Where was Earth?
This was not their galaxy. A strange sun lit the sky with orange rays. In their long cold sleep, the seven space travellers had left their own universe behind, and now their monitor told them that on the planet revolving below them, someone was signalling for help. By space law, they must descend, explore, and render assistance.
But they would carry weapons. For who could tell what being called to them — or why. All they knew was that it was Alien.
Differences from the Film
Many of the additions found in the Director's Cut of Alien are also in the novelization, including the crew listening to the beacon transmission before setting down on the planetoid and the famous Eggmorphing scene. However, not all of the changes from the alternate cut of the film are included in the novel — for instance, Lambert does not attack Ripley outside the med bay in retaliation for Ripley refusing to allow them back on board the ship earlier. Other notable differences include:
- The crew is naked during hypersleep, and when in operation the chambers are filled with a viscous liquid that the crew have to wipe off when they wake.
- Dallas is immediately aware that the crew has been woken in response to some urgent issue as soon as he climbs out of his hypersleep capsule — Mother informs him with a flashing light. In the film, he does not find out something is amiss until he talks to the computer after breakfast.
- In the film, the first dialogue scene between the crew (in which Parker first raises the "bonus situation") happens over breakfast. In the novel, this conversation happens while the crew are still in the hypersleep chamber.
- Ash accompanies Dallas to talk to Mother about why the crew has been woken from hypersleep early. In the film, Dallas goes alone; indeed, the film makes it clear only the current ranking officer has authorization to access the ship's computer interface.
- In the book, the Nostromo is hauling a cargo of crude oil and a refinery to process it rather than mineral ore.
- The sequence in which the Nostromo sets down on the planetoid is extended. After entering the atmosphere, the ship enters a holding pattern above the source of the transmission so that Ripley can scan the terrain below to determine a suitable landing site. Kane also checks that the ground is stable enough to support the ship's weight, and only then does it come in to land.
- The surface of the planetoid is described as being almost completely flat (at least in the vicinity of the Nostromo's landing site), in stark contrast to its rocky, irregular appearance in the film. Its atmosphere is also described as being orange or blood-red in color as opposed to gray.
- In addition to the chaos on the bridge, a serious fire breaks out in engineering when the Nostromo lands, and Parker and Brett struggle to put it out. This is never seen in the film; evidence that a fire has occurred in engineering is visible in the background when the bridge crew contact Parker and Brett to enquire about the damage sustained in landing, but the blaze itself is never seen or mentioned.
- The novel makes it clear that humans have encountered spacefaring and therefore presumably intelligent extraterrestrial life before. The film is more vague on this matter, although the nature of the comments from the crew upon discovering the derelict implies mankind have discovered at least some form of alien life before.
- When Dallas, Kane and Lambert first see the derelict, Dallas has Ash scan the vessel using the Nostromo's sensors, although Ash claims power readings coming from the vessel block his attempts.
- The interior of the derelict ship is quite different; most notably the Pilot is completely absent. In the main room, Dallas finds an empty Egg before also discovering the equipment that is broadcasting the signal that brought the Nostromo to the moon. The chamber containing the Eggs is not directly beneath the Pilot chamber as in the film, but deep underground, and instead of a melted hole, it is accessed via a very tall, narrow vertical shaft. In the Egg chamber, the Eggs are placed all over the walls as well as the floor.
- The design of the Egg is different — they are smooth and opaque but become rough and transparent prior to Facehugger release. The Eggs do not open with a petal-like opening as in the film, rather the Facehugger simply explodes violently through the top of the capsule.
- Similarly, the design of the Facehugger (referred to in the novel as the "alien hand") is different to the theatrical films. In the novel it is gray in colour with a single bulging eye on its back, whereas in the films they are a pale yellow and have no eyes. It also has octopus-like suckers underneath the help it adhere to Kane's face. This description conforms with an early concept sketch of the creature done by H. R. Giger.
- In the film, the Facehugger's attack on Kane takes mere moments, with Kane falling to the ground as soon as he is struck by the creature. In the novel, however, the attack is more drawn-out, and Kane has time to stumble around the chamber, wrestling with the creature on his mask, as he watches it breach his faceplate and slide inside his helmet before overcoming him.
- We find out that Dallas and Lambert get Kane back to the ship by building a makeshift stretcher out of the winch assembly they used to lower him into the cargo hold.
- After the Facehugger's blood almost ruptures the Nostromo's hull, the crew briefly considers operating on Kane outside the ship, on the surface of the moon, where the blood cannot cause damage.
- While x-raying Kane, Dallas notices a 'stain' on his lungs (presumably the Facehugger implanting its embryo) but Ash passes it off as damage to the x-ray scanner lens. This scene was filmed for the movie, but cut.
- While stuck on the planetoid, Ripley radios engineering to hound Parker and Brett about the repairs they need to make before they can lift off. The two trade insults before the engineers get back to work. This scene was filmed but not used in the movie. It also appears in the comic adaptation of the film.
- The conversation between Ripley and Dallas that reveals Ash was posted to the Nostromo immediately prior to its leaving Thedus takes place in the ship's mess in the book, whereas in the film it takes place in a corridor as they leave the med bay. During the conversation, Dallas additionally points out that Ripley was also a last-minute addition to the crew. This added dialogue is also included in the comic.
