Book Review: “The Book of Alien” and “Aliens – Colonial Marines Technical Manual”

In preparation for the June 8th opening of Sir Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, Titan Books is releasing the paperback versions of The Book of Alien and Aliens – Colonial Marines Technical Manual tomorrow. If you’re jonesing for more Alien stuff before the unofficial prequel is released in theaters, read my review of both books after the jump.

Ridley Scott’s Alien opened in theaters in 1979. It was a rare mix of space sci-fi and horror with a female protagonist (Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley). It was also Scott’s directorial debut, and it wasn’t an easy movie to make. The Book of Alien, originally released in 1993, acts as more of an art book, as the text is relatively minimal compared to the great concept art, sketches, and photos plastered throughout. The text focuses more on the look and design of the film, especially the spaceships, other worlds, and various forms of the Alien. There’s plenty of information in here that is not easily accessible online, and the early artwork really gives you an idea of the development of the world of Alien.

The script went through several changes, but before the final version was filmed, concept art was made to depict the unused scenes. Much of this revolves around a pyramid found on the planetoid. In the film, the crew finds the Alien eggs in the derelict ship, but originally they were in this pyramid. The book goes into this a bit, along with the history of the space jockey, thus giving us some insight into what Prometheus might be about.

James Cameron took his turn with the franchise in 1986 with the sequel Aliens. This time around, Ripley is accompanied by “Colonial Marines”. While the film doesn’t go into too much detail about the history or structure of this space military force, Aliens – Colonial Marines Technical Manual picks up the slack and then some. Originally published in 1995, this in-world encyclopedia tells you anything you could possibly want to know about the Colonial Marines, including their history, structure, weapons, transportation, and more. The last section is about the Aliens themselves. A good chunk of it is a playback occurring during the events of the film, but there’s also some background on the Nostromo spaceship from the first film and the planetoid (now called Acheron).

While I found the Technical Manual to be a little too detailed for my taste, I know there are some aficionados out there who will eat it up. If you are a fan of the Alien series, both of these books are definitely worth picking up.

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