Saturday, April 11, 2009

Aliens (Foster, Alan Dean)

Rating: 3.5
Year: 1986
Genre: Sci-fi / Horror
Read again? Maybe in 57 years

It's been 57 years for Ellen Ripley. She and Jones the Space Cat have been adrift in the Nostromo's shuttle ever since their escape from that first alien.

She finds herself even more alone. Her daughter died at 66, older than Ripley is now: Rip van Ripley spent those 6 decades in a sleeper capsule.

Some things haven't changed, however. The Company--the same Company that owned the Nostromo and her cargo--is still there, inevitable, like death and taxes.

The dusty little planetoid where Nostromo's crew set down, answering what they thought was a distress signal, is now home to a colony of Terraformers. They've built massive atmosphere processors to make the unbreathable breathable.

There's a little problem, though.

Contact with the colony has been lost. Space Marines are being sent to check it out, and the friendly Company Representative wants Ripley to go along as a consultant. Just in case.

We all know what's gonna happen.

Still not ready to go back to Lackey. I probably shouldn't be reading Foster back-to-back, either, given that it took more than a week to hike through 270 pages of molasses. But I had to know: was "Alien" simply the most tolerable of Foster's books? I already know that his worst is the hideous "Alien 3," which is so full of misspellings that one English teacher would make the pages run red with ink.

My biggest beef--and the first thing I noted--is that Foster doesn't like "dirty words." He uses "heck" and "horsepucky" instead. Holy shoot, he sanitized the entire goshdarn book! Inexplicably, he leaves a single "fuck you" intact. I'm guessing he missed this one, since he wiped all the others out. He even clipped Ripley's famous, "Get away from her, you bitch!" to a much weaker and clumsy-sounding, "Get away from her, you!" I'm gonna cuss away one point for that, and another half-point for being such a prissy wanker. The list is below, for your amusement.

Pacing is quicker than that of the first book. Twenty pages in, people are actually doing things that advance the story. Things slow down after the first big firefight between the Marines and the aliens; the book plods at near-idle speed at times. It's still not as boring as the first, but Foster doesn't seem to write for suspense. There are times when his style reminds me of the stilted, overly-formal-yet-overly-friendly announcers of 1950's movies; at others, he sounds like a bad door-to-door salesman who just can't get the pitch right. Then there's his knack for picking the wrong word for the job:

"Airborne particles of sand and grit had corroded much of the steel plate."

What about "eroded"? He's using a word for a chemical process to describe a physical process. By his use of the word, we could say that the Grand Canyon was formed by corrosion over millions of years. That's some strong river water.

Oh, well. In the first book he described the alien's acid blood as "caustic"...which describes the action of a base, not an acid. I suppose we could shrug and claim literary license, but I won't shrug. I demand better from a writer if it's SCIENCE fiction. So there.

"Dirty Words"
This is the entire list, not cherry-picked. He sanitized the damn--sorry, darn-- story!

heck: Ripley, p. 5
whattheheck: Ripley, p. 8 (yes, one word.)
horsepucky: Ripley, p. 13 (thinking to herself; she even sanitizes her own thoughts?!)
heck: Simpson, p. 30
heck: Russ Jorden, p. 36
heck: Ripley, p. 45
lazybutts: Apone, p. 53 (a Marine Sergeant who euphemizes cussin'?)
poontang: Wierzbowski, p. 55 (maybe Foster doesn't know what this means)
fuck you: Vasquez, p. 59 (I wonder if he forced himself to type it, then felt dirty afterward?)
screw you: Hudson, p. 112 (after 53 cuss-free pages, Foster really unwinds!)
pendejo: Vasquez, p. 133 (does Foster know Spanish?)
mierda: Vasquez, p. 145
ass: Vasquez, p. 175
bullcrap: Hicks, p. 204
fu--?: Hudson, p. 208 (maybe Foster was all fugged out by this point)

All in all, Foster isn't the mediocre hack, the destroyer of stories, the towering inferno of ineptitude that I remembered. I was wrong about him being the male Mercedes Lackey: he's just not a great writer, and she tells a much better story. Usually.

At least he's not George Luca$.

No comments: