I would not have picked this up if not for the freebie being offered by Audible during its 20th Anniversary celebration a few months ago, not even being aware that there are also official canonical novels in this science fiction horror franchise.
If you have never watched the movies before, please note that there will be spoilers for the first film, i.e. Alien.
In my opinion, the second film, Aliens, was one of the best sequels in the history of movie-making. I have less favourable views on the subsequent movies and the prequel series. In the sequel, sole survivor Ellen Ripley was rescued after 57 years in stasis and drifting in space onboard the Nostromo. This novel, Alien: Out of the Shadows, bridges the gap between the first two movies.
The story commences with the Marion, a mining space vessel, orbiting planet LV178 where humans have discovered trimonite, the hardest material known to man. It would not be a spoiler, nor a surprise to learn that the miners stumbled upon a nest of Xenomorphs on the planet and the waking nightmare ensued after a dropship carrying frantic and terrified miners crashed into the main vessel. While the crew on the Marion remained relatively safe for the moment, their distress signal was picked up by the Nostromo in which Ripley had been drifting in deep space under stasis.
The new characters are all likeable, and their friendship and loyalty to one another feel genuine and compelling - especially when performed by a great cast of voice actors. And I swear that Laurel Lefkow sounds so much like Sigourney Weaver that I initially thought Audible managed to get the talented actress to lend her voice - her portrayal of Ripley was spot on!
The two highlights in this story for me are the two familiar and fascinating characters from Alien. Firstly, we have Ellen Ripley who was my childhood hero and probably the most significant character in challenging gender roles in science fiction and action movies back in those days. And then, there is the return of Ash and the android's long endgame towards the goal of fulfilling Special Order 937 of Weyland-Yutani Corporation.
This Audible Original Drama version of the book is a worthy winner of the 2017 APA Audie Awards for Excellence in Production. All the sound effects from the ship's instrumentation and computers to the hair-raising hisses and screams of the Xenomorphs and an atmospheric soundtrack truly lends a most immersive experience and palpable tension to the story. Even though I was only listening to the book, I literally cringed during some of the more violent and gory moments. I sincerely doubt that reading the novel itself will be even half as thrilling. Lebbon's prose has been stripped away - as a dramatisation; there is zero narration. While I've not read any of his books, I gathered from a few other reviews that one would not sorely miss the narrative if one chooses this dramatic version instead.
After being disappointed with the movies following Aliens and the prequel series, I am pleased to discover this great cinematic audio production of film canon material of one my old favourites. Recommended, especially for fans of the franchise