Book Review: The Alien Vault

PrintE-mail Written by Phil Beresford

Review: The Alien Vault / Author: Ian Nathan / Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd / Format: Hardcover / Release date: Out now

I was initially in two minds as to how best to convey my adoration for this book. I thought should I be all conventional and write a review or instead record my initial reaction and post a link to the sound file online? Although the latter would perhaps more accurately convey my true feelings regarding The Alien Vault, I have no doubt that my sighs of ecstasy and moans of delight would ultimately have been deemed too obscene for Starburst to risk any association with them. In which case, you'll just have to read my words.

Ian Nathan’s book is about as definitive an account of the making of Ridley Scott’s film as you could hope to find. Tracking its genesis from a formulaic B-movie picture to one of the most innovative and artistic Science Fiction films of all time, the book includes interviews with all the major players and includes a wealth of visual reproductions that would satiate the most die-hard of fans.

The first time you pick the book up and gently tease it out of its sturdy protective slipcase you may well spend the next hour or so just poring over the pages and being delighted by things like the see through wallets that crop up at regular intervals, in which are stored reproductions of Scott’s original storyboards, poster art and HR Giger artwork.

Then there are the beautifully reproduced photos that often cover a whole page, images that capture moments both during filming and away from the cameras. Unlike many books of this kind the pictures are arranged in such a way that they usually have relevance to the text that accompanies them nearby. Also, there are little gems of visual information to be found here, including some very early creature designs that show just how different this film might have turned out had Giger not been brought on board to create the monster’s memorable look.

However, the real joy of the book is in the text and although many fans will be aware of much of it from elsewhere, it’s good to see it all put together in one tome. Nathan writes with the love and enthusiasm of a true fan and has done an excellent job of highlighting some of those curious instances of coincidence and good fortune that always seem to be prevalent when great works of cinema are created. His enthusiasm is also incredibly persuasive when it comes to convincing the reader that Alien should be seen as the defining Science Fiction film of the 70s.

All in all then a simply gorgeous book full of gorgeous words and gorgeous photos. Buy it, put it on your bookshelf in the sort of position that means it’s easily accessible to you but can be readily pushed back into the shadows when annoyingly curious friends come round thumbing through your book shelves with their crisp-greased figures. Because in an age when readers are encouraged to see books less as objects and more as digital downloads, here is a book that not only delivers in terms of the information that it contains but also in terms of how joyous it is to pick it up and open it.

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