by Alan Dean Foster
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Aliens (Film Novelization) / 0-446-30139-6
In as much as a film novelization is a fleshing out of a favorite film (not unlike the "deleted scenes" we get today in DVDs), "Aliens" is a complete success. Ripley's internal thoughts and feelings are explored in detail, and we come to understand better why she was willing to go on this mission to face her nightmares, how she felt about the marines she travels with, and her own evolving feelings of fear, determination, and protectiveness throughout the experience. The marines are presented here with more lavish care and subtlety than they sometimes receive in the movie - Foster insists on showing that there is substance underneath the movie bravado, and makes them seem more human and more competent than they appeared on film. Even the much-maligned Gorman is presented as less of an inevitable screw-up and more as a good-on-paper junior officer who freezes up tragically in a moment of extreme emotional duress, a realistic and appreciated detail. Burke, in contrast, seems to flirt with a fine line of sociopathy, and the novel character is so true to the way the actor played him, that the reader can actually hear the new novel lines delivered in the actor's voice. Nice little touches abound, such as when Burke and Gorman are kicking around possible alternative explanations for the loss of contact with the planet and Gorman expresses his hope that the colonists have just had a bout of mass religious hysteria resulting in a "collective pout".
Not that this novel is without flaws. Some of the dialogue is exceedingly hokey - I, for one, am glad that the movie's inquest scene did not contain Ripley making the pun that "Someone is covering their Ash!". Gah. Similarly, Foster's treatment of the Newt/Ripley dynamic is rather cloying, with way too much internal monologue on Ripley's part about how much to push Newt into trusting her. The movie definitely went the better route of minimalism and left much of the development between the woman and child privately unspoken. Fortunately, these flaws are rather minor and are swallowed up by the serious business of being hunted by aliens, which is superbly done.
Really, if I have a complaint about this novel, it's that there is nothing here that isn't in the movie, by which I mean that there are no "deleted scenes" here, only "extended scenes". I would have happily paid twice as much for this novel if it had included a chapter covering the missing time period between the facehugging of Newt's father and the arrival of the marines some three weeks later, but no dice - just like the movie, the novel hops entirely over that elephant in the room, which is a real shame because I suspect that the tale would be incredibly interesting. Perhaps Foster, as the novelist, wasn't allowed to add extraneous details like how the colony was taken - perhaps film novelists are forced to stick totally to the script they are given. In which case, this book is still a wonderful companion to the "Aliens" movie and I recommend it to all fans... but I still wish that it could have been more somehow.
~ Ana Mardoll
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