Author Pat Cadigan takes William Gibson’s original script for Alien 3 and transforms it into a white knuckle thriller ride of a novel that gives us a glimpse at what could have been in the Alien film series. Fans know the convoluted story of how Alien 3 came to the screen, and that were countless iterations of scripts that wanted to continue the story of Ripley, the xenomorph, and the universe in which they existed.
And while I’ve grown to be a fan of Fincher’s workprint edition of Alien 3, I still find myself angry over how things played out for the characters of Hicks and Newt, especially after all they went through in Aliens. This story lets us see what could have happened.
Tonally in line with the preceding film, the story also expands on the xenomorphs, still keeping them drenched in mystery and horror, but showing that they develop on the macro and micro level to the world around them.
The Sulaco, after the events of Aliens drifts through space in a course back towards Gateway station, but passes through the territory of a competing government, who come aboard the craft to investigate it, and have a dangerous encounter with a couple of stowaways. They also remove the synthetic person, Bishop, to investigate his records to learn what happened, before letting the ship continue on its way.
When the Sulaco arrives at Anchorpoint, Ripley is hospitalised and eventually sent homeward bound, with Newt on her way shortly after, but Hicks remains aboard, eventually joined by Bishop after he is returned by the opposing government.
But both government stations are infected with a new breed of xenomorph (because The Company never learns) as the being continues to adapt to its environments and kills without mercy.
There are action beats aplenty, and the film feels like a cross between Aliens, and Resurrection, as Hicks leads a group of survivors through Anchorpoint station, hoping to find an escape route before the whole place blows.
The story bounces between the two stations, and we meet a variety of characters, and learn some horrifying things about the alien. This version feels like it could tie in with the films that come after it, even with some adaptation, Fincher’s film, and even the newer films where we learn a little bit more about the creature’s origins.
But the novel seems intent on taking the best ideas of the first two films, the body horror, the fights, the terror of the creature itself, and just amps the tension up as the Hicks and Bishop once again find themselves fighting to survive, while Ripley and Newt are out there, continuing a transit home, which could be interrupted.
The story ends setting things up for the next story in the series, which seems to have been seeking out the aliens’ origin point, and wiping them out.
It’s a great ride, and a really fascinating posit of what could have been.