So I made it a goal to read a bunch of Alien novels. A friend of mine is working at a conference this winter that's going to host Alan Dean Foster, so I wanted to read his novelizations and mail them to my pal to get autographed. I also thought, what the hell, since Brian Evenson wrote No Exit and is mostly known as a literary writer, I'd read that as well. I'm a creative writing student and I'm pretty sure I've had faculty that know him personally. Then I thought, fine I'll read all of the original novels and the three novelizations. I'll just come back here to post my two-cents on everything (since the only Alien books I've read so far are AvP: Prey and Original Sin) as I go through. You can chime in or throw rocks at me, or whatever. I'm not planning on reading the comic adaptations unless people recommend them. I'm more interested in the original stories outside the novelizations. Anyway, I've only gotten through 2 so far:
Alien - 3/5
I'd call this, to say the least, an "interesting" read. I don't really read a lot of sci-fi books, so if this is a good reference point as to the style of writing that permeates the genre, I can't say I'm all that interested to continue. Not that it was "bad" bad, but there are definitely a lot of loose adverbs floating around and the dialogue was just plain bad in many cases. A lot of telling writing, versus showing, which is what any instructor will harp on in a workshop. I'll cut Foster some slack because obviously he hadn't seen the movie or really been able to capture any of the characters from prior knowledge, unless he saw some dailies (which I doubt but I'm not sure) in which case there's no excuse. Parker in this novel is completely different from his film counterpart in a really awkward way I found. But obviously, seeing the film first, I'm biased. But I think I'm entitled to be since this is a novelization and not an original work.
I also had kind of a problem with focalization constantly changing from character to character, multiple times on a page even. Keeping a chapter from one character's point of view and shortening the chapters would've worked a lot better I think. Also, just the dialogue in general, Jesus. So much of the dialogue is really clunky and unwieldy and thank God the movie exists or I'd go crazy.
Overall it's a decent read I think, really insightful and kind of a cool alternate take on the story. After nearly 20 years spent watching Alien it's cool to get sort of a new perspective on the tale and it was worth spending a day off work reading. I'm studying a lot of literary work right now, so I'm pretty picky when it comes to the actual prose, and this seemed really rushed. It makes sense because it was an assignment sort of thing with a strict deadline.
Original Sin - 2/5
I took the weekend to re-read this, first time since 2005 and since Prometheus and whatnot. Again, pretty bland writing. Dialogue is really wishy-washy, no real swearing or anything which is baffling with the inclusion of Johner. Like this is a book based off of a young adult film series, marketed to teenagers. There were some moments where I could picture Ron Perlman in makeup saying the lines, and a lot of moments I couldn't. Same with Call. Vriess was almost completely useless and there were characters like Rama and Krakke who were totally unnecessary and taking up space that could have been devoted to building on the already established characters. Also, there was absolutely no reason to include so many botonist, scientist characters. They just became names. I'm thinking, oh great here's this guy Seigo who I know nothing about after 30 pages of him being introduced. Oh, here's Hendricks, a woman who's only description and interiority points to her being a ditz, which doesn't explain any reason for her to be around.
The story itself: stupid. What are there, like 5 cumulative pages of explaining the Alien mythos and tying up loose ends? I would use the term wishy-washy again just to describe the book overall. There's nothing edgy about it. It's a really safe story. Also, the aliens themselves are barely in it at all, and when they are there's nothing interesting going on. It seemed like a gimmick to have these space forest locations, but they don't seem fully realized or described. Friedman was not putting me in a place effectively at all. If you hadn't seen Resurrection before reading this, you'd have a hard time being able to physically picture anyone I think, or the Betty's appearance. On the aliens again, the only place they appear is in the forests, which is such a waste. The majority of the book places other forces at the forefront of being a threat to the characters. The shadow organization, etc. Remember that 10 or so minute timespan (or it seemed like 10 minutes) in the Alien 3 assembly where the alien is trapped and there's 3 or 4 consecutive scenes of just characters talking? It's dumb, boring, not scary, not suspenseful. When you've got a novel with ALIENS printed on the front in big, yellow letters, you need to give me ALIENS. The characters didn't even seem that afraid of the aliens. Ripley's like, "Oh here we go again," which is funny because that's what Weaver was always saying in interviews is the instinct to write her as, except by people like Cameron, Giler, and Hill. If the characters are bored, I'm guaranteed to be bored. It doesn't capture the spirit of the best films in the series, or even the best moments in the not-best films. Just really weak and boring as a book. I mean it was actively uninteresting to me, not just passively boring. It was like the book tried to not do anything character or setting wise to interest a reader who is a fan of the films. Mala'kak I believe is what the now-engineers were referred to as. Great, formulaic way to make up a name for an alien species. Think of two one-syllable made up words and put an apostrophe between them. Well done.
If Michael Jan Friedman is a fan of the films, he either had his hands tied by Fox in telling this story, or he just has no idea how to show his enthusiasm for the series.