Friday, 25 May 2018

Guilty Pleasures: Alien Sea of Sorrows

One of my guilty pleasures right now is the Alien audiobooks produced by Dirk Maggs and available on Audible. I've just finished Alien: Sea of Sorrows, which is very enjoyable listen, even if I was a bit confused at times with all the interchangeable mercenaries.


I've got a soft spot for Alien. I wasn't old enough to see Alien at the cinema first time around, but I read everything I could about it. I had books and magazines. I loved everything about it - the graphic design (both Rob Cobb's Nostromo and HR Geiger's alien and derelict), the story - and especially the alien itself.

When I did finally see it, it was on TV in the middle of a thunderstorm. I've watched it many times since.


I thought Aliens was a brilliant follow up. I liked the fact that James Cameron didn't simply make a second Alien - he made an exciting action film instead.

It wasn't perfect though. The aliens themselves (I've never liked calling them xenomorphs) were subtly different. The eggs didn't look the same. The chest-burster had arms. And the queen was impressive, but felt like it had gone slightly off script. (The facehuggers, though, they were great.)

While I loved the film, my slight disappointment with how the aliens were treated stems from the fact that I had come to my own conclusion about them. I'd been reading Greg Bear's The Forge of God and I had decided that the aliens were a mega-weapon, a virus on a planetary scale - with the derelict a syringe (that had gone wrong).

So the introduction of a queen (and the idea that the creatures might be natural) didn't really fit into my worldview at the time.

Don't get me wrong - I love Aliens as well. But it's not Alien. It's fanfic.


What I hadn't realised then (but I realise now) is that everything after Alien is basically fanfic. Everything. Even Aliens.

There hasn't been a guiding mind behind the Alien franchise - just some people with their own ideas. That's fine, but it doesn't make it canon.

(I even tried my own hand at fanfic, but the less said about that the better.)

Alien 3 and Alien 4

I was really disappointed by Alien 3, and I don't remember too much about Alien 4.

One of the things I didn't like was that the series became all about Ripley. For me, I wanted to explore other things - the aliens themselves, the derelict, the space jockey. I wasn't that bothered about Ripley's story.

The alien part of the story also seemed to be a bit repetitive - they hatch, they kill.

Aliens vs Predator

I really liked Aliens vs Predator. I liked the Dark Horse comic book, and I liked the movie. I liked that it didn't take itself too seriously, and I liked that it was written by Dan O'Bannon (one of the original Alien screenwriters).

I also liked that this did something slightly different. While the humans are (mostly) helpless victims, the aliens and predators are equally matched.

(I haven't seen AvP: Requiem though. I started watching, but got bored very quickly.)


Even though it was directed by Sir Ridley Scott, Prometheus is still fanfic.

My favourite scene is the autodoc scene, which I thought was genuinely tense and gruesome.

I thought the engineers were a bit of a disappointment. I loved the enigmatic space jockey - sometimes questions are best left unanswered.


I love the look of Covenant - it feels closer to Alien in visual tone than any of the others. I don't really hold with David creating the aliens though.

My favourite bit of Covenant is the line "Perfect organism" that (I think) David says. It's a repeat of the line that Ash says in Alien, and it added some depth that I'd not thought about before: Ash admires the alien because he's an android and is unaffected by it. (That also makes me wonder if there's some kind of android-slave underground revolt going on - the alien would be an awesome weapon for androids seeking to overthrow their human masters. There we go, fanfic again.)

Alien: Out of the Shadows

Audible's Alien dramatizations are produced by Dirk Maggs, who has also produced Neverwhere, Anansi Boys and the recent The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy shows. So he knows what he's doing, and they are all a very pleasant listen.

Alien: Out of the Shadows is, amazingly, set between Alien and Aliens and involves Ripley battling the aliens once more. The actress who plays Ripley does a great Sigourney Weaver impression, but the best thing about it is Rutger Hauer playing the Ash personality (now downloaded into a computer).

Alien: River of Pain dramatises the fall of Hadley's Hope (on LV-426) immediately prior to the marines and Ripley arriving. There's the usual mix of colonial marines, evil company guys, and aliens (but it isn't really bringing anything new to the table).

Alien: Sea of Sorrows is set a few hundred years after Out of the Shadows and is more of the same. As enjoyable as listening to it is, it's more of the same: marines (well, mercenaries), a derelict spaceship, malevolent company-guys, and aliens.

It would be nice if they mixed it up a bit. What would a story look like if the protagonists knew how the aliens worked, instead of having to go through the old "what's with the spider-crab thing clinging to your face" routine?

Unanswered questions

Despite all these movies and audioplays (and comics and games), there are still some unanswered questions:

  • Who issued Special Order 937, and how much did they know? And what do they do when the Nostromo was destroyed?
  • Why divert the Nostromo to LV-426 instead of a proper investigation team?
  • Who switched off the derelict's warning beacon?
  • What happened to the derelict after the end of Aliens?

And yes, I have my own theories...

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