Wednesday, September 24, 2014

ALIEN & ALIENS - 1993 Unofficial Novelization Review

Alright, the moment has finally come! For all my fellow ALIEN fans, here is an awesome collector's artifact that I happen to own.

ALIENS Book - Scans Collage by EinhanderZwei on deviantART

This is the unofficial novelization of ALIEN and ALIENS (or, as it's labeled, 'Volume I'), written and published in 1993 by a Russian author, Gleb Kireyev (under the pen name 'Alex Revenge'). Here is the annotation:

'We present you - for the first time ever in Russian - a series of novelizations of the sci-fi super bestseller franchise, ALIEN. Those who have seen the original ALIEN and ALIENS movies are already familiar with what is Volume I about.
However, Volume II of our book series contains the third and FOURTH installments of this space epic. Awaiting for you are the return of your favorite characters, edgy plotline, brutal action scenes and a lot of twists...
Warning: this book is not for the squeamish.'

Sadly, I don't have Volume II, but just think about it: the 'novelization' of the fourth movie is published in 1993, but the actual fourth movie comes out in 1997. So yeah, half of the annotation is a complete lie:
  • It actually exists ONLY in Russian;
  • this is actually not a direct novelization as is, but more like a retelling + fan fiction - more on this below.

Also, it is based on the theatrical versions of both movies, so some of the now-well-known additional scenes are completely omitted. However, there is a lot of interesting differences, too! Here are some:
  • Some characters have been renamed. Dwayne Hicks is now Edward Higs, Carter Burke is now Carter Burt (and on one occasion, Jake Arthur Burt), Kane's first name is Aegis, Vasquez is now Vesqui (?), and so on;
  • for some reason, LV-426 is renamed to LB-426, as well as 'Nostromo' is renamed to 'Nostroma', and 'Sulaco' is never mentioned by name;
  • Dietrich is male;
  • Some characters' personalities were altered, too. Ash and Bishop were made more 'human-like', while Hudson became an even whinier bitch than in the movie, and Hicks/Higs now likes telling bad jokes and one-liners;
  • Weyland-Yutani name is never given, everyone including the author refers to it as 'the Company' (though to be fair, this is consistent with the movies);
  • Some of the characters' bios were either altered or actually created from scratch - for example, it is revealed that Hicks/Higs and Hudson were friends since the Colonial Marines academy, and knowing how obnoxious Hudson is, Hicks/Higs swore to always protect him;
  • Several chapters are written from the first-person perspective, and not only Ripley's. There are even a couple of chapters actually written from the Aliens' point of view!
  • Also, in this version, the Aliens are capable of telepathy - for example, in the first book, the Xenomorph speaks telepathically to Brett and Dallas before killing them, and this is where we learn their backstories;
  • The Aliens' appearance is described differently than in the movies - for example, the author insists they have tentacles, even though they never did;
  • The romantic plotlines are not as subtle as in the movies: the book directly ships Ripley and Dallas, Drake and Vasquez, and Ripley and Hicks;
  • Some of the dialogue is rewritten, some lines are shifted between characters, some jokes are written from scratch;
  • There's a couple chapters describing Ripley's dream sequences;
  • The author had even managed to insert some memorable lines of his own - for example, both books end with '...the Earth was waiting for them' line;
  • ...and much much more!

It's like a fan edit that expands the movies' universe and sort of turns into Mr Kireyev's own franchise. It's actually very well written, and because of the differences above, extremely interesting to read. It's really evident that the author not only liked, but also understood the movies - even though ALIEN is not treated as a rape metaphor, and ALIENS is not treated as a Vietnam metaphor, the author instead concentrated on the feelings of fear, paranoia and psychosis, as well as on the characters' inner monologue and the dark aspects of human nature.

Now, onto the collage above. Here are all the illustration scans from the book (click the pictures to zoom):

Cover art.
Front bookend - Dallas, Kane, Lambert.
Title picture for Book I: 'Sole Survivor'.
Title picture for Book II: 'Planet Of Misery'.
Dallas, Kane and Lambert again.
Marines entering the colony.
Dallas (yep, and an Alien with squid tentacles behind him).
Back bookend - I think it's Hudson, Apone and Hicks.

Maybe I'll translate all those unofficial books to English some day. Maybe some day...

Some More Bonus Trivia:
  • When my niece Ekaterina was around 10 years old, she asked me to read this book as a bedtime story for her; the movies were played very frequently on local TV, so she saw them all before anyway;
  • Similar kinds of unofficial novelizations were actually a big franchise in ex-USSR in the 90s (the time is usually referred to as 'the VHS era' over here). Large majority of popular Hollywood movies were turned into novels by often anonymous authors for profit; sometimes, different authors could even use the same pen name ('Arch Stranton', for example), and there was even a whole book series, called 'Hollywood Bestsellers' that collected such novelizations, as well as some movies' source stories ('We Can Remember It For You Wholesale' renamed to 'Total Recall', 'Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep' renamed to 'Blade Runner', 'Nothing Lasts Forever' renamed to 'Die Hard', etc.);
  • As questionably legal as the above is, this is when I first read D. Bishof's 'WarGames', for example; also, I have a little collection of such novelizations that I might share someday;
  • Last night (Sept, 23 to 24, 2014) I had an ALIENS-inspired dream; specifically, it was some sort of an alternate ending that took place on a desert'ish location with all the surviving cast running to the shuttle. The most interesting part was Apone, Hudson and Frost being alive.