Original Sin (Aliens, Book 10)
by Michael Jan Friedman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Aliens Novels: Book 10, Original Sin / 1-59582-015-9
In my review of "Berserker", I lamented the fact that none of the aliens novels so far have strayed from the two basic plot lines of (1) mad scientist lets experiments get out of hand and (2) trained troops infiltrate hive in search of MacGuffin. I noted that in both these cases, it's difficult to sympathize with the victims because no matter how likable they are, they really should have known better than to muck with aliens. I've actually, in fact, been pretty surprised that none of the novels so far have taken place from an "innocent colony infiltrated by unexpected alien/egg" perspective, which would seem to practically write itself. Fortunately, along comes "Original Sin" to answer my request and in a thoroughly original and compelling manner.
"Original Sin" is the first of the aliens novels to key directly off of the film series, and it does so by following the survivors of "Alien Resurrection". Now, I liked the "Alien Resurrection" movie far more than most (although I did not think highly of the novelization of the same), but I would be the first to note that some of the characters in the film were not fleshed out thoroughly beyond basic, familiar stereotypes. Freidman has addressed that particular problem right out of the gate and wastes no time fleshing out the characters and motivations of the survivors, all against a backdrop of interesting action and constant narrative movement.
This deserves a mention: "Original Sin" is one of the best written aliens novels from a perspective of exposition-versus-action. Friedman seems to instinctively understand how to start with a bang, where to insert quick characterization within the action, and when to pull back the throttle slightly and feed a little more exposition to the reader. And after over thirteen of these novels (nine novels and four film novelizations), I deeply appreciate this talent.
The motivations of the survivors are elegantly simple - Ripley and Call are driven to protect humans and eradicate aliens; the rest of them are simply hoping that an eradication of the alien race will allow them to sleep well again at night. In order to provide a more deadly antagonist, Friedman has invented a shadowy organization (a bit more subtle than the usual W/Y setup) intent on growing and utilizing the aliens for their own nefarious ends. How much the reader will go along with this will depend, I think, on how much you need the aliens novels to fit a canon, but again, after thirteen of these novels, the series seems badly in need of 'mixing it up' a bit. Similarly, the alien species in "Original Sin" have been genetically tampered with, largely to provide a bigger challenge to Ripley/Eight.
Despite its unorthodox plot elements, I regard "Original Sin" as one of the best in the series.
~ Ana Mardoll
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