Book Review: Alien 3 - The Unproduced Screenplay

A grim alien menace.

The first-draft Alien screenplay by William Gibson, the founder of cyberpunk, turned into a novel by Pat Cadigan, the Hugo Award-Winning “Queen of Cyberpunk.”

William Gibson’s never-before-adapted screenplay for the direct sequel to Aliens, revealing the fates of Ripley, Newt, the synthetic Bishop, and Corporal Hicks. When the Colonial Marines vessel Sulaco docks with space station and military installation Anchorpoint, a new form of Xenomorph appears. Written by Hugo Award-winning novelist and “Queen of Cyberpunk” Pat Cadigan, based on Gibson’s never-produced first draft.

The Sulaco—on its return journey from LV-426—enters a sector controlled by the “Union of Progressive Peoples,” a nation-state engaged in an ongoing cold war and arms race. U.P.P. personnel board the Sulaco and find hypersleep tubes with Ripley, Newt, and an injured Hicks. A Facehugger attacks the lead commando, and the others narrowly escape, taking what remains of Bishop with them.

The tangled history of this project is something of a lesson is development hell. This is one of (many, many) screenplays of Alien3 which were never produced. It's hard to know whether it would have made a better film than the weird prison-planet version which eventually made it to screen.

This completely jettisons Ripley - she was to appear in its sequel - and gives us a much larger cast to get eviscerated. There are some not-overly compelling sub-plots about how evil the Weyland-Yutani Corporation are, and how brave socialist outcasts are fighting for a better universe - but it's mostly an exercise in splatter gore.

Much like a Doctor Who episode, there's lots of running through corridors. And, around every corner waits yet another facehugger ready to pounce. It fulfils all of the tropes you expect - things dripping down walls, grim terrors creeping up on our fearless heroes, and shady corporate types.

There were a few too many callbacks to the previous movie - which I found a little repetitive. Almost like the book wanted to convince the reader that it was a legitimate part of the franchise. The inevitable countdown to destruction loses some of its tension when you can see exactly how many pages there are left.

But it is good horror fun. Gore and slime aplenty and some nice little sci-fi touches. It's also interesting for fans of the franchise to see which bits of it seemed to make it into Alien Resurrection.

And a special shout out to the typesetting! It has some gorgeous eBook fonts - it makes such a difference having the interface text being presented as text rather than an image. It's no Typeset In The Future - but it is a welcome surprise.

Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy. The book is released later this year and is available to pre-order now.

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