Alien: Covenant – The Official Movie Novelization Review

Posted by Corporal Hicks on June 2, 2017 (Updated: 06-Oct-2023)

There are certain names that you just associate with Alien. The obvious ones being the likes of Ridley Scott, James Cameron, Sigourney Weaver, H.R Giger. However, for the fans out there who like to read the novels the names Steve Perry and Alan Dean Foster are just as intertwined with the series. For those who might not have ventured into the expanded universe, Alan Dean Foster was responsible for the novelizations of Alien, Aliens and Alien 3.

After the bad experience he’d had writing Alien 3, Alan Dean Foster turned down the opportunity to work on Alien Resurrection and hasn’t worked on an Alien novel since 1992. So when I saw he would be writing not only the novelization for Alien: Covenant but a completely original tie-in, I was pretty damn excited.

And not only because I really enjoyed his original 3 Alien novelizations but because I knew he would be approaching the novelization as not just another job, but as an Alien fan with the same concerns that many of us would have with the film. The big difference here is that Foster is in a position to do something about those concerns.

Anyone who has read my previous reviews for the film novelizations will know I can’t rate them. I think anyone who is interested in the films and enjoys reading should read these novelizations. It’s that simple as far as I’m concerned.

The differences between the films and the novels are really interesting, whether they be scenes deleted from the finished film or additions from the author, it’s just fascinating to see the differences. I even enjoyed the Alien Resurrection novelization more than I did the actual film because of the differences.

I would like to point out that I did actually enjoy Alien: Covenant. I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it either. There were elements of it that I really didn’t like and certain things in it that I was really fond of.

The novelization does exactly what I had been expecting (hoping) and it fixed many of the issues I had with the actual film. Whether that was Alan Dean Foster’s doing or elements omitted from the finished film, I found the novelization to be a better experience than the film itself.

 Alien: Covenant - The Official Movie Novelization Review

There are lots of little things I liked (such as Mother’s personality) but I’m going to focus on what I consider to be two of the bigger issues that Alien: Covenant had – the helmets and the origins of the Alien.

I think it would be safe to say that many fans considering the lack of spacesuits or helmets a source of irritation in Alien: Covenant. The novelization has Walter embark onto the surface on his own first, ahead of the crew. He performed some scans and determined that there were no pathogens or anything hazardous to the others on the planet.

This simple section, not there in the movie, served to also explain certain things later on in the novel. For example, when Ledward catches a glimpse of the motes after he disturbs the pods, he recalls what Walter said about there being nothing harmful on the surface of Planet 4. After all “there was nothing on this world to worry him. The pathology scans said so.

The other big thing I preferred in the novelization over the actual film was how the book explained the origins of the Aliens themselves. The film puts it across as if David is the creator of the Aliens. He’s not explicit as to how he does it but it sounds very much like he played a very large part in their creation.

In the novelization the Aliens are something that the Engineers left behind. The novel describes the corpses of what seem to be a bestiary of more traditional looking Alien (in addition to the Neomorphs) already on display in David’s laboratory. David also shows off an Alien egg, explaining that it was an example of the Engineer’s “hubris.”

Addressing another issue I had with the film, the novel would also go on to mention that the Aliens we see birth later on where tinkered with by David, resulting in a more accelerated growth rate – “An advanced model possessed of a wildly accelerated rate of growth.

As a fan, I really appreciated and preferred that difference to the film. It served to maintain a lot of the mystique that made the Alien so intriguing. It maintained that ancient god-like nature that Dan O’Bannon would likely have preferred, over the Alien’s being a creation of man’s own creation.

While I appreciate some of the themes and irony that Ridley Scott may have been aiming for with that, I also felt like it really closed in the Alien universe and removed a lot of the allure that I found in the Alien creatures and their background as generally featured.

 Alien: Covenant - The Official Movie Novelization Review

In additional to those big differences, Alan Dean Foster’s novelization also featured a lot of other differences as you would expect from a film novelization. Usually of interest to most people are the apparent deleted scenes!

The novelization featured the missing scene with Branson and Daniels on Earth, discussing their log cabin. We also had mention of the cannabis that was reportedly being used for the film but never appeared. And, of course, the novel also includes a clash between a Neomorph and Xenomorph.

Though completely absent from the film, earlier test screenings featured a scene where both creatures attacked the main characters from opposite angles, but the novelization features a sequence where both creatures attack each other instead of the surviving crew of the Covenant. It was interesting to see the two variations of the same form attacking each other!

