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Book Review

Book Cover

River of Pain


Author: Christopher Golden
Publisher: Titan Books
RRP: £7.99
ISBN: 978 178 329286 8
Publication Date: 28 November 2014

Fifty years have passed since Ellen Ripley escaped the claustrophobic nightmare destruction of the Nostromo, fifty years since it made its fateful landing on LV-426. The moon now has a name, Acheron, as well as teams busily trying to change its grit filled atmosphere into something resembling a colony. In all that time the moon has held on to its most frightening secret, one only revealed when Anne and Russell Jorden discover a horseshoe shaped derelict spacecraft, the day Newt lost her parents...

Alien: River of Pain (2014. 298 pages), written by Christopher Golden, is another in the series of books, based on the Alien franchise.

It was always going to be a difficult task, writing a book which bridged the events between the first two Alien films, mostly because the reader already knew how the story was going to end.

With the aliens not appearing till quite some time into the book, Golden has taken a number of the films motifs to tie it to the same universe, such as the inclusion of Colonial Marines and exploding atmosphere processors. We also get a reprise of Ripley’s arrival at Earth following her rescue by a team of deep space salvagers, small scenes which continue to be interspersed with the new story. Yet, even this does little to connect you with a collection of characters who you know will be dead at the book's ending, making it a big ask of the reader to invest any emotional attachment.

The story is told from multiple perspectives. We get to know Newt a little more, as well as her mother. We have the newly appointed commanding officer of the marines, Captain Brackett, a decent enough man whose presence instantly makes the story non-canon. If there had been Marines on Archon and they had lost the battle with the Alien, then this would have made a major impact on the film Aliens, removing much of the cavalier attitude displayed by the next set of walking body bags to be sent. I’m pretty sure that the film specifically states that the only people on Archon were colonists and prospectors.

In an attempt to make the reader care for the soon to be deceased, Golden introduces a certain level of domesticity as it turns out that Brackett was once Anne’s lover. This and the settling into his new role slows down the first third of the book, as Golden sets up his characters for the inevitable knock down.

With all the pieces in place, the latter third of the book picks up the pace as the alien infestation takes its hold on the colony. Once again Golden takes his inspiration from the second film with satisfying descriptions of xenomorphs being blown to pieces with pulse rifles and plucky marines doing their best to fight against their inevitable defeat.

Overall, not a bad book, considering the constriction under which it was written and it is likely to be of interest to fans of the films.


Charles Packer

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