Movie books

Alien Vault by Ian Nathan (book review).

Did I mention I was missing two ‘Alien’ books? This is the other one. At the time, the abundance of books we had was likely a distraction, or perhaps this particular volume wasn’t offered to us. It’s surprising that, as the era of ‘Vault’ books from various publishers was drawing to a close, none considered creating one for ‘Aliens’. Many of these ‘Vault’ books featured removable extras, but later editions often included these in envelopes attached to the inner covers, presumably sealed to prevent theft.

Despite purchasing this copy second-hand, the envelopes remain sealed, likely because no one wishes to damage the book—mine will stay sealed as well. The envelopes are labeled with their contents, and the book includes smaller images of these items in the table of contents, covering aspects like the film’s production history and its pivotal alien birth scene. This highlights the importance of having a memorable scene to pitch a script to producers.

The book also reminds us that Ridley Scott wasn’t a science fiction enthusiast initially. His views changed after seeing ‘2001’ and becoming significantly impressed by the success of ‘Star Wars’, which he watched three times in consecutive days. This shift reflected a broader change in the film industry’s attitude towards the profitability of science fiction movies, with 20th Century Fox ready to launch the ‘Alien’ script. Considering the list of directors who passed on the project, it’s intriguing to ponder how their involvement might have altered the film’s legacy. Scott’s late-stage perfection of the creature’s design was a key factor in the movie’s success.

Fascinating tidbits emerge throughout the book, like the components comprising the Nostromo’s docking port with the refinery. Jerry Goldsmith’s initial score was deemed insufficiently eerie, leading to a last-minute replacement composed in just 10 minutes, much to his chagrin. Creativity often defies the expectation of laborious effort, sometimes being swiftly overtaken by a flash of inspiration that wins approval. This underscores that compensation in creative fields is more about the quality of ideas than the time spent.

An interesting point is the lawsuit by A.E. Van Vogt for similarities between ‘Alien’ and two of his stories, ‘Black Destroyer’ and ‘Discord In Scarlet’, later compiled in ‘Voyage Of The Space Beagle’ (1950). It’s curious that Van Vogt’s other works haven’t been explored for film adaptation.

Photographs are a crucial element of any film book. While many images in this book are familiar, some production photos were new to me. The final chapter’s focus on Ridley Scott’s subsequent films, ‘Prometheus’ and ‘Covenant’—the latter arguably ending the franchise—ties in with the book’s publication timing.

Nevertheless, ‘Alien’ remains the benchmark against which all science fiction films are measured, unmatched even by its imitators. With copies still readily available, this book is definitely worth acquiring.

GF Willmetts

February 2024

(pub: White Lion Publishing/Quarto, 2019. 191 page illustrated squarish hardback. Price: varies. ISBN: 978-1-78131-942-0)

check out website: www.quartoknows.com


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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