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.
ALIEN: RIVER OF PAIN is the third book in the new Titan Books trilogy billed as canonical companion pieces to the movies. Written by Christopher Golden, a dab hand at the ol’ franchise tie-ins, it tells the story of the fall of LV-426 (aka Acheron aka Hadley’s Hope). For those a little rusty with the franchise, that’s the moon where we first met a facehugger back in 1979′s ALIEN and then, 57 in-movie (and 7 actual) years later in ALIENS, it was the terraforming colony upon which Ripley and the Colonial Marines dropshipped their asses after receiving a distress call. Of course, they were too late. Acheron had already fallen, its people, save one little girl called Newt, either dead or impregnated with chestbusters-in-waiting. RIVER OF PAIN tells the story of what went down.
Okay, stop me if you’ve heard this one before…
Girl walks into a spacecraft filled with marines. They’re off to a planet called Hiveworld. Our gal’s badass but scared, having something of a history with the Alien sons-of-biatches they’re going to hunt. But that’s okay because there’s a company guy there and, sure, he’s a bit sleazy but she kinda likes him and thinks she can trust him and…
The second of a new trilogy of original novels set within the ever-expanding universe of the Alien franchise, ALIEN: SEA OF SORROWS by James A. Moore rather aptly mirrors the second movie of the series, ALIENS – with its ragtag band of marines (although here, they’re a ragtag bunch of mercs), Mr Byrne-esque company reps and a descendent of Ripley, the not-entirely-likeable Decker, as its main protagonist. As a fan of all four ALIEN films to date (yes, even RESURRECTION), and having a particular fondness for the second in the series (hey, I’m a child of the 80s. I watched the movie, played the game, the whole nine yards), this book appealed from the get-go. And Moore doesn’t disappoint, doing a perfect job of emulating the claustrophobia of the movie. Remember that scene where the marines first come across the xenomorphs and lose half their team? Well, this book is about 80% that kind of action. And it’s realised wonderfully.
While some of the earlier Alien tie-in novels perhaps could be guilty of forgetting their source material, SEA OF SORROWS indulgently mirrors it. And it’s all the better for it.
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The second book in the Expanse series of space opera goodness by James SA Corey (the pen name for co-authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), Caliban’s War continues the exploits of likely lad, Jim Holden, and his crew of misfits as they wreak merry carnage across the galaxy. Since the first book, things have become even more volatile, with Earth and Mars going to war and Venus quietly breeding a cross between Ridley Scott’s Alien and George Romero’s zombies. Meanwhile, Holden finds himself wham bam in the middle of it all with a trigger-happy Martian marine, potty-mouthed UN official and wiry little botanist who just wants to find his daughter.
I love these books because they don’t feel like books: it feels more like watching a TV series than reading. And, like all the best TV out there, I just wanted to bomb my way through it all in one sitting.
In short, this is some of the best sci-fi I’ve ever read. If you’re not onboard with this series already, remedy that right now.
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