Friday, August 16, 2013

Revisiting the Classics -- Alien

Today we have the 1979 sci-fi/horror classic Alien. However, in a twist, I'm actually reviewing the novelization of the movie.

The story begins aboard the deep space freighter Nostromo which is transporting oil across the galaxy on behalf of the Company. Nope, it's not Weyland-Yutani yet; it's the Company. Anyway, one day (night?) the ship drops out of hyperspace and the central computer, Mother, wakes the seven-person crew (plus one cat) from cryo-sleep and announces it's picking up a distress signal from the mysterious planet below them. Legally they have to investigate and render assistance if possible. Although cranky from being woken up for this, they reluctantly take the Nostromo down to the mysterious planet, which they determine is somewhere near Zeta II Reticuli. Fun fact: There's another blog which has a page dedicated to pinning down its exact location ( The captain (Dallas), the first officer (Kane) and the navigator (Lambert) march off across the freaky alien landscape in search of the source of the signal. It isn't long before they find it: An alien ship!

They explore inside it until they come to a long shaft extending down into either the rest of the ship or the planet. Kane opts to repel down it alone, and if you have any familiarity with this franchise you know what happens to him. He finds a fleshy urn. Only it's not an urn; it's an egg. Out pops what looks like a skeletal tarantula with a long tail, and it proceeds to melt through his helmet and give him an extraterrestrial french kiss. This quickly KOs him, and the other two have no choice but to carry him back to the Nostromo. Warrant officer Ripley refuses to let them back aboard for fear of whatever the hell that thing might do to the rest of them, but the enigmatic Ash opens the hatch anyway. Long story short: Kane loses his chest cavity, and it only gets worse from there.

I enjoy both the Alien and Predator franchises because they've given us terrifying and fascinating extraterrestrials, a combination that's missing in more family-friendly sci-fi such as Star Wars and Star Trek. These beasties can butcher you in so many different ways, yet they're so damn cool. Plus, it's fun watching the pitiful humans struggle to survive against the overwhelming odds the aliens bring to bear. The xenomorphs in particular are scary as hell. They're dark, slimy, fiercely intelligent and freakishly agile. Plus, they bleed acid and they have mouths within mouths!

That being said, I do feel as if Alan Dean Foster made some odd choices in the novelization of Alien. For one thing, he gives us almost no physical descriptions of the characters. "Dallas has a beard" is the only detail you get. Also, he frequently switches between characters without warning. For example, Ripley might be running down the hall when suddenly we go to Brett in the computer room. Most authors nowadays at least leave a few spaces between scenes, but with Foster every chapter is one scene. I'm guessing he only had the script to go by when he penned the novelization (which would explain the lack of physical descriptions), but I think he should at least have made an effort to differentiate between scenes.

Nevertheless, I quite enjoy this book, and have already ordered the novelization of Aliens (also by Foster).

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