Alien III by William Gibson (Audiobook) – Review

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By @Roger Crow

As a fan of the Alien saga, of all the sequels, Alien III was the most interesting. Not the 1992 movie, which was a horrible experience, having killed off two of the saga’s most likeable characters (Hicks and Newt), but all of those projects which could have been.

New Zealand film-maker Vincent Ward had a stab with an extraordinary concept involving monks on a planetoid made of wood. (The monks essentially became prisoners on a lice-infested alien planet for David Fincher’s film).

At one point it looked like Renny Harlin would helm a version set on Earth. And then there was William Gibson’s take on the saga, which also attracted a lot of attention. The man who had won much praise for his books Neuromancer (the first tome I read when I moved to Yorkshire 28 years ago) and Burning Chrome, the father of Cyberpunk looked like being the next big thing in Hollywood in the early 1990s.

His screenplay for Alien III has been the topic of online fan-groups for years, and recently inspired not only a rather good comic book version, but also a new audio drama.

Dirk Maggs has long been the godfather of the genre, creating terrific adventures inspired by mainstream film and TV titles. His version of Tim Lebbon’s Alien: Out of the Shadows (a freebie on Audible) was stunning, not least thanks to an uncanny version of Ripley by Laurel Lefkow, and, in an inspired move, Blade Runner‘s Rutger Hauer playing psycho droid Ash.

alien iii william gibson audiobook review cover“Atmospheric effects and tense moments”

Though Ms Lefkow has a brief appearance in Maggs’ version of Alien III, two of the greatest selling points are Michael Biehn reprising his role as Hicks, and Lance Henriksen lending his gravelly tones to long suffering android Bishop.

The story begins with the Sulaco on its return journey from LV-426. On board the military ship are the cryogenically frozen skeleton crew of that film’s survivors: Ripley, Hicks, Newt and Bishop.

As an alarm sounds, it seems our heroes are no longer alone. The story, which has a cold war vibe, involves hybrid aliens and sadly very little Ripley. However, it is bursting with nice touches, atmospheric effects and tense moments which gives us an idea of what could have been.

It might not have worked as well with so little Ripley, but i’d rather have seen that version than Fincher’s car crash of a film.

With Neill Blomkamp’s proposed Alien 2.5 on hold after years of planning, we may never see the alternate version of Ripley and company’s adventures just after Aliens, so at least Maggs’ audio drama is a great taste of what could have been, via Gibson’s imagination.

And if Blomkamp’s version is shelved indefinitely, then Dirk is just the man to give it a whirl, even if it is a vision-free experience.

For now, Gibson’s Alien III is well worth a listen, preferably late at night, with the lights off when that eerie soundscape really works its magic.

‘Alien III’ by William Gibson is available from Audible, £12.99


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