Alien: Out of the Shadows Review

Alien: Out of the Shadows is a 2014 science fiction horror novel written by Tim Lebbon and published by Titan Books.  Set between Alien and Aliens, the book follows a Xenomorph outbreak on the planet LV-178 and the mining vessel in orbit above it.


Positives:

  • Good suspense
  • Engaging story
  • Good writing
  • Good action

Negatives:

  • Ripley and Ash are unnecessary
  • Lackluster characters

Synopsis: The story follows the crew of a deep space mining ship, the Marion, who are led by the ship’s engineer, Chris Hooper, who is forced to take command after an accident kills the captain and damages the ship.  The crew also have to deal with xenomorphs who have killed the miners on the planet below while some manage to board via a returned dropship. They are assisted by Ellen Ripley who has mysteriously docked aboard the Marion, unbeknownst to her a familiar face manipulating events in the background.

The story does feel like its a bit of a mixed bag because the story is suppose to be set in-between the first and second movies but it feels like it is a combination of Alien and Aliens.  That was one of my problems with Alien: Covenant.  One of my biggest complaints is how the story is presented in the second and third acts.  Ripley, Hoop, and the surviving crew of the Marion have to first deal with a xenomorph problem aboard the ship, then to the surface, and once again on the ship. (3 out of 5)

Characters:  Now, there are some pretty sweet characters.  Ripley returns as the sole survivor of the Nostromo having awakened of 37 years of hyper sleep.  She’s not the kick-ass she is in the films.  She’s awkward, she’s insecure, she’s traumatized (smooth touch with the fear of her daughter dying at the claws of the aliens).  Chris Hopper or Hoop is the Marion’s engineer, who steps up to lead the Marion’s crew in the wake of the captain’s death and the ship’s destruction.  He’s a decent enough character with his own strengths, fears, and motivations.  Ash makes a return as a scheming AI once again bent on gathering a specimen for the Weyland-Yutani corporation.  Are Ripley and Ash’s returns necessary?  No, not really.  The fact that the two make a return feels like Lebbon catering to fans who can’t imagine an Alien franchise without Ripley.  Most of the other characters do seem a bit flat and the inclusion of Ripley and Ash is a part of it. (3 out of 5)

Writing:  Didn’t really mind the writing, Lebbon does a good job of detailing the major characters and keeping the atmosphere pretty claustrophobic.  The inclusion of Ripley is quite the hard pill to swallow as it does conflict with her in hypersleep after the events of Alien until she awakens in Aliens. Unfortunately, Lebbon’s focus on Ripley does take away from the other characters making them nothing more than supporting characters with no character development.  The action scenes are written with care, painting a golden picture.  There is more expansion into the Alien mythos.  There are other moments within the novel that actually makes it less enticing to read, especially the adventures on the ship make it feel like Alien while the adventures on the planet make it feel like Aliens.  Perhaps had the situations been reversed and the crew had to escape the planet only to realize than aliens had infected the ship. But despite this, it’s still an interesting read. (2 out of 5)


The Verdict:  In the end, Alien: Out of the Shadows is actually a decent read though it has its share of problems.  If only the writing would’ve left out Ripley and Ash and focused more on the new characters it would’ve been gold.  There is good suspense and action, and the story is good.  Alien: Out of the Shadows gets 3 out of 5.

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