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Thursday, 3 October 2013

FFB – ALIENS by Alan Dean Foster

Foster is the undisputed king of film novelizations. It has been stated that Foster claims to add an additional third to each script he novelises, such as providing the characters with thoughts and past history. Having written a screenplay of my book Death is Another Life, I know how much has to be left out for a script to work. Virtually all the description goes, as do the thought processes – though some can be verbalised if essential to the forward motion of the story.

I reviewed this way back when it was first published, but I think my comments still stand up.
Manipulation of the viewer or reader can annoy; the scene in Alien where Ripley stripped to her underwear, besides seeming unnecessary for the story, was to my mind deliberately manipulative, offering her up visibly defenceless, without even the dubious protection of clothes, and of course the scene was there for titillation, perhaps. Aliens does it, too, manipulating, that is: not only is Ripley destined to face the aliens, but she is to be accompanied by a child – a sure-fire heart-stopper. Despite these misgivings, the manipulation is effective, as it was in the forerunner, Alien.

This sequel picks up Ripley in suspension floating in her drifter, Narcissus, some 57 years after she rid herself of the alien. The character of Ripley is enlarged upon, and her susceptibility to nightmares is both understandable and well conveyed – in the event she undertakes to return to the alien planet of her nightmares in order to exorcise them. The planet now has a name, Acheron, and a colony, which inevitably succumbs to the aliens! So the space marines are sent in, with state-of-the-art weaponry which is convincingly featured.
Drawings that accompanied my original review.
You won’t get a great deal of style or literary writing, but the story and characters are convincing and occasionally Foster illuminates with a telling phrase or two, viz:

‘Both wore the expression of men for whom sleep is a teasing mistress rarely visited.’
There are minor irritations, such as ‘politicoporate manoeuvering’, repeated use of ‘heretofore’ outside of legalise contexts, ‘she was slipping on her equipment’ for ‘she was putting on her equipment’, a different image entirely, death is an ‘irritating finality’ – irritating seems an inappropriate description. But these are trifling quibbles concerning a good edge-of-seat read which kept me awake into the early hours. Reviewers of the film say they felt drained and limp after the movie, due to unremitting tension, and the book does read like that too. Yes, it is very well done.


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