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Alien 3: The Unproduced screenplay by Pat Cadigan and William Gibson #BookReview

William Gibson’s never-before-adapted screenplay for the direct sequel to Aliens, revealing the fates of Ripley, Newt, the synthetic Bishop, and Corporal Hicks. When the Colonial Marines vessel Sulaco docks with space station and military installation Anchorpoint, a new form of Xenomorph appears. Written by Hugo Award-winning novelist and “Queen of Cyberpunk” Pat Cadigan, based on Gibson’s never-produced first draft.

The Sulaco–on its return journey from LV-426–enters a sector controlled by the “Union of Progressive Peoples,” a nation-state engaged in an ongoing cold war and arms race. U.P.P. personnel board the Sulaco and find hypersleep tubes with Ripley, Newt, and an injured Hicks. A Facehugger attacks the lead commando, and the others narrowly escape, taking what remains of Bishop with them.

The Sulaco continues to Anchorpoint, a space station and military installation the size of a small moon, where it falls under control of the military’s Weapons Division. Boarding the Sulaco, a team of Colonial Marines and scientists is assaulted by a pair of Xenomorph drones. In the fight Ripley’s cryotube is badly damaged. It’s taken aboard Anchorpoint, where Ripley is kept comatose. Newt and an injured Corporal Hicks are awakened, and Newt is sent to Gateway Station on the way to Earth. The U.P.P. sends Bishop to Anchorpoint, where Hicks begins to hear rumors of experimentation–the cloning and genetic modification of Xenomorphs.

The kind of experimentation that could yield a monstrous hybrid, and perhaps even a Queen.

Alien 3 the Unproduced screenplay by Pat Cadigan and William Gibson book cover

Title: Alien 3: The Unproduced Screenplay | Author: Pat Cadigan and William Gibson | Publisher: Titan Books | Pub. Date: 7 September 2021 | Pages: 340 | ISBN: 9781789097528 | Genre: Science Fiction | Language: English | Starred Review: Yes | Source: Publisher

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Alien 3: The Unproduced Screenplay Review

Even if they did take a bit of a downward turn after the first two, the ‘Alien’ movies have justifiably cemented their place in cinematic history and the hearts of fans. Following the huge critical and commercial success of James Cameron’s ‘Aliens’, the producers realised they had a franchise on their hands and sought out screenwriters to figure out what happened to Ripley and the xenomorphs yet. One of the ten people who had a go was seminal cyberpunk author William Gibson, who produced two quite different drafts of a script in 1987 and 1988. Neither was filmed, but the second has been adapted into both a Dark Horse comic and an Audible drama. This novelisation by Hugo award winning author Pat Cadigan is of the first draft of the script. 

What’s interesting about the story is how much of a sequel to ‘Aliens’ it is. Rather than the actual movie and those that followed it, which feel very franchisey (with constant reinvention of the concept), this is most definitely a continuation of the story and take on the ‘Alien’ universe that Cameron gave us.

The book starts with the survivors of the events on LV-426 (Ripley, Newt, Hicks and Bishop) in hypersleep on the Sulaco as it heads back to civilisation. The ship accidentally passes through a region of space controlled by the communist Union of Progressive Peoples. They board the Sulaco and remove the android, Bishop, before letting the ship continue to the capitalist/corporate region where it docks at a space station called Anchorpoint. The book progresses with the focus on Bishop in one location and Hicks in another as, inevitably, the xenomorphs appear and start killing/bursting out of people.

Tonally it is very (and indeed joyously) similar to ‘Aliens’. There’s a great mix of horror and action, some interesting sci fi, humour and memorable characters. As noted, it’s very much about Bishop and Hicks, who are pitch perfect recreations on the page of their cinematic selves. Bishop in particular really grows as a character and has some excellent scenes. Newt makes a brief appearance too and is similarly recognisable. Ripley, however, doesn’t feature at all. Given the direction the movies took that felt surprising, but given only the first two had been made when the story was written, maybe it isn’t. 

There are plenty of new characters to join the old ones, and they’re just as enjoyable and convincing. The book plays nicely on the contrast between the capitalist and communist forces, drawing the apparent conclusion that both are really just there to screw over the little people. 

The action is punchy and tense, and the aliens gain a few new tricks which are wonderfully horrible. The horror scenes might stretch biological credibility a little at times, but they’re definitely effective.

It’s impossible to read the book without thinking of the later films. It ends up feeling like an alternate universe, growing from the same roots but branching in a different direction. It might not be canon but it’s great fun as a result. Gibson and Cadigan really capture the feel of ‘Aliens’ whilst also pushing the story forward in new and interesting ways. If you’re a fan of the early films (and who in their right mind isn’t) then this will keep you very entertained, whilst providing a bittersweet sense of nostalgia. 

You can purchase a copy of this book via your normal retailer, but please consider purchasing it from a local indie bookshop instead. It can be found here at Indiebound or at Bookshop. Please note the Bookshop link is an affiliate link and each purchase you make through it helps to support Sci-Fi & Scary and keep the site running.

Published inScience Fiction Book ReviewsStarred Reviews

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