Review: Alien Resurrection

Alien: Resurrection - The NovelizationAlien Resurrection
by A.C. Crispin

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Alien Resurrection (Film Novelization) / 0-446-60229-9

I like all four aliens movies, including "Alien Resurrection". I felt that it was an interesting expansion of the aliens universe and I particularly liked the evolution of Ripley's character as Number Eight - a woman so emotionally shell-shocked and traumatized that she shuts down emotionally and stops fearing or caring as much as she once did. While "Alien Resurrection" wasn't really the movie continuation that I might have wanted, I appreciated what the writers were trying to do, even if it wasn't always terribly sophisticated.

The film novelization breaks with tradition and is written by A.C. Crispin rather than Alan Dean Foster. If you're reading the novelizations in order, as I have, you will find the change in tone incredibly jarring, more so than even the shift in tone between the movies. Crispin's writing style contrasts badly with the crisp, clean writing of Foster. There's a heavy and frequent (almost every page) reliance on formatting tricks to take the place of actual human emotion and I would love to know the difference, between a sentence spoken in bold-face, a sentence spoken in all-CAPS, and a sentence spoken in both bold-face and all-CAPS. I half expected some sentences to end in an "!!1!", just for maximum emphasis. Lacking the grace and subtlety of the earlier novels, this one milks the facehugging scene for all it is worth, calling it blandly a "rape" and having the cyrotube victims "foul" themselves in fear. There are also multiple pages devoted to having the alien queen swim in human sewage, for no real relevant plot reason.

In doing all this, we lose all the subtlety and charm of the original series to instead go and wallow in the shocking and gross in the hopes of drumming up sales. And I realized, as I read this book, that this is the very thing that so many aliens fans have accused "Alien Resurrection" of all this time: of trading all the intelligence and psychology of the first movies for flashy effects, cheesy dialogue, and a script that seems determined to jam at least three moral lessons down our throat. To my surprise, the flawed film novelization highlighted these problems with far more glaring light than the movie ever did.

Not that the novelization does nothing right. There's a lot of inner monologue here, which is useful in a setting where Ripley is so taciturn - we can see the inner evolution of her thoughts in more detail, which is always a nice touch in a novelization. The genetic cross-over effect is explored more thoroughly here, explaining that just as Number Eight is now part-alien, so are the aliens now part-human, neatly explaining away some of the inconsistencies in alien behavior in the film. Some of the human characters are given more backstory (such as how the crew of the Betty first got together), but others criminally are not (what is Call's motivation for saving humanity, and why did she pick such a poor manner in which to do so?) considering that the backstory in such cases would be plot relevant.

In other ways, though, this novel makes me want to pull my hair out with some major inanities. Super-duper totally-Top-Secret massively-classified science experiments don't have "graduate students" working for the scientists. I mean, I know there's some kind of "all mad scientists have a graduate student interning for them" rule in science fiction, but please realize that this is probably not one of those cases. Also, when a modern scientist wants to justify a dangerous line of research, they do not wave their hands in the general direction of several hundred years ago and use the mistakes of the past to justify new mistakes in the future.

I really wanted to like this novel. I think that if it had been written by a different author, or perhaps tightened up a bit in the editing, it could have been fairly decent. But the dog-and-pony formatting tricks on every page, used to avoid having to show real human emotion (after all, you don't have to make a character believably agitated when you can just HAVE HIM TALK IN ALL CAPS), gets old after the first three pages, and the massive amount of "it just doesn't work that way" details like the government handing out high clearances to college kids for their summer internship just really jar the reader from the experience. The juvenile writing is a big problem and feels like the author thought "Fear Factor" "gross-out" details were the best way to make a compelling science fiction novel.

~ Ana Mardoll

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