Nov 8, 2018

[Books] Alien: Out of the Shadows Audible Review

My initial Audible focus on biographies has slowly shifted over their works of fiction with mixed results. But I will admit that I do enjoy the most are the Audible Originals that involve full cast productions that really take a story to the next level.

Alien: Out of the Shadows turned out to be a book that I had previously purchased as a Kindle title but had yet to get around to reading given my significant reading queue. But I'm still glad that I got this Audible title since it was quite the fun ride.

For the most part I had accepted that great audio dramas were the domain of Big Finish Production, whose works seem to costs an arm and a leg. But Audible is not only getting access to some of their titles but they've also been securing exclusive deals for their own original content with diverse talent.

Synopsis: Alien: Out of the Shadows is science fiction novel written by Tim Lebbon. The story is set between the events of the Alien and Aliens movies and the Audible audiobook was directed by Dirk Maggs.

The DMSO Marion orbits LV-178 overseeing the mining operations below. But after losing contact with the mining operation their shuttles Samson and Delilah make for the Marion at full speed. It turns out that their ships have been compromised by alien creatures that go on to kill their crews. The Delilah crashes into the docking bay causing significant damage to the ship. The Samson is able to dock by they Marion's surviving crew keep it contained in order to prevent the four or so aliens from escaping.

The damage to the ship has knocked it out of orbit and it's now slowly falling towards the planet. Their long range transmitter is down and the best they can do is send out a local distress call which gets picked up by the Narcissus, the lifeboat shuttle of the Nostromo containing Ellen Ripley (Laurel Lefkow). It's unclear why Ripley still hadn't been rescued after all these years and her ship wasn't exactly the rescue the crew of the Marion were hoping for.

What I Liked: The cast of this audio drama worked really well together and I admire Laurel Lefkow for bringing Ripley to life in a way that still felt consistent to Sigourney Weaver. But the truly standout performance was Rutger Hauer as the disembodied voice of Ash from the first movie whose little excerpts were an excellent framing device that became that much creepier because of his particular vocal quality.

And yeah, I did love the little plot twist with Ash.

The quality of this performance as a whole including the additional sound effects and the happy neutral voice of the Marion's computer all made for a thrilling experience. There were a number of instances when I was pretty stressed out wondering what would happen next, which speaks to how well the audio production lived up to the movies that formed the pillars of this franchise.

What Could Have Been Better: The whole premise of these "canonical" books set in the Alien universe certainly made for an odd decision as the narrative loopholes that they had to go through to make this story work were pretty significant. Knowing the story is set between the first two movies means that they had to find a way to reset Ripley back to how she was at the start of Aliens with no other members of the Marion's crew with her. And so you enter the story knowing that things aren't going to go well for them.

And so we have a heck of a lot of good action only to have things lead to a very weird resolution that still technically worked to avoid disrupting the other stories but also felt quite contrived. And it's a shame how a pretty decent alien adventure which didn't necessarily need Ripley in it ended up being burdened by her presence and inevitable survival.

TL;DR: Alien: Out of the Shadows is still a very enjoyable book as long as you don't bother to think about the implications of its events when it comes to the movies. Just enjoy the full cast drama and have fun with it.

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