- Much like the earlier landing sequence, the lift off from the planetoid is slightly extended in the novel. As the Nostromo struggles to break atmosphere, its engines again begin to overheat due to dust entering the intakes and Parker is forced to shut one of them down. The situation is generally presented as much more fraught than in the film, in which their departure appears quite straightforward.
- Whereas the film simply cuts from the Nostromo leaving the moon to it already in transit with its cargo attached, the book includes a brief scene where the ship re-docks with the refinery in orbit.
- Including the time the Facehugger is attached to him, Kane is unconscious for two whole days in the book. In the film it is around 24 hours.
- As with the previous stages of its life cycle, the design of the Chestburster differs from what appears on screen. It is described as having white skin, and possesses fully-developed arms and legs. Its description in the book appears to conform to the infamous unused design drawn up by Giger, which was likened unfavourably by the crew to a plucked turkey; this is seemingly referenced when Dallas muses that the creature looks like "a butchered turkey with teeth protruding from the stump of a neck". It is also said to be noticably bigger than the Facehugger, even at birth.
- In addition to the Chestburster's design differences, the creature erupts from Kane while he is still seated at the table, not lying on top of it as in the film.
- After Kane's death, the crew discusses decompressing the entire ship to try and kill the Chestburster, but Ash points out this might not actually affect it. Later, after Kane's funeral, the crew again debates how to find and kill the Alien, and Brett comes up with the idea of cattle prods and a net to drive it into an airlock. These sequences were filmed (combined into a single scene), but not included in the movie.
- In the film, Ripley is mistrustful of Ash. In the novel, both Ripley and Dallas begin to suspect Ash of treachery. Dallas even correctly guesses that Ash is seeking to keep the creature alive for the company, and this happens far earlier in the book than in the film, where Ripley does not know of Ash's secret mission until she checks with Mother late in the movie. In the novel, Dallas questions Ash as to his motives in the medical facility following Kane's funeral, even accusing him of allowing Kane to die so that the creature could survive. A truncated version of this scene appears in the comic adaptation of the film.
- The tracking device in the novel is far smaller than the version seen in the film, being only around the size of a walkie-talkie. It is also more rudimentary — instead of a screen to visually display any targets it is tracking, it has a simple red light that illuminates when it detects movement, and a crude needle gauge to display direction.
- The fully grown Drone has large eyes. While the creature in the movie had no eyes, Giger's original designs did feature large eyes at the front of the head. The Alien in the novel also has similar regenerative abilities as the Facehugger, and notably does not possess an inner jaw, instead killing its victims with its bare hands.
- At one point, Ash theorizes that the Drone may not be the final stage in the Alien's life cycle, suggesting "the next form it assumes could be even larger and more powerful". In doing so, he unintentionally foreshadows the Queen from Aliens.
- While searching the ship following Brett's death, the crew discovers the Alien eating their food supplies in a store room and Dallas attempts to kill it with his flamethrower, but it escapes into the ship's vents. It is immediately following this that Dallas enters the air ducts to try and drive the creature into the main airlock; as such, in the novel this plan is made up on the spur of the moment, rather than being formulated in advance as in the film. As a result, the scene where Dallas consults with Mother before going into the vents is absent from the book.
- Rather than a cramped ventilation duct, the Alien takes Dallas inside a large maintenance chamber within the vent system, thereby explaining how Parker is able to retrieve his flamethrower so easily. Unlike in the film, where Lambert works out what is about to happen through her motion tracker and panics, she does not realize Dallas has been taken until Ripley, having heard the Dallas' scream, informs her of it.
- After deciding to continue with Dallas' plan, Ripley asks Lambert if she has ever slept with Ash. This scene was filmed but deleted from the movie. It also appears in the comic.
- A lengthy sequence is added where Parker finds the Alien near the main airlock when he goes to refuel Dallas' flamethrower. He quietly contacts Ripley and Lambert on the bridge and gets them to slowly open the airlock's inner door, hoping to expel the creature into space. The Alien goes into the lock, mesmerized by a spinning green light, but just as Ripley shuts the inner door and opens the outer one an alarm sounds and scares the creature off. As it flees, its arm is caught in the inner door as it closes, tearing it off and spraying acid. The Alien knocks Parker unconscious as it flees, and when Ripley goes to investigate the spilt acid finally eats through the airlock door and begins decompressing the compartment. Ripley and Parker are both trapped in the decompressed area when the safety bulkhead supposed to separate them from the breach gets blocked by one of the cylinders of flamethrower fuel Parker had been carrying. Ripley, blood frothing from her nose and ears, manages to dislodge the canister and the door shuts, before Lambert and Ash arrive to assist. Ripley accuses Ash of setting off the alarm to save the Alien, and subsequently goes to Mother to confirm it. This whole sequence was originally planned for the movie, but was cut during filming after only a small portion of the scene set on the bridge had been shot. It would have explained why Ripley suddenly has a nosebleed when she is confronted by Ash inside Mother.
