, Aliens: River of Pain is almost as good as the real thing.