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Review: Alien – Out of the Shadows / Author: Tim Lebbon / Publisher: Titan / Release Date: Out Now

The Alien prequel that isn’t Prometheus. The first in a brand new trilogy of novels set in the Alien universe, Tim Lebbon’s Out of the Shadows bridges the gap between Alien and Aliens, with poor Ripley waking up to yet more Xenomorph terror aboard a crashing ship in a decaying orbit above an alien planet.

Did the gap between Alien and Aliens really need bridging? Not really, but Lebbon does it well enough. As the crew aboard a mining ship happen upon both the eponymous aliens and Ellen Ripley, the stage is set for an entertaining return to the Alien universe. With the action skipping from industrial space ships to dusty, alien-infested planets, Lebbon certainly gets the tone and atmosphere right. He handles both the action and the horror well enough, with engineer Hooper emerging as a sympathetic, likeable lead character. The supporting characters are well drawn too; basic archetypes, but easy to like – much like the crew of Alien and the marines of Aliens. Indeed, Ripley’s inclusion is the odd one out, her presence acting like a walking, talking spoiler to the novel’s denouement. We know how Alien ended and how Aliens begins, so there’s always a sense of Out of the Shadows having to work towards a very specific endgame.

Which is a shame, because it tells an otherwise excellent story - marrying the atmosphere of the first film with the action of its sequels – somewhere between the underrated Alien 3 and Resurrection in terms of quality. Like the latter, its unwillingness to let Ripley go is to the story’s detriment (with Hoop’s crush on Ripley coming across as particularly unnecessary) but Lebbon writes her well enough. It’s exciting, tense and makes for very easy reading. The alien attacks are impressively gory, the futuristic world of Alien well-rendered and descriptive.

In spite of its flaws, Out of the Shadows is a fine addition to the Alien mythos. With Prometheus taking the franchise away in a different direction, Out of the Shadows keeps the old one afloat. With two sequels quickly inbound, this is one tie-in to keep an eye on.

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