In 1979, science fiction and horror were brought together in director Ridley Scott’s classic film Alien. The film follows the crew of a space cargo-ship, the Nostromo, who land on a hostile planet in response to a faint SOS only to discover an abandoned ship with a hideous alien. Alien inspired three movie sequels, and now Aliens: Original Sin expands further on this classic story, bringing back classic characters like Ripley 8, the clone of Lt. Ellen Ripley, and Call, an android. It also sorts out unanswered questions from the movies and raises entirely new ones. Was it just coincidence that the Nostromo happened to pass by the desolate planet? Why was the alien on the crashed ship in the first place?
Beware this review contains some significant spoilers regarding Original Sin.
Original Sin was the debut novel for Dark Horse’s last series of Aliens novels and funnily enough it is the last one I have gotten around to reading. Since its release, Michael Jan Friedman’s Original Sin has been poorly received by the fanbase. Needless to say, I didn’t go into it with high expectations.
It certainly was not as terrible as I had been led to believe. However, it also wasn’t without its flaws. My biggest issue with the novel is Friedman’s portrayal of Ripley. While I was reading, I was constantly reminded of something David Giler said about the way Larry Ferguson wrote Ripley in one of the various Alien 3 drafts: She sounded like a “pissed off gym instructor”.
It seemed like Friedman was trying to write Ripley as she was portrayed early on in Alien Resurrection. She was short, she was harsh. There was none of the satirical jokes and protective traits that she eventually developed throughout the course of the movie. I did enjoy some of Ripley’s introspective. They offered a brilliant insight into how Ripley 8 perceived herself.
Most of Friedman’s original characters shone through – particularly Philipakos, the botanist in charge of the Domes, he was wonderful character. Friedman did a fantastic job portraying him as the thoughtful and caring leader. You could really believe in him as you progressed through the novel. The relationship amongst the entire crew of botanists was established in a very nice manner. The way Friedman wrote them, you could genuinely believe these people had been together so many years and developed in a family unit.
This was something he also included in the dynamic of the motley crew of the Betty. While these people might not have received the development of attention that the botanists did, the relationship between them and their devotion to Ripley really helped move the earlier segments of Original Sin along. I especially enjoyed the few moments we had inside Johner’s head where we got to see his trust for Ripley.
At the very end of the novel Call was given some great moments that could have blossomed nicely if the storyline had been continued. Unfortunately, we didn’t get too much of a chance to learn about the old crew or the new crew. We had some very minor details regarding their inner-relationships that did help deepen the universe following Resurrection and make it feel like the crew had been going somewhere. I do regret we didn’t get more from the crew though.
The second problem with Original Sin is that Friedman falls into the classic trap, which almost all Alien authors do: Over-the-top-syndrome. What we’re given in Original Sin are Aliens that have a slightly different colour and a head far larger than any other incarnation. As well as that, this breed of the Aliens has face-huggers that are capable of birthing more than ten chest-bursters. It makes the Strause Brother’s multiple birthings look sensible in comparison.
Now the ridiculous amount of Aliens coming from one hugger actually makes sense when taken in conjunction with the final reveal of the novel. Doesn’t stop the reveal and the underlying plot and secret being similarly daft, however.
Original Sin reveals that the Earth governments were aware of the Aliens all along. A shadow organization known as Loki was set up to deal with the Aliens and also negotiate with the Space Jockeys, known in the novel as Mala’kak. Loki trade humans for Aliens as the Mala’kak want humans as hosts for the Aliens.
You see, the Mala’kak are dying and they’re researching the Aliens. The Mala’kak can no longer reproduce and since the Aliens are an “extremely fertile species”, they believe the Aliens hold the key. Now unless it was addressed in the novel and I missed it, the existence of this organization and the deals between them and the Jockeys negate the need for the events of Alien Resurrection.
Fortunately, this aspect of the novel isn’t overplayed. We see agents of Loki for one chapter in the novel and we don’t see any Mala’kak at all. The majority of the novel revolves around Ripley’s desire to stop the transactions between the two factions and to save the inhabitants of the Dome; In her own badass way, of course.
Now while I certainly didn’t think the novel was as bad as it was made out to be, I still find Original Sin to be flawed in that Friedman fell for the original trap of trying to do too much and in the resulting going far too left field for my liking. He certainly showed us with Flesh and Blood he can write an amazing novel and it did indeed shine through in many of his characters.
It’s a shame not much time was taken to develop everyone in Original Sin and that his Ripley seemed to revert to an earlier evolution of her character. From Corporal Hicks here at AvPGalaxy, I think Original Sin is deserving of a 2 out of 5.