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Book Review

Book Cover

Out of the Shadows


Author: Tim Lebbon
Publisher: Titan Books
RRP: £7.99, US $9.95
ISBN: 978 1 78329 282 0
Publication Date: 31 January 2014

Amongst the dark empty intergalactic space, the small planet of LV178 has one of the richest deposits of Trimonite, the hardest substance known to man. Driven by profit, the mining ship, Marion, provides support for surface miners. When an unknown disaster occurs on the planet two shuttles crash into the mothership in their effort to find help, but the returning miners are not alone and they bring with them a cargo of young aliens who kill the shuttles crew. With the Marion fatally crippled and slowly being drawn down the gravity well the crew of the Marion have one more surprise when they rescue the last survivor of the Nostromo, Ellen Ripley...

Alien: Out of the Shadow is a new Alien novel, written by Tim Lebbon. The novel represents the first of a new trilogy of books, each written by a different author. Lebbon has won the Bram Stoker Award for Short Fiction (2001), August Derleth Award (2007) and the Scribe Award (2008)

If anything the book epitomises the problems between Alien and Prometheus. Unwilling to just rehash what had been seen before, Prometheus at least opened up the universe, much to a lot of fans dismay. If you are one of those then you will probably enjoy this book as it pretty much repeats the films format of something going amiss, involving the alien, Ripley turns up to be paired with a group of people who are relentlessly killed one after another.

There is a further problem with the book and this is because it is set between the first and second films, where it is already established that Ripley’s last memories are of escaping the Nostromo, prior to being rescued by a salvage vessel. So, the big question is how can she have had another adventure and remember none of it.

The solution is both obvious and rather unsatisfying as ultimately it has no impact on the character or her development and so effectively might as well have not happened. Lebbon has done his best to have the amnesia happen in an interesting way and I’m not sure that such a restriction can have been resolved in any other way which would seem more satisfying. It is a restriction of the book's remit rather than a failure in imagination or writing.

That said, rather than rehashing the films, books have the latitude to expand on the backstory and motivations and it was a missed opportunity not to expand our knowledge of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation other than the fact that it also acquired a number of other firms.

That is not to say that Lebbon has not produced a highly entertaining and thrilling ride and instinctively knows how much of the alien threat to reveal at any given point, therefore it is safe to say that I enjoyed the book as a rollercoaster ride, even if it failed to open up the Alien universe. I’m guessing that being book one of three the remit from the publishers was quite restrictive

I can’t help but feel that the inclusion of Ripley was a mistake. Not only does it create the problem of finding a logical explanation as to why by Aliens she has no recall of these events, but also her portrayal is at odds with that shown in the films. This Ripley is much more damaged, more prone to all-encompassing introversion and self-doubt. Her inclusion is a massive restriction on the story and the author, possibly proven by the fact that the most interesting and rounded character is not Ripley but Chris Hooper.

If you’re looking for a story very similar to the films then you’ll not be disappointed and in fairness to the author this is only the first of three acts so also has the job of establishing the universe for the two people on the planet who may not have seen the films.


Charles Packer

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