- When consulting with Mother, Ripley does not learn the specifics of Special Order 937; Ash confronts her before she is able to obtain clarification from the computer. Only after the crew have reconnected Ash's severed head does he explain that it renders the crew "expendable".
- Ash does not force a magazine down Ripley's throat but simply attempts to strangle her with his bare hands. Parker then beheads him by striking him with one of the motion trackers, not a fire extinguisher, and in doing so knock's Ash's head clean off his shoulders. Following this, Ash seems to retain greater control over his functions than he does in the film, and his headless body first begins searching for his severed head before attacking Parker. Finally, it is Ripley who destroys Ash with the cattle prod, not Lambert. This slightly altered version of Ash's demise was also used in the comic.
- The scene where the survivors talk to Ash's severed head is significantly longer. Notably, Ash confirms that the company had deciphered the signal coming from the moon in advance, that they knew about the Alien, and that they had at least some idea of what the crew were walking into. In the film, this is never outright confirmed. Ash also reveals that the Xenomorph is possibly indigenous to the moon, and the Engineers stumbled upon it when they landed there during the course of routine exploration; the film, and especially its sequel Aliens, make it clear that the Eggs were not from LV-426, but were brought to the planet by the Engineers aboard their ship. Lastly, Ash suggests that, as an android, the Alien may have no interest in killing him, and his superior strength may give him a chance at defeating the creature. He tells the surviving crewmembers that if they repair him he will help them, but they decide he is not to be trusted and refuse. In the book, Parker does not incinerate the android's remains and they are simply left on the mess table.
- After Ash's treachery is revealed, Lambert suggests the surviving crew take suicide pills to escape their situation, but Ripley refuses to give up.
- In the film, Parker and Lambert are killed whilst gathering oxygen tanks for the Narcissus, but in the novel they are accompanied by Ripley for this task and the three succeed in collecting what they will need. Only after this do they split up, with Ripley going to the bridge to recover Jones and Parker and Lambert going to retrieve the food supplies they will need for the journey. As such, the scene where Ripley goes to prepare the shuttle for launch is absent. Because it lacks an inner jaw, the Alien kills Parker by breaking his neck, while Lambert is also killed "with merciful speed", in stark contrast to her protracted suffering in the film. Afterwards the Alien drags their corpses into the vents, mutilating them as they are dragged through the narrow opening together, and Ripley finds only bits and pieces of their remains.
- After discovering Parker and Lambert are dead, Ripley flees through the ship in a blind panic, eventually finding herself in the engine room. Here a low moaning leads her to a sub-level where she discovers the bodies of Dallas and Brett cocooned in a silk-like material, each being used as a food source for the development of a new Egg. This "Eggmorphing" sequence was famously filmed for Alien but was cut late in production. A slightly truncated version of it was later reinstated in the Director's Cut, but it takes place later than in the novel, after Ripley has activated the Nostromo's self destruct. Notably, despite subsequent novelizations in the series following on from the theatrical version of Alien, this cocoon scene is still referenced in the novels Aliens and Alien3.
- The countdown on the Nostromo's self destruct is just under five minutes, not ten minutes as in the film. There is also no mention of a safe cut-off period for reversing the detonation, although when Ripley returns later she does indeed find the process has gone to far and cannot be stopped.
- In the film, Ripley's first attempt at reaching the Narcissus is blocked when she encounters the Alien in a corridor. In the book, she actually finds the Alien lurking in the shuttle doorway. Thus the final twist in which the Alien is revealed to be on board the Narcissus with her is more obviously telegraphed in advance.
- The final confrontation on board the Narcissus is markedly different. Following its discovery, the Alien is fully awake and aware that Ripley is hiding in the locker; at one point, it leers at her through the window in the locker door before becoming distracted by Jones in his carry box. As the Alien attempts to break the case open to get at Jones, Ripley gets into the spacesuit and arms herself with a metal spear, which she uses to impale the Alien before opening the airlock. However, the Alien grabs her ankle as it is sucked out and she is almost expelled with it, but she slams the hatch shut, crushing the Alien's hand, and then fires up the shuttle's engines, hurling the Alien's burning corpse out into space where it then explodes.
In 2015, Audible Studios produced an unabridged audiobook of Alan Dean Foster's novelization, read by actor Peter Guinness (who played Gregor in Alien3). The audiobook runs for 9 hours and 2 minutes and was released on December 10, 2015, alongside similar audiobooks of Aliens, Alien3 (also read by Guinness) and Alien Resurrection.
- Each of Alan Dean Foster's novelizations for the Alien franchise begins with a section discussing dreams. With the exception of Alien3, they also all conclude with a mention of dreams (by the conclusion of Alien3, all of the main characters are dead and thus there is no one left to dream).
- ISBN 0-446-32878-2; First printing: [June] , Second printing: [June] , Warner Books, paperback, 270 pages
- ISBN 978-0751506679 (as The Alien Omnibus); [October] , Little Brown Book Group, paperback, 656 pages
- ISBN 978-1783290154; [April] , Titan Books, paperback, 288 pages
- Alien (film) — The 1979 film.
- Alien: The Illustrated Story — The comic adaptation of the film by Heavy Metal Communications.
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