Alien: River of Pain is a 2014 novel written by Christopher Golden and published by Titan Books. It chronicles the fall of Hadley's Hope on Acheron after colonists rediscover the derelict spacecraft on the moon. As the Xenomorphs begin to ravage the settlement, the surviving colonists and the small unit of Colonial Marines assigned to the moon to provide security must fight to stay alive.

As well as the standard print edition, the novel has been released in audio formats twice — as an audio drama, read by an ensemble cast and directed by Dirk Maggs, and as a standard, unabridged audiobook, read by Jeff Harding. Both were published by Audible Studios and released in 2017.

River of Pain is the final novel in the 2014 Alien novel trilogy, which was designed to tie into the events of the existing film series. It was preceded by Alien: Out of the Shadows and Alien: Sea of Sorrows, although its plot has no direct connection to the two previous books and chronologically it takes place between them. It notably incorporates several sequences previously seen in the comic Aliens: Newt's Tale. It was released internationally on November 25, 2014.

Publisher's Summary[]

When Ellen Ripley finally returns to Earth, she learns that the planet LV-426 — now called Acheron — has been colonized. But LV-426 is where Ripley and the crew of the Nostromo found the original Xenomorph — the killing machine known as the Alien.

Protected by the Colonial Marines, the colonists seek to terraform the storm-swept planet. Two such residents are Anne and Russell Jorden, seeking a fortune that eluded them on Earth. On Acheron, Anne gives birth to the colony's first newborn, Rebecca Jorden, also known as Newt.

The wildcatters discover a vast, decaying spaceship. The horseshoe-shaped vessel is of particular interest to Weyland-Yutani, and may be the answer to their dreams. But what Anne and Russ find on board proves to be the stuff, not of dreams, but of nightmares.


Aboard the USCSS Nostromo, Ellen Ripley confronts Ash over his decision to allow Kane back aboard the ship despite the parasitic organism attached to him. Several years later, planetary engineers begin efforts to colonize LV-426, now known as Acheron, struggling against the moon's unstable geology. Despite their struggles, the process of converting the planetoid's atmosphere to a more stable one eventually gets underway, and the colony of Hadley's Hope is established. On March 15th, 2173, Hadley's Hope welcomes its first newborn in the form of Rebecca Jorden, an event celebrated by the entire populace.

Six years later, Colonial Marine Captain Brackett arrives on Acheron to take up his posting as commanding officer for the small security detail stationed there. His arrival sparks conflict between Rebecca Jorden's parents, Russ and Anne, on account of Anne's previous relationship with Brackett and Brackett's unresolved feelings for her. Brackett's posting is further complicated when he learns that Marines are being sent out on civilian prospecting missions, an act that he sees as contravening standard operating procedures. Before he can raise his concerns with colony administrator Al Simpson, one such prospecting expedition becomes stranded inside a malfunctioning Atmosphere Processor by a storm. Brackett organizes a rescue mission, discovering that one of the prospectors has suffered a serious mental breakdown, driven insane by the stress of harsh colony life and a paranoid fear of imminent disaster. The colonist is shot dead by Draper when he threatens another Marine's life, and the team evacuate moments before the malfunctioning processor destroys itself.

Back at Hadley's Hope, Brackett refuses to allow any more Marines to accompany civilian prospecting missions, a decision that brings him into conflict with the Weyland-Yutani research team stationed at the colony, headed by Dr. Reese. However, until clarification can be received from Brackett's superiors on Earth, they have no choice but to accept his orders. As such, when a message is received from Carter Burke detailing specific co-ordinates that are to be investigated, Russ and Anne Jorden are sent out without escort, electing to take their children Timmy and Rebecca — who has come to be known as Newt — along with them. They discover the derelict spacecraft that the Nostromo crew had stumbled upon fifty-seven years previously, and inside Russ is attacked and subdued by a Facehugger.

Russ is rushed back to the colony and placed under supervision in the medical bay, while Brackett quarantines the derelict and places several Marine guards there to prevent anyone else entering the ship. Even so, several members of an investigative team are also attacked by Facehuggers. Twenty-four hours later, the Chestburster inside Russ emerges, killing him, before escaping into the colony's ventilation system. A hunt for the creature is mounted, but the soon fully-grown Xenomorph begins killing and abducting colonists. The situation worsens when more of the creatures hatch from the other impregnated colonists.