There were also numerous differences with the characters. Oram is more antagonistic towards David, furthering the synthetics attitudes towards his creators. Mother has distinctively more personality each on the novel between her and David. Upworth has a much more straight attitude than is portrayed in the film.

Unfortunately, there were things that I would have liked to have seen addressed that are absent from the novel. There is no mention of the flashback sequence where David bombs the Engineers and there was no attempts to really delve into David’s change in motivations between Prometheus and Alien: Covenant.

This may be because Alan Dean Foster is likely to explore that time frame in his next novel, Alien: Covenant – Origins. After how much I enjoyed reading this novelization, I can say I’m really looking forward to seeing what Alan Dean Foster has to offer me next. It was such a treat to read a new piece of Alien fiction from Alan Dean Foster.

Also returning with the Alien: Covenant novelization is Alan Dean Foster’s thoughtful and often poetic narrative style. Something I used find a little jarring about his style was the switch between character perspective and it returns here but those familiar with Foster’s style will be fine. Those who aren’t may find themselves re-reading a few sections.

As with all the other novelizations, I wholly recommend picking this up. Those who enjoyed the movie will enjoy the differences and those like me, who had issues with the film, may find Alan Dean Foster’s novelization a better experience!

Alien: Covenant – The Official Movie Novelization is available to order from all the usual book places. It is also available from Amazon (UK and US).

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Comments: 19
  1. i hope like prometheus (cut/extended/edited) scenes, they include these on covenant
    also, i still cant go back and see prometheus in its theatrical form anymore, i always watch the mentioned scenes because although short, they add a lot to the film, , and i hope, there are scenes that do the same for covenant, specially if they address the same issues as the novelization

  2. ok this actually fixes not only covenant but also promethus, as david could have done the same as walter being originaly well, the same model, so probably programed similar, and thus explaining the biggest plothole in prometheus, WHY DID THEY TAKE OFF THEIR HELMETS ALTHOUGH BEING PROFESSIONAL SCIENTISTS

  3. I can pretty much handle most of the things wrong with the film, but the only thing I absolutely can’t accept is that David is the creator of the Xenomorphs. That really screws over the cannons on a lot of other stories made since the original Alien movie. Though they are 3rd party a lot of the stuff is pretty good. Ridley Scott’s claim to fame is that he made the first Alien movie but he’s been absent from the Alien scene for 38 years(baring Prometheus). I wish Ridley should have kept to the novelization a little tighter particularly on that subject, just so it leaves it open enough for development from other people.

  4. ADF is one of he best Movie Novelists out there. Glad he was able to work his magic on Covenant.

    Really wish we could read his earlier attempt at Alien 3 before he was told “Stick to the script” lol

  5. Well movie dont had only those two problems,third act was very rushed,Walter and David flute scene was dumb,their fight was dumb,movie was predictable as hell.Characters were boring and dull,and were dying so fast that you dont even cared.

    Good that book fixed some stuff but its a book,its a shame movie was medicore at best.

  6. I just finished reading the book this morning, and wholly agree with Hick’s review :)
    It’s an amazing book, and I highly recommend it for those who find the movie’s lack of explanations of the characters motivations aggravating. The book does put most of the issues with the logic to rest.

    Some parts that are still unaddressed would be questions like was that planet the Engineers’ home world?

    Why did the mutaphage cause the humans to develop neomorphs, but the engineers just seem to petrify where they stand? In the movie we can see that their bodies do start to melt and warp ala The Thing style, but shouldn’t we expect all the hosts to have neomorphs appearing everywhere?

    Also, in the sequence where the second facehugger was attacking the Sgt, it was written that Lope got an arm between the tube and his mouth, so there was no impregnation taking place at all. Thus, how did the alien that burst out of him on the ship came about? Did David/Wathers slip him something while on board? In that case, why not slip all the memebers something? He still had 3 mini eggs at the end.

    And unfortunately, the family dynamics emotion issue is still lacking. I still found myself asking around the middle of the book who was whose spouse, especially the ‘soldiers’ contingent, as there was only 1 female but 5 guys. Did that mean there were 2 gay couples among the security team? None of the team besides the Sgt seemed to have any emotion about their other halves buying the farm, so it was really hard to tell and kinda degraded the whole ‘ship made up of couples to generate emotional tension’ concept, even in novel form. It seems likely that the original script just didn’t bother with it beyond the more prominent characters, and no one caught on.

    Possibly we can find the answers to the engineer questions in the tie in novel, so I’m looking forward to that.

