Tim Lebbon’s Alien: Out of the Shadows was originally a 2014 printed novel within the alien chronology, the first of a collaborative trilogy with two other authors writing books two and three. The book was re-released by Audible Studios on April 26, 2016 as a full-cast audio drama. No word has yet been made about adapting the other books in the trilogy, Sea of Sorrows and River of Pain for audio drama.
Although Alien: Out of the Shadows skirts the events of the films quite finely, you can still believably insert this into its chronological place between Alien and Aliens, and it surprisingly adds quite a bit to the known tale. The story revolves around a mining ship coming in contact with the alien specimens, and somehow bringing several onboard their ship above the planet LV-178’s orbit. Well, as we’ve seen time and again, the xenomorphs are uncanny foes, and things won’t go so well for the miners aboard the ship Marion.
Only 37 years into Ellen Ripley’s slumber, and 20 years prior to the events in the second film, her ship docks to the side of the Marion, and together with the crew she must try and find a way out of there. Ash, the evil android from the first film, has uploaded his consciousness to the Narcissus (Ripley’s escape shuttle). He is bent on retrieving one of the xenomorph specimens to bring back to Weyland-Yutani Corp, essentially pitting their ships against them.
Much of the book is spent with Ash sending audio reports to Weyland-Yutani about the whereabouts of the Marion crew and how he plans to set the stage for them to bring the alien back to earth. In an audio drama format this works, but only to an extent. Because it’s a far more condensed storytelling medium than an actual novel or audiobook, it sometimes feels like Ash’s reports come too frequently, often having very little new material to update. Besides this though, Ash was handled incredibly well, and the character was creepier than he’s ever been.
From the very start of the audio drama I was worried this wouldn’t tie in with Aliens, the sequel film, very well, because in that Ripley has no recollection of the events of this book. Well, rest assured, all is answered. Conveniently, if not satisfactorily.
The cast they chose was brilliant, especially Laurel Lefkow, who’s Ellen Ripley honestly sounded exactly like Sigourney Weaver’s to me. Well done all around.
The mixing, too, was chilling. Although you lose much of the horror thrill that the films provide, you gain much in adventure thrill, with a side of creepy. One issue I had with the mix was around the 22 minute mark, where the music peaked extremely loud for 10 seconds, muting something the actors were saying.
For a production that lasts longer than 4 hours, it felt like just the right amount of time to spend on this project. I recommend the audio drama to anyone interested in spending more time with Ripley and learning what she did between the first and second film. It’s mostly handled very well, and though some characters fall flat, it’s a highly entertaining ride.