The situation rapidly spirals out of control as more and more individuals are captured. The surviving colonists are grouped together in a single location for their own safety, with Marines to guard them. Brackett discovers that Reese and the other Weyland-Yutani scientists had anticipated an alien discovery on Acheron, and that this was in fact the reason the colony was established in the first place. He also deduces that the Xenomorphs are taking their live victims to a Hive where they are being as hosts for more creatures, and by tracking the mission colonists' PDTs the Hive is located inside the main Atmosphere Processor. Brackett, Simpson and a Weyland-Yutani scientist named Dr. Hidalgo lead a mission to exterminate the Xenomorphs, but the team is decimated by the creatures almost immediately. During the chaos, a dying Hidalgo reveals to Brackett that the science team, not knowing what exactly they might find on Acheron, hid a secret escape ship in the colony that can now be used to flee.

Meanwhile, several colonists elect to evacuate the area where they are hiding and move somewhere safer, Anne, Timmy and Newt among them. They make their stand in the operations center, but both groups are quickly overrun by the Xenomorphs. Anne and Timmy are killed, but Newt escapes into the colony's ventilation system. Brackett arrives too late, and while he saves a girl he initially believes to be Newt, he discovers to his dismay that it is in fact another young child named Luisa. With the Xenomorphs swarming all over the colony, Bracket takes Luisa and, with a fellow Marine named Paris, makes for the scientists' escape shuttle, encountering the last surviving member of the team, Dr. Mori, along the way. The survivors successfully flee the ravaged colony, with Brackett vowing to take the fight to Weyland-Yutani for what they have done.

Back at Gateway Station, Burke and Lieutenant Gorman visit Ellen Ripley to inform her of the loss of contact with Hadley's Hope.


The story was billed as a "new adventure featuring the Colonial Marines and leading directly into the second movie, Aliens", that would "reveal for the first time the fate of the colonists, of the Colonial Marines who accompanied them, and how there came to be one survivor: the girl known as Newt".[2]

Audio Versions[]

Audio drama[]

Main article: Alien: River of Pain (audio drama)

In 2017, Audible Studios released an audio drama version of River of Pain, directed by Dirk Maggs and starring Anna Friel, Philip Glenister, Colin Salmon and Alexander Siddig alongside an ensemble cast. The audio drama runs for 4 hours and 52 minutes and was released on April 26, 2017, to coincide with Alien Day.


The same year, Audible also released a standard, unabridged audiobook version of River of Pain, read by Jeff Harding. The audiobook runs for 10 hours and 1 minute and was released on October 11, 2017.

Reprint History[]

Alien: Sea of Sorrows was collected along with Alien: Out of the Shadows and Alien: Sea of Sorrows in The Complete Alien Collection: The Shadow Archive that was published by Titan Books on November 1, 2022.


  • River of Pain is the only chapter in the 2014 Alien novel trilogy that does not take place on the planet LV-178. Its plot is also not directly connected to the events of the other two novels, though Ripley's second nightmare obliquely references Out of the Shadows.
  • The novel recreates several scenes from Aliens and weaves them into the story. However, several of these sequences (chiefly the additional scenes added to the extended Special Edition of Aliens) do not accurately conform to what was seen in the movie, with differences in dialogue and the specifics of what happens.
  • As well as scenes from Aliens, the novel also recreates several sequences from the comic series Aliens: Newt's Tale, including Newt witnessing her father's death from the ventilation duct, the ill-fated assault on the Hive, and the deaths of Anne and Timmy.
  • A reference to the comic series Fire and Stone was made when Anne assumed Cale, Dione, and Russell had slipped away to get to the Onager, an excavation vessel that some colonists of Hadley's Hope used as a makeshift escape vehicle to ferry themselves off planet when the colony was infested in Aliens: Fire and Stone.
  • As with the other two books in the 2014 Alien novel trilogy, River of Pain's title has a musical link; it shares its name with a song on the album Behind Closed Doors (1995) by rock band Thunder, "River of Pain".
  • In Greek mythology, "River of Pain" is another name for Acheron, one of the rivers that flows through the underworld; in Dante's Inferno, it is said to form the border of Hell, and is the river across which Charon (the ferryman) transports the newly dead. The name Acheron is also given to the moon LV-426 by the time of Aliens, although this name is not mentioned in the film itself. Greek history and mythology are a recurring point of reference in the Alien franchise; other notable examples include the comics Aliens: Rogue and Aliens: Dead Orbit (which contain numerous references), the ships Archimedes and Anesidora, the novel Alien: Into Charybdis, and references to the Titan Prometheus in both Prometheus Tech and the film Prometheus.
  • While discussing the Xenomorph attacks on the colony with Stamovich, Reese says, "Aside from the births of the newborn Aliens, their appearances have mostly come at night," to which Stamovich responds, "Mostly." This is an obvious reference to Newt's famous line, "They mostly come at night. Mostly."
  • During a later section in the book following the character Lieutenant Paris, the author refers to the M41A Pulse Rifle, the "MX4" body armor (presumably a misspelling of M4X, which was used in Aliens versus Predator: Extinction) and the VP78 Pistol (used in the 2010 video game Aliens vs. Predator). The latter two are possibly errors, however, as the VP78 was presumably not created or adopted until years after 2179, and issue 1 of the comic series Aliens: Fire and Stone shows two Marines from Hadley's Hope wearing standard M3 Pattern Personal Armor.