  7. The alien being an ancient creature might be more intriguing to you but thematically it’s boring; David’s arc is powerful precisely due to the paradoxes of his programming, his disappointments in his mortal creators and his creators creators, thus him making an organism that is pure and personifies all that was denied to him – sex and death – is powerful and provocative. Besides, the neomorph (and Deacon variant) would have arisen via exceptional mutations on certain worlds before so the species’ phylogeny is still ancient. Why would the engineers want to wipe out man with such a specifically sadistic killing machine when they could just disperse the pathogen? Exactly, David creating it and perfecting it as we know it (well, almost there…) is a capability exclusive to him as a synthetic, there’s no way the engineers would have been as capable over years without getting infected. Since this xeno and life cycle is before the biomechanical xeno (confirmed by Odd Studios, btw) and thus by extension its life cycle, they can make subtle deviations as they see fit.

  8. It was a good read-read it in an afternoon at the park!My fave ADF has to be Splinter of The Mind’s Eye,which I loved as a kid!The Art is anice companion piece to The Alien Day cards they handed out in theater.Nice touch dedicating the novelization to Dan O’ Bannon&rRon Shusett who started all this!!:)

  9. There is a scene when someone (I think maybe Amy Siemetz’s character) does mention the planet was scanned for pathogens and viruses before the crew embarks on the planet side journey,

  10. It’s a great companion to the film. I know some people are saying we shouldn’t have to rely on a novel to explain unanswered questions from the film, but I actually really like this approach, offering a little bit more to every scene. Looking forward to going back and reading his other tie-ins.

  11. Great to hear! I will definitely read the book. Maybe Mr. Foster should have been the writer for Alien Covenant and Prometheus. He seems to be more involved and understanding of this universe, not to mention being a fan. It is possible that, due to Alien Covenant under performing at the box office, Alan may conclude David’s story in a novel.

  12. Picked this novel up the same day I saw the movie and read it right after, I felt ADF really expanded on the issues people had with the film. It’s a shame most will pass over the novel and never get the finer details of the story.

  13. I liked the explanations on certain things: How the mutes were not detected because they had not been dispersed yet. David also had the ability to heal and it goes into some detail how Walter’s hand was starting to heal. Although, I thought that it did heal in the movie. It just healed as a stub since the substance that makes up the “bone” so to speak would not be regenerating since it was not collagen based tissue. I also do not believe the neomorph’s blood is acidic. It simply bit off Walters hand. There were many more detailed explanations on little tings.

    Some other notable differences in the book:
    Pictures found of Shaw did not contain mutilated jaw, but tubes going into her nose ad head.
    David opens an egg containing a dead face hugger in front of Oram in the lab. Oram peers inside after David says its perfectly safe. Then later Oram is tricked by looking into a live egg. Still pretty dumb to me.
    Shaws “fake remains” were in an urn, rather than a carved grave stone. Liked that better
    Xeno could take bullets without exploding, especially in the skull – the dome did not explode like in the awful Alien Resurrection. Which also shows the power of the pulse rifles since those guns just ripped through Aliens.
    No colonists died from the neutrino burst.

    The Juggernaught crash. Don’t remember it being explained in the book either.
    I just assume that Walter purposefully had to land/crash further away from the necropolis since he did not want to subject Shaw to the black goo. He wanted to preserve her for experimentation on his own. Though I guess he could have just landed on flat terrain. I mean the Juggernaughts were landed flat in Prometheus, unless they were built there in the temples.

    Just to be fair, I think Ridley changed some things that are actually better in the movie. There are some contradictions in the book as well. I don’t want to ruin too much so just read it and form your own opinion. But one example would be the David/Daniels altercation. Danny’s back is described as nearly broken, yet she is able to get up later and fight. Another would be where Lope gets up with his gun and runs away from Cole and the Alien. Wouldn’t he have just shot the Alien right there?? He hadn’t run out of ammo up to that point. In the movie, didn’t he drop his gun and then run in panic (and pain) when he got facehugged? Also during the Xeno/Neo face off, when Danny and Lope are pinned between the two creatures, they could have just shot them there. Though they may have run out of ammo..I vaguely remember the mention of that.

  14. Tell me more about this Xeno vs Neomorph fight?

    Never really saw the problem with the things you had an issue with. The lack of helmets – kinda obvious they scanned the surface before they came down to the planet. And obviously, these creatures were just one strain that David had created.

  15. Sounds great, unfortunately the text of the film itself is the word of god, as it were. I doubt that future franchise directions will be dictated by a tie-in novel, no matter how good it may be.

  16. I’ll admit it: I pumped my fist in the air when I read the bit about the origin of the Alien. Hopefully Ridley Scott won’t (further) undermine it with his subsequent films…

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