Titan Books, 7.99, ISBN 978-1783292851
Those early Alien movies – the first four, at any rate – had a formula that can be boiled down to a team of folks going down one by one – sometimes two by two – as they pit themselves against the acid-drooling double-mawed aliens called Xenomorphs and their face-hugging spawn. I’d think novels based on the setting would go a bit more out of the box than that, and for a while, James A Moore’s Alien: Sea of Sorrows seems to be something out of the norm.
Alan Decker is a deputy commissioner for the ICC, the entity that tries to keep world-governing corporations like the Weyland-Yutani Corporation in line. His latest assignment is to the planet of New Galveston, overseeing the folks in the LV178 colony to make sure that everything is done according to safety protocols and what not. The title of this book comes from the name given by the colonists to the sands that seem to contain poison.
Anyway, our hero is a slight empath – he can detect people’s emotions and hence can tell when they are lying and such – but he finds his abilities somehow amplified on this planet. He starts having visions of… the past? Of monsters with fangs and such? When he barely survives an accident, his abilities come under the radar of everyone’s favorite evil corporation, and he is soon pressed into service alongside some hired mercenaries to locate and bring back some Xenomorphs from that planet.
This story takes place over 200 years after the movie Alien, and there is also mention of Ellen Ripley’s daughter fighting Xenomorphs, so this story is also tied in to that video game Alien: Isolation. Decker is Ripley’s descendant, he has what seems like some empathic link to the Xenomorphs… and then the story turns into a standard team of folks dying one by one versus the monsters thing by its second half. All that build up in the first half… for this?
Worse, the second half seems too similar to the movies Aliens for its own good, complete with two people deciding to commit suicide by blowing themselves up instead of becoming Xenomorph chow, the expected battle against the monster just before the shuttle is able to take off, the evil corporate person and the lackey, and so forth. After all that yammering about his ability and his link to Ripley, Decker could have been any generic hero and the story wouldn’t be much different.
Ultimately, Alien: Sea of Sorrows blows itself up by abandoning whatever atmosphere it is building in its first half for a tired, generic second half that feels discomfitingly too much like Aliens. In fact, I get this feeling that the author probably isn’t even familiar with the movies, and is just working on this story from a set of notes offered by the studio. At any rate, this one feels more like fanfiction – albeit a polished one – than anything else.