The image that was edited for the novel's cover.

  • As with Out of the Shadows, the artwork on the cover of the book was derived from an image created for the 2013 video game Aliens: Colonial Marines; in this case, the Xenomorph Drone was lifted from a screenshot used to promote the game, then flipped horizontally.[3]
  • The events of the novel are obliquely referred to in Alien: The Weyland-Yutani Report, which mentions "Captain D. Brackett" by name.


  • The back cover of the book includes an image of a sign stating Hadley's Hope was founded in 2179. This is the year the events of Aliens (and therefore the book) occur. In Aliens, Van Leuwen states there has been a colony on Acheron for around twenty years prior to this date, and this information is in fact borne out in the novel itself; only the back cover is incorrect.
  • Newt's birthday is given as March 15, 2173, which would make her six years old by the time of Aliens. However, according to Alien3, Newt is around 12 years old at that time. Additionally, in Aliens, Ripley picks up Newt's "Second Grade Citizenship Award" when she catches her in the vents; second grade students are traditionally 7 to 8 years old.
  • While Simpson and Lydecker were cut from the film's theatrical release, the names W. Simpson and M. Lydecker can still be seen written on a transparent cubicle partition behind Newt while she's initially being interrogated by Lt. Gorman. It wasn't until the release of the 2014 novel that Simpson and Lydecker were given the first names Al and Brad, respectively.
  • The novelization of Aliens by Alan Dean Foster specifically states that there were no soldiers at Hadley's Hope prior to Lieutenant Gorman's team arriving; while inspecting evidence of poor marksmanship in one of the buildings, Sergeant Apone muses to himself that any security personnel at the colony would be limited to "one or two cops". Similarly, while the film never outright confirms that there was no preceding garrison at the colony, the Marines in the movie do not mention it, nor do they show any concern for their missing fellow Marines, which soldiers would invariably do. Both of these facts contradict River of Pain, which states a whole platoon is stationed at the colony before the Xenomorph incident.
  • When Jernigan is inspecting the Narcissus, he notes that there are scrapes and scratches around the door and a blast-scar close to the engines (from when Ripley killed the Alien in Alien). However, in Aliens, Van Leuwen states that no physical evidence of the Alien was found when another team investigated the shuttle.
  • When Jernigan and his salvage team board the Narcissus, they find the harpoon gun Ripley used to shoot the Alien lying on a computer console inside. In Aliens, the gun is visible still wedged under the door when they cut in. Although its position in the book is inconsistent with the film, this is clearly supposed to tie in to Alien: Out of the Shadows.
  • The Daihotai Tractors used by the colonists, often referred to as "crawlers" in the book, are described as having six wheels. These vehicles actually have eight wheels. Interestingly, this same discrepancy occurs in the novelization of Aliens.
  • Colonists Curtis and Otto Finch are stated to have been on Acheron for 47 months by 2179, yet earlier the novel places Otto Finch at the opening ceremony for the colony's recreational center, held shortly after the birth of Rebecca Jorden in 2173. This is some six years earlier, which would mean Otto must have been there considerably longer than 47 months (47 months is actually a month shy of four years).
  • During the mission to rescue the men stranded in the malfunctioning Atmosphere Processor, Brackett orders Corporal Pettigrew to stay behind inside the tractor as backup, yet several pages later the book lists Pettigrew as being among the Marines inside the processor.
  • Some of the dialogue during Ripley's tribunal on Gateway Station does not match that which is actually spoken in Aliens.
  • Throughout the scene where Lydecker and Simpson discuss Russ Jorden's request for clarification of his claim rights, almost all of their dialogue differs from what is actually said in the extended Special Edition of Aliens.
  • When the Jordens find the derelict, Anne asks if they should call in the find, before Russ responds, "Let's wait until we know what to call it in as." In the Special Edition of Aliens, this conversation takes place before the Jordens leave their tractor, but in the book they have it outside the vehicle. The conversation also takes place outside of the vehicle in the novelization of Aliens.
  • There are several Eggs in the Pilot chamber aboard the derelict, covered with a blue mist just like those found by the Nostromo crew in the hold. However, these Eggs were not there in Alien (nor in Alien: Isolation) but in the cavern below.
  • Hadley's Hope administrator Al Simpson has a moustache in the book, yet he does not in the Special Edition of Aliens.
  • When sneaking through the vents to the med lab to spy on Russ, Newt, Timmy and Aaron have to slide down an inclined shaft (similar to the one Newt falls down before she is captured in Aliens) before they end up at a grate overlooking the med lab. However, Aliens shows that the med lab is on the top floor of the main administration block — the children would have to go up to reach it, yet they actually do the opposite.
