As a child, Chris Hooper dreamed of monsters. But in deep space, he found only darkness and isolation. Then, on planet LV178, he and his fellow miners discovered a storm-scoured, sand-blasted hell - and trimonite, the hardest material known to man. When a shuttle crashes into the mining ship Marion, the miners learn that there was more than trimonite deep in the caverns. There was evil, hibernating and waiting for suitable prey. Hoop and his associates uncover a nest of Xenomorphs, and hell takes on a new meaning. Quickly they discover that their only hope lies with the unlikeliest of saviors.... Ellen Ripley, the last human survivor of the salvage ship Nostromo.
"[Narrator] Laurel Lefkow shines as Ripley - her mature, sarcastic tone barely concealing her raw terror at reliving a nightmare. The mix of music, sound effects, and vocals is painstakingly orchestrated - from the creaks of the ship to the subtle shifts in atmospheric tone as the characters enter different situations. Add in a diverse ensemble of voices, and this production succeeds in keeping the listener in the center of the action." (AudioFile magazine)
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In 2014, Titan Books released the first in a new series of books set in the Alien film franchise under the supervision of the movie studio 20th Century Fox. These novels are considered part of the film canon and help expand and flesh out the movie universe, and they launched with Tim Lebbon’s Alien: Out of the Shadows, set between the first two movies and featuring the series’ heroine, Lt. Ellen Ripley.
Following the destruction of the Nostromo in the first Alien movie, Ripley put herself into hypersleep and drifted through space. Movie buffs know that 57 years passed between Alien and Aliens, but Lebbon has crafted a nicely fitting story that slots itself directly into the middle of this time gap. In Out of the Shadows, the damaged mining vessel Marion picks up a distress call from Ripley’s lifeboat, while the crew contends with the discovery of a vicious life-form on the planet LV-178. It’s not long before Ripley is pressed back into action, haunted by the events aboard the Nostromo, and hellbent on saving the crew of the Marion.
Rather than taking Lebbon’s novel and producing a straight-up audiobook, Audible Studios and director Dirk Maggs have turned Out of the Shadows into a brilliant audio drama, crafting a production that may well be the best Alien production since James Cameron’s own Aliens. Using an ensemble cast of voice actors, including actor Rutger Hauer in his first audio performance as the now-disembodied ghost in the machine of the android Ash, and an array of sound effects and musical score, the production quality on display here is downright phenomenal.
Actor Corey Johnson brings to life Chief Engineering Hooper, while Laurel Lefkow voices Ripley. The chemistry between these two is terrific and you get a great sense of camaraderie as they form a fast friendship under the threat of the alien menace. Lefkow in particular wowed the heck out of me, and a few times I could have positively sworn that Maggs had gotten Sigourney Weaver to reprise her role. Lefkow absolutely nails the tone, inflection, and speech patterns of Weaver’s Ellen Ripley and it’s mighty damn impressive to listen to.
Rounding out the voice talent is the full-fledged sonic experience of the work itself. From the familiar not-quite dot matrix noises of the computers as they display text, to the ferocious grunts, hisses, and screams of the aliens, and the attendant instrumental score, Out of the Shadows is a frighteningly immersive experience, and one that is very audibly an Alien story. Dirk Maggs has been credited with turning the audio drama into an audio movie for his BBC productions, and that particular knack is on full display here. Lebbon’s prose work has been stripped away, although the story and dialogue, with a bit of finessing for this dramatization, remain intact and is lovingly crafted in a highly cinematic experience for the mind. With the accompanying audio you can really let your imagination run wild and set the scene in your mind’s eye on this one. This is as much an audio movie as it as a movie of the mind, and it’s scarily effective. Be sure to listen to this one with a good set of headphones to fully appreciate the layers and depth that went into constructing this audio drama, but be careful not to fall off the edge of your seat.
Some may argue that by placing this story between the first two Alien films that it’s not an entirely necessary work. To this, and with a shoulder shrug, I can only say, “meh.” I, for one, don’t care a whit about this works “necessity” because it’s just too damn good to ignore. This is a fun listening experience, and one of the best Alien productions we’ve gotten in a long, long while. It’s great to see, or rather, hear, Ellen Ripley back in action and kicking butt on land and in space.
If I have to post one complaint, it’s that the inclusion of Ash serves mostly as story recaps. While Hauer is a great choice to voice this iconic character, a lot of the information Ash relays, in the form of status update reports to the Weyland-Yutani corporation, is redundant to the unfolding plot, and given the frequency at which this is done over the course of the production’s 4 hours and 28 minutes it often times feel highly repetitive. If you’re spreading this listen out over multiple days or longer, these updates may serve as helpful story recaps, but if you’re digesting the story in large chunks they ultimately add little. Like a television show’s “previously on” segment, these recaps don’t eat up a lot of time, so this is ultimately a very minor complaint in the grander scheme of things.
As they did with last year’s adaptation of Joe Hill’s Locke & Key, Audible Studios has delivered a knock-out win of an audio drama – and for a work set in one of my favorite film series, no less! I had read and enjoyed Lebbon’s novel of this work when it came out a few years ago, but I absolutely loved listening to this adaptation. Dirk Maggs and his cast and crew have created a very special production for Alien fans with this dramatization, released on Alien Day (4-26, as in LV-426), and it’s a work that I highly recommend. Now go give it a listen!
Audiobook was provided for review by the Publisher.
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Just as good as watching the original film
I admit this is my first time listening to an audiobook(don't judge) but boy am I glad I chose this one as an introduction. The cast, story and direction was great-all creating the same feeling of suspense and claustrophobia from the original film. Definitely does the canon justice. And the actress who voiced Ripley was spot on. Rutger Hauer gives an amazing performance as the bodiless synth Ash. My expectations have now been set. Wonder if anything can match Alien: Out of the Shadows.