BOOK REVIEW: ALIEN – SEA OF SORROWS / AUTHOR: JAMES A. MOORE / PUBLISHER: TITAN BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
The second in the new trilogy of books continuing the Alien mythos, Sea of Sorrows takes things in a fresh direction. In the far future, long after the events of the films, the Weyland-Yutani Corporation persists in its efforts to colonise new worlds. On the planet LV178, an accident brings Alan Decker into contact with the creatures that killed his ancestor during humanity’s first encounter. Strong-armed into accompanying a team of mercenaries to a forgotten dig site, he soon discovers that he has a far more personal connection with these monsters than he ever imagined.
The story’s biggest strength by far is its characterisation of the xenomorphs. Writing in a very crisp and detailed manner, Moore approaches them in exactly the right way. He creates a very otherworldly feeling around them, distancing them from the tropes that have made them seem overly familiar in recent times. He offers just enough to make sure the reader knows what is going on, but at the same time leaves much to the imagination. It’s easily one of the scariest depictions of the xenomorphs in decades, and helps the book significantly.
Unfortunately Sea of Sorrows lets itself down in other regards. It regurgitates a fair number of scenes from Aliens, and many human characters serve only as cannon fodder. It’s hard to develop any attachment to such stock figures. We get to see things from the xenomorphs' own point of view, and while this is an effective storytelling tool at first, it rapidly opens up a vast number of plot holes and issues. Chief among these is that the xenomorphs are dominated by a universal consciousness, and that they consider Ripley (and anyone associated with her) to be the arch-foe of all their kind despite her only destroying a single hive.
While the novel tries to put a new spin on things, it proves in the end to be very hit or miss. It's certainly worth a read, but it’s more interesting for its concepts and ideas than in its execution. Pick it up if you’re a fan of Alien, but don’t expect to reread it too many times.