Prometheus may not have been the triumphant return to Ridley Scott’ s Alien universe that we all had hoped, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to go back, and if we get to hang out with Ripley in the process, so much the better. This is exactly what we get in the new novel Alien: Out of the Shadows, which hits bookstores tomorrow, January 28. Below you’ll find an excerpt from the upcoming book, and while it isn’t super long, it may be enough to convince you one way or another if you’re interested in picking it up.
Written by Tim Lebbon (30 Days of Night: Fear of the Dark, Cabin in the Woods novelization), this clip comes from Hero Complex. Out of the Shadows is an “officially sanctioned” entry into the Alien cannon, bridging the gap between Scott’s 1979 film and James Cameron’s 1986 sequel Aliens. Check out the excerpt for yourself, and we can talk about it further down below.
Sharp, black, chitinous, sleek, vicious, hiding in shadows and pouncing, seeding themselves in people she loved—her ex-husband, her sweet daughter—and then bursting forth in showers of far too much blood. They expand too quickly, as if rapidly brought in close from distances she can barely comprehend. And as they are drawn nearer through the voids of deep space they are growing, growing—the size of a ship, a moon, a planet, and then larger still.
They will swallow the universe, and yet they will still leave her alive to witness its consumption.
She dreams of monsters, stalking the corridors of her mind and wiping faces from memory before she can even remember their names.
In between these dreams lies a simple void of shadows. But it offers no respite, because there is always a before to mourn, and an after to dread.
When she starts to wake at last, Ripley’s nightmares scuttle back into the shadows and begin to fade away. But only partly. Even as light dawns across her dreams, the shadows remain.
“Dallas,” Ripley said.
She smacked her lips together, tried to cough past her dry throat, and realized that it couldn’t be. Dallas was dead. The alien had taken him.
The face before her was thin, bearded, and troubled. Unknown.
He stared at her.
“Dallas, as in Texas?” he asked.
“Texas?” Her thoughts were a mess. A stew of random memories, some of which she recognized, some she did not. She struggled to pull them together, desperate for a clue as to who and where she was. She felt disassociated from her body. Floating impressions trying to find a home, her physical self a cold, loose thing over which she had no control.
Behind everything loomed a shadow… huge, insidious.
“Great,” the man said. “Just […] great.”
“Huh?” Was she back on Nostromo? But then she remembered the blazing star that massive salvage ship had become. Rescue, then?
Someone had found her. The shuttle had been retrieved and boarded. She was saved.
She was Ellen Ripley, and soon she’d be reunited with—
Something moved across her stomach. A flood of images assaulted her, so vivid compared to those she’d had since waking that they startled her into movement and kicked her senses alive—
—Kane thrashing, his chest ripping and bursting open, that thing emerging—
—and she reached to her own chest, ready to feel the stretching skin and the agony of ribs rupturing outward.
“Hey, hey,” the man said, reaching for her.
Don’t you understand what’s going to happen? She wanted to shout, but her voice was trapped, her mouth so dry that her tongue felt like a swollen, sand-coated slug. He held her shoulders and stroked her chin with both thumbs. It was such a gentle, intimate gesture that she paused in her writhing.
“You’ve got a cat,” he said, smiling. The smile suited his face, yet it looked uncomfortable, as if he rarely used it.
“Jonesy,” Ripley rasped painfully, and the cat crawled up from her stomach to her chest. It stood there, swaying slightly, then arched its back and clenched its claws. They scratched Ripley’s skin through her thin vest and she winced, but it was a good feeling. A pain that told her she was still alive.
She reached for Jonesy, and as she stroked him a feeling of immense well-being came over her. She had risen up out of the shadows, and now that she was home—or near to home, if she had been recovered by a larger ship—then she would do her best to leave them behind. The terrible, mournful memories were already crowding in, but they were just that. Memories.
The future was a wide-open place.
“They found us,” she whispered to the cat as he growled softly in his throat. Her arms barely felt like her own, but she could feel fur against her fingertips and palms. Jonesy stretched against her. She wondered if cats could have nightmares.
“We’re safe now…”
She thought of Amanda, her daughter, and how pleased they would be to see each other. Had Ripley missed her eleventh birthday? She sincerely hoped not, because she hated breaking a promise.
Sitting up slowly, the man helping her, she groaned as her nerves came to life. It was the worst case of pins and needles ever, far worse than she’d ever had following any previous hypersleep. Upright, she sat as motionless as possible as the circulation returned, her singing nerve endings finally falling silent.
And then the man spoke.
“Actually… you’re not really that safe, to be honest.”
“I mean, we’re not a rescue ship. We thought you were the rescue ship when we first saw you on our scopes. Thought maybe you’d answered our distress signal. But…” He trailed off, and when Ripley looked up she saw two other figures behind him in the shuttle’s confined interior. They stood back against the wall, warily eyeing her and the stasis pod.
“You’re kidding me,” one of them, a woman, said.
“Can it, Sneddon.” The man held out his hand. “My name’s Hoop. Can you stand?”
“Where am I?” Ripley asked.
“Nowhere you want to be, that’s for sure,” the man behind Hoop said. He was very tall, thin, gaunt. “Go back to sleep, Miss. Sweet dreams.”
“And that’s Powell,” Hoop said. “Don’t mind them. Let’s get you to med bay, Garcia can clean you up and check you over. Looks like you need feeding, too.”
Ripley frowned, and her mouth instantly grew dry again. Her stomach rumbled. She felt dizzy. She grabbed the side of the stasis pod, and as she slowly slung her leg over the rim and tried to stand, Hoop held her arm. His hand seems incredibly warm, wonderfully real. But his words hung with her.
Jonesy snuggled back down into the foot of the stasis pod, as if eager to find sleep again.Maybe cats really do know everything, she mused.
“Where…?” Ripley asked again, but then the shuttle began to spin, and as she fainted the shadows closed in once more.
Poor Ripley, she can’t ever catch a break. She finally gets rescued, but it turns out that the ship that picks her up floating in deep space—those odds must be exponentially greater than being found bobbing around in the middle of the ocean—is just as much in need of rescue as she was. At least now she can stretch her legs and move around, maybe get a square meal in her belly while she waits. And Jonsey the cat makes an appearance, that’s always a good time.
Out of the Shadows certainly captures the mood and feel of the situation, and fits in nicely with the movies. Full of doom and gloom, stranded in space, this has the atmosphere right. The writing is grim and pulpy, and, firmly rooted in Ripley’s point of view, is pretty much just what you want out of a story like this. Not only does this novel work within the existing world of the films, it expands that universe as well. In just this brief snipped we hear about Ripley’s daughter Amanda, who we first hear about in the director’s cut of Aliens. This ties the book to the upcoming video game Alien: Isolation, which features Amanda as the protagonist.
What do you think? Are you now foaming at the mouth to run out and pick up your very own copy of Alien: Out of the Shadows, or are you taking a pass on this one, waiting for Alien: Isolation to drop later this year, hoping that if a Prometheus sequel does happen, that it washes away the bad taste of the first?