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Novelisation by Alan Dean Foster (USA) 1979.

The deep space cargo tug Nostromo is carrying two billion tons of fossil fuels back to Earth, while its seven-strong crew is in hypersleep. The ship's computer awakens them because it receives an alien distress signal, and company rules require them to investigate. Ripley, one of the crew, discovers that the message is not a distress call but a warning signal, but it's too late: in the alien craft, something has attached itself to crew member Kane's face. Kane is brought back on board for medical treatment, but the alien proves its toughness by ignoring the crew and bleeding acid. Eventually it grows into something huge, fast and deadly and seems intent on picking off the crew one by one.

This SF film novelisation is relevant here because, at its most basic, it's a slasher affair, albeit without some maniac in a hockey mask as a protagonist. Normally film novelisations are short hack affairs, quickly released for maximum exposure. This is different in a lot of ways - the characterisation is detailed, the plot even more so, and the page count is surprisingly high. In this particular instance, it's not too surprising that there are differences, as the film relied pretty much on its stunning visuals and as it's always difficult to translate visuals into text, Foster naturally had to look for other aspects to concentrate on.

He is a major SF author in his own right with various series under his belt, and an experienced hand at adaptations - he has produced ten Star Trek Logs, and novelisations including Star Wars (as George Lucas), Dark Star, The Black Hole, Starman, Clash of the Titans, and even Pale Rider, amongst many others. With this wealth of experience, it isn't surprising that he concentrates on characterisation and scientific detail, both of which are admirable; and thus this stands up as a novel in its own right. Well worth a look, even if you're not a fan of the film. If you are, you will be doubly interested because Foster presumably worked from early scripts and thus even more parts of the book differ from the film than would be expected from the above difficulties, notably much of the finale.

Based on the screenplay by Dan O'Bannon, in turn based on a story by Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett.

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