Okay, so I’ve read this new Alien series from Titan Books completely arse-about-face. I started with the middle one in the trilogy, James A. Moore’s Sea of Sorrows, and then moved onto the third instalment, Christopher Golden’s River Of Pain. And here I am now reviewing the first in the series, Tim Lebbon’s Out of The Shadows. It doesn’t matter, of course, as while they’re all billed as being somewhat connected, they’re not – each is a self-contained story. In fact, the only thing they share in common is the fact that, at least when released, they were sold to the readers as canonical. And that’s very important because, having read all three now, for me the most striking thing about them is how authentic they feel. As I said in my review of Sea of Sorrows, that alone does set them apart from some of the earlier tie-in-novels (ALIEN HARVEST by Robert Sheckley, I’m looking at you) which, while perhaps entertaining in their own right, have felt nothing like the movies.
For Tim Lebbon, making Out Of The Shadows feel in any way authentic was going to be a big ask – and I say that with the greatest of respect to the lad. Set between the first and second movies, and starring Ripley herself, it just didn’t feel possible to me to make this feel like a genuine part of the movies’ timeline – but Lebbon pulls it off. Without getting too spoilery, the story follows Ripley’s escape shuttle from the Nostradamus as it crash lands into Chris ‘Hoop’ Hooper and co’s mining ship the Marion. It just so happens that Hoop’s been having some pest problems himself, shall we say, so having Ripley around proves very useful indeed. And while at this point, readers might feel they’re in for a retread of the first movie, Lebbon casts his net wider than that, bringing the Marion’s hapless crew down into the mine itself where, of course, they encounter all kinds of fun. The result is a story that while drawing upon the best bits of the movies – in particular the first and third films – also remains very much its own beast.
An excellent read in and of itself but also a brilliant addition to the whole Alien franchise, and the increasingly complex tapestry underpinning such – Out Of The Shadows is an essential addition to any fan’s library and a huge recommend from me.