Alien: River of Pain

January 31, 2017 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , )

riverAlien: River of Pain by Christopher Golden


This is the third book in the so-called Canonical Alien Trilogy, which ties in with the first two movies in the series. Out of the Shadows covered the time between Alien and AliensSea of Sorrows covered the time two-hundred years after Aliens, and River of Pain covers the time just before Aliens. Specifically, it covers the formation of Hadley’s Hope, the colony on LV426 where all the devastation before the movie takes place.

Interestingly, fans of the movie who watched the extended director’s cut of the movie will already be familiar with some of the details in this book. Golden uses dialogue and scenes straight out of the material that was cut for the theatrical release, as well as using material from uncut scenes. He blends it together to make the book more like an Expanded Universe book for the Alien franchise, telling us more about Newt and her family. It works well, namely because Golden’s characterization skills are good.

By the time Ripley and the Marines arrive on LV426, Newt is the only remaining survivor of the colony after the aliens got loose in the compound, so all the characters Golden creates are new. Newt is the focus of the story, but we also learn about her brother and her parents and all her friends in the colony. Colonial Marines are present in the story, too, which is a revelation, as they’re not mentioned as having a presence in the movie. The strongest relationship in the book exists between Newt and Captain Brackett, a new arrival to the colony and the new CO for the Marines.

The thing is, in order for the book to fit in with Aliens, we know everyone has to die by the end, and we know more or less how it happened. Golden does a good job of giving us more to care about — Captain Brackett has his hands full bringing his marines back under his control and dealing with rogues, for one — but in the end we know it’s going to end poorly for almost everyone involved. This was an issue with Out of the Shadows, too, but I think it works better here because we can flow straight from this story to Aliens to get the full extent of the book. After finishing the book, I re-watched the movie, and I think it helped form my opinion of the book.

I think it’s safe to say that anyone reading this book is already familiar enough with Aliens to get the most out of it. Folks who aren’t familiar with the movie might be confused, and see the ending as a let-down, but seriously, who’s going to be reading this book if they aren’t already a fan? Like me, folks who read this will segue straight into watching the movie again, and that’s the right way to do it. Just make sure to watch the director’s cut to get the most out of the story as possible.

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