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Alien Survival Manual by Owen Williams (book review).

I’m not sure how I missed Alien Survival Manual by Owen Williams, more so as Carlton Books doesn’t exist anymore. It isn’t as though I haven’t got lots of books on the Alien franchise, let alone being somewhat of an expert on the subject, so I know what I’m looking for and might end up giving some advice to future writers if they tackle the subject. This book also covers all six films. A quick surface scan also reveals that you only get key cast members noted, not everyone, so don’t assume it’s comprehensive. Likewise, you need to be careful about how much you can show in a marine’s guide if no information was collected.

After all, the details of the Prometheus and Covenant would not be available, so how would there be any details of the Deacon xenomorph or the Engineers? Considering Weyland-Yutani lost two Weyland key executives with the Prometheus mission, you do have to wonder why a follow-up mission wasn’t conducted to find out what happened to them. Mind you, they probably had to sign the company over to other people while they were likely to be away for five years, and why should they waste money on Peter Weyland’s expensive fantasy. With one obvious exception, most of the quotes could hardly have been broadcast for other people to hear.

Of course, I have to keep my eye open for mistakes, and you can hardly miss this one. Williams says there were two cryo-pods when there was only one. It was supposed to be the captain’s ship after all. No one has questioned why there was only one cryo-pod for the entire crew. Thinking about it, if the Narcissus crashed on a one-person mission, then there would be the means for long-term survival if the Nostromo couldn’t land.

With LV-426, Rebecca Jorden wasn’t the only survivor found. When the marines got near the nest, they found the second survivor shortly before the chestburster exploded out of her chest. Considering she was older than Jorden, one would have to ask how she survived so long as well, only to be caught recently.

He also hyphenates ‘dropship’. Granted, word processors might not see it as a single word, but it isn’t difficult to correct. Also, as a warrant officer, Ripley would already have a lieutenant rank, but it would be up to her whether she used it or not. I’m not sure where he got information that Ripley had some military training.

With Alien: Resurrection, although all dimensions are given in feet and not metric, if the third dimension is height for the Betty, then 6 feet is far too small as everyone would be crouching inside. Also, the crew were not aware that Call was a synthetic, although one could surmise the Marines’ lack of knowledge. Even so, I doubt a non-USCSS spacecraft would want one on board.

It’s very weird with all these books that the emphasis has been on the xenomorphs themselves. The addition that director Ridley Scott has added to the process is that the synthetics have an agenda of their own as well that hasn’t really been explored, citing them as much as a danger. This divides into whether it’s because they want to experiment with the xenomorphs as David did, or want to stop them as Call’s intention was. In many respects, this mirrors the different types of human attitudes towards these creatures and is clearly the dividing line for a slowly building up war.

Whether this book is a good marine manual on how to take on the xenomorphs is up to the reader. Being told to avoid or attack on sight is hardly enough information. There needs to be an emphasis on not only their aggression but the dangers of being coated in their blood acid. Standard marine weapons are only efficient to a point. There certainly needs to be some thought given to situations where conventional weapons shouldn’t be used in the cooling sections of fusion reactors.

It’s a seven-year-old book, so make of it as you will, just don’t forget your incendiary unit.

GF Willmetts

January 2024

(pub: Carlton Books, 2017. 160 page illustrated medium-size hardback. Price: varies. ISBN: 978-1-78739-004-1)

UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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