  • While discussing the Facehugger with a revived Russ and his wife, Dr. Komiskey calls the creature "a possible endoparasitoid species". The definition of an endoparasite is "a parasite that lives inside another animal and ultimately kills it", yet at this point no one has died and there is no indication Komiskey knows there is anything inside Russ, making her classification of it nonsensical from a character point of view.
  • Stamovich is labelled a Corporal early in the story, yet later his rank is given as Private.
  • When Reese and Mori discuss their intention to secretly evacuate the colony with their data, Reese says they cannot leave until they have acquired a live Xenomorph specimen, "one of the Ovomorphs at least", to take back to Weyland-Yutani. Yet the book (and Aliens) make it abundantly clear that the science team already has several live specimens, in the form of the captive Facehuggers they have removed from the colonists. Why then could they not simply take one of those and leave?
  • Simpson quite clearly states that he has sent a message to Gateway informing them of the escalating Xenomorph outbreak and requesting urgent assistance, yet in Aliens the loss of contact with the colony is considered mysterious and no one (Ripley notwithstanding) has any idea what has happened there until the Marines discover the Xenomorphs for themselves. The situation would not be considered so mysterious if the inhabitants had recently sent a distress call mentioning a hostile alien lifeform.
  • The M41A Pulse Rifle is erroneously referred to as a "plasma rifle" several times in the book. The M41A is actually a conventional projectile rifle that fires bullets, not plasma.
  • The book says the service tunnel that links the colony complex with the Atmosphere Processor originates from the "main floor" (presumably the ground floor) of the colony. However, in Aliens Hudson quite clearly states the tunnel links "into the sub-level" of the colony.
  • When Captain Brackett and the other Marines enter the Atmosphere Processor in search of the Xenomorph Hive, they call the elevators and they come up from below. However, Aliens shows us that the elevators return to the landing pad, at the top of the structure, when not in use. As such, the elevators should descend from above when the Marines call them.
  • In Aliens, Ripley realises that firing the Marines' military-issue weaponry near the atmosphere processor's cooling systems could potentially trigger a catastrophic meltdown, and this concern is later proven accurate as the reactor is thus damaged during the initial ambush and eventually explodes. However, in River of Pain, no one ever really suggests this will be an issue when the Marine raiding party goes to rescue the captured colonists; while it is mentioned off-hand that Simpson goes along to ensure nothing vital is damaged, the issue of gunfire damaging critical systems is never brought up, even when the raiding party discovers they are in the immediate vicinity of the main heat exchangers. If Ripley — in essence a complete layman — is able to recognise the danger, it makes no sense that not one of the many people who live at the colony and actually work with the technology on a daily basis would recognise and point out the threat.
  • It is mentioned several times in the book that an adult could not fit through the ducts leading to the "clubhouse" that the children have set up in the vent shafts, yet in Aliens Ripley is able to pursue Newt into the space with no trouble at all.
  • The operations center is said to be above the colony's med lab, when in fact it is next door in the film. The book also states the operations room only has "one way in and out", when in Aliens the room clearly has two entrances — the main doorway (which Hicks and Vasquez weld shut when operations is attacked) and a second door to the rear that leads to the med lab (through which Burke flees and Ripley and the others later make their escape).
  • As Brackett and the few surviving Marines prepare to evacuate, Private Yousseff points out that the scientists' escape ship has room for "five or six passengers", yet there is no way she could know this — nobody outside of the Weyland-Yutani science team were even aware of the ship's existence until a few minutes earlier, when Hidalgo told Brackett about it just before she died, and Yousseff was on the other side of the colony at the time. Moreover, Hidalgo never actually revealed how many people the vessel could hold — Draper did ask this question, but the doctor succumbed to her wounds before she could reply.
  • When Khati Fuqua stumbles into Reese and Mori in the secret escape passage, it is mentioned that she "vanished the previous evening", yet she appeared with the two scientists in another scene set earlier the same day.
  • There is no mention at all of the "last stand" discovered by the Marines in Aliens. According to Private Drake, "They sealed off this wing at both ends. Welded the doors and blocked off the stairs with heavy equipment." None of this is seen or even mentioned as having taken place in the book, despite the fact the final surviving colonists hole up in operations.

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