Tuesday, 6 October 2015


Alan Dean Foster Alien (1979)
Supposedly one of the best novelisations of a film, and I've been warming to Alan Dean Foster of late, and Alien is a great film so here I am. This one certainly reads more like a novel than Foster's somewhat clunky Star Wars tie-in Splinter of the Mind's Eye. Reviews promised some elaboration and expansion on the original story, but aside from reinstating a scene near the end in which Ripley encounters a cocooned Dallas, Foster thankfully stuck to the script for the most part. That deleted final scene in which Ripley realises it was all a dream and then goes out to post a letter without noticing that she is being followed by three sinister figures in a transit van, her xenomorphic nemesis having teamed up with Dracula and Adolf Hitler - well, you won't find that one here either.

Alien was never what you would call a deep film but it was done exceptionally well, which was sort of the point, playing to director Ridley Scott's strengths, none of which were really in the thinky-brain-stuff department - and I've just noticed that not only is he the man who brought us the Hovis advert, but he almost designed the Daleks. Anyway, Foster's adaptation doesn't really add much in the way of depth, but nevertheless achieves an approximation of the suspense, despite it seeming quite a slow read in places. I suspect the pace is something to do with the grammar which alternates unpredictably between flourishes of poetry and weird patches of word not quite all good or to add up, such as are when Ripley for to confront Ash of the science officer, like thus:

But she couldn't still the suspicions. She almost wished Ash would get mad at her.

'You also managed to forget the science division's own basic quarantine law, something that's drilled into every ship's officer early in flight school.'

'No.' At last, she thought. A statement she could believe. 'That I didn't forget.'

'I see. You didn't forget.' She paused for emphasis. 'You just went ahead and broke it.'

I mean it's not terrible, but you really have to keep your eye on the ball in order to keep track of who is saying what, and as for:

A statement she could believe.

Just how did that get to be its own sentence? This sort of thing reoccurs throughout, so maybe that's just how Alan Dean Foster writes, but reading it can be a little like walking with your shoes on the wrong feet in places. Still, it's not a great book but is at least a decent book which is more than I expected, although I suppose there's a limit to how good an adaptation such as this can be given that it made me want to watch the film again. I can't tell if that's a recommendation or not.

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