"For a time there was nothing, the blankness of absolute space with no stars, no movement. Void."
The Complete Aliens™ Omnibus Volume 3 collects two novels Rogue and Labyrinth, by Sandy Schofield and S.D. Perry respectively.
Both works are being re-released here – Rogue was first published in 1995, Labyrinth the following year – and both are novelisations of comics in the legendary Dark Horse series, Aliens: Rogue and Aliens: Labyrinth . The new Omnibus series is part of a schedule from Titan to tie in with last year’s Aliens 30th anniversary and the steadily increasing excitement for this year’s new movie, Covenant.
The stories fit into the “mad scientist tries to control the xenomorph for terrible reasons” category – not unlike the goings-on in the fourth Alien movie, Alien Resurrection; in fact you can’t help wondering whether the comics were an influence on that storyline. The end result of this Alien subgenre, mostly, is that you end up feeling sorry for the Alien, horrified by the barbarity of their capture and the demented schemes of these white-coated egomaniacs. With back stories.
Of course, it’s a totally different affair when the aliens get out of the lab. In Rogue there’s a setpiece of brilliantly Aliens the movie-style running shoot outs underground, complete with space marines and rebel spaceship captain just passing through. The Charon research base – did the name not put anyone off working there?! – is vividly created, a highly visual challenge of levels and tunnels, darkness and classic moonbase.
Similarly, Labyrinth is set on a research space station, and like Rogue, the story is propelled by a visitor, in this case one Dr Crespi, on a secret mission to find out just what the heck is going on there with the maybe sinister Dr Paul Church and those maybe rumours of strange goings on …
Both novels are highly visceral, and have all the guns and alien terror you’d want – they’re definitely not for the young or fainthearted – and they exist very credibly in the Aliens™ world. There’s greater ‘zoological’ detail on the creatures in the novels as opposed to the movies, and this can be both a good and bad thing. The inscrutable, terrifying creatures get more explanation, which is grimly fascinating, but arguably there’s something about the not knowing that makes the first film in particular a Science Fiction masterpiece and the Alien especially extraterrestrial.
It seems unfair to single out one story over the other, but for this reviewer Labyrinth just edges it as the favourite. Both books are successful and entertaining – the madcap race through the tunnels to the ship in Rogue is really exciting – but there’s a dark pulse to the storytelling of Labyrinth that broods away in the memory for longer. It seems to transcend its source narrative in places – and like the novelisation work of Alan Dean Foster, there’s an undertow of something else to say, a personality to imprint, a world view slithering through with the Alien.
Labyrinth really needs a strong constitution – there’s one sequence of unbelievable hideousness and horror – but away from the full-on gore and madness there is something of the very first Alien movie about it, something of its fear of our place in an enormous unknown, human beings as tiny insignificances, slowly circling away in space, into cold darkness.
The Complete Aliens Omnibus Volume Three is out now from Titan Books