Mar 24, 2015

[Books] Alien: The Official Movie Novelization

As much as many books have become movies, many movies have also become books. Thus we come to the interesting world of official movie novelizations, which admittedly I don't really dig into all that often. I guess it's because that a lot of movie novelizations seem a little pointless to me since the measure of the movie is the movie itself. But then that's a rather unfair and narrow view of things and novelizations do contribute a lot to providing new perspectives of various characters in such movies and further develop scenes in a way that a movie could never fully encapsulate.

Alien: The Official Movie Novelization was not a book that I would normally go out of my way to read, but then I got a notification via BookBub that it was on sale, so I took the plunge. And given how much we've been playing Legendary Encounters with friends, the desire to read the book became  bit more of an imperative than initially expected.

And on the whole, I was really surprised by this book and how well it re-told the story that had long since traumatized many as a movie. Often times it was written in a manner that almost felt like prose given its imagery and colorful language. And that all just contributed to the positive nature of the reading experience.

Synopsis: Alien: The Official Movie Novelization was written by Alan Dean Foster based on the movie screenplay  by Dan O'Bannon. It was first published in 1979, the same year the movie was released.

The book naturally follows the story of the movie for the most part - you have a group of what are essentially space truckers overseeing the transport of fuel along with a massive mobile refinery. They are awoken from hypersleep due to a distress call received from an alien world. Investigating the distress call leads to one of their crew getting implanted with an alien egg and the spend the better part of the story dealing with this internal threat.

Naturally, the book is more based on the original screenplay rather than the final cut of the movie, and so there are many differences between the book and the movie because of this timing. And this isn't a bad thing - it provides an interesting glimpse into a lot of the early concept designs and story outlines rather than just what we saw in theaters. And in this case, some of the additions do make for some great scenes.

What really struck me is the colorful writing style Alan Dean Foster employed in crafting this novelization. There's a certain beauty to how he describes many of the early scenes that pains quite the vivid picture in one's imagination. To spend time describing the crew as dreamers as opposed to merely being asleep just shows his attention to such details and his desire to craft a particular reading experience that I really enjoyed.

In many ways, the book actually feels rather brief and part of me wishes things had been extended a bit. But that's the part of me speaking with the movie in mind and how it used the horror movie trope of long quiet scenes to really go and build tension. You can't quite convey as easily in a book without resulting in several pages of filler material that may end up feeling superfluous.

On the whole, I really enjoyed this novelization given how it still feels like a unique creative experience even though it largely tells a story that I know by heart. It's also rather light reading so expect to work your way through the book quite quickly, which is neither good nor bad in itself. The book gets a firm 4 alien eggs waiting in the deep bowels of the ship out of a possible 5.


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