This is a fast paced, massively entertaining treat for ‘Alien’ fans, part of the ‘Audible Original’ range. It’s an audio drama production as opposed to an audio book (so different cast parts, music, sound effects) based on the novel of the same name by Tim Lebbon. You can read my review of the novel here. The Audible Original sequel ‘River of Pain’ is due soon (26/04/2017).
In terms of the story, it’s based on-board the mining ship Marion, which in the opening chapters is devastated by a collision with a shuttle. Chris Hooper, engineer, and his horrified colleagues watch on the shuttles security cameras as the surviving crew is decimated by a handful of Xenomorphs. As they watch, the pilot’s chest explodes as she births an Alien infant. The shuttle has been on planet LV178 where they have been mining Trimonite, a rare mineral harder than diamonds. There they have made the discovery which causes their deaths. The shuttle ‘Samson’ docks and it’s only a matter of time before the station itself is infested. Meanwhile, another ship hoves into view. It’s the Narcissus, and on board is one Ellen Ripley and her pet cat Jones, in hyper-sleep decades after the destruction of the Nostromo and it’s one terrifying Alien. In terms of continuity this is between the first and second films. If you are wondering how Ripley never mentions this phase of her adventure, I won’t spoil the reason, but it works better here than it did in the novel (where I think the convenience of this particular contrivance felt rather forced) because you are carried along by the faster pace and you don’t dwell on the contrivance as you may if reading. If you are asking how the Narcissus found the space station, then it’s not too much of a spoiler to say that one homicidal android from Alien chapter one has downloaded his programme /consciousness onto the Narcissus, and that consciousness has steered the Narcissus to the Marion’s distress call, which contained details of the Aliens. You see, Ash is still intent on fulfilling his ‘special order’ to bring an Alien back to Earth and the ruthless company, Weyland Yutani.
Ripley is revived and is understandably none too pleased that her nightmare on the Nostromo is not over. The stage is set for a battle between human crew, Aliens, and Ash…
The production works very well and is full of sound effects recalling the world of ‘Alien.’ The hum and beep of the computer on the Narcissus and it’s clicking of its retro keyboard, the, clanking and rumbling of industrial vessels, the hissing and chilling Alien cries. And Laurel Lefkow’s reading of Ripley made me wonder if they had Sigourney Weaver on board as I first started to listen, so accurate is she to the weary, bitter heroism of that character. The other standout is Rutger Hauer. He’s superb as Ash, distinctive from Ian Holm but still capturing the cold, ruthless analytical character of Ash, inhumanly human. And the rest of the ensemble cast complement each other well, keeping things moving at a cracking pace under the able direction of Dirk Maggs.
At 4 hours 31 minutes it compresses and follows the contours of Tim Lebbon’s novel closely. It’s a recommended listen for those who can’t wait for Alien: Covenant (or the Neil Blokaamp re-boot).