The Covenant is complete, in Earth orbit and ready to make history. But before the Weyland-Yutani colony vessel can depart, sergeant Carl Lope must recruit the final members of his security team and fend off a wave of attacks. Someone doesn’t want the ship to launch, and they are willing to kill to stop it…
Written by legendary novelist and tie-in specialist Alan Dean Foster, Alien: Covenant – Origins is a profoundly strange reading experience. For a start, Daniels and Tennessee, the two functional leads of the movie, are relegated to cameo roles. Given that Daniels is on the cover, that’s odd. Given that Lope and Rosenthal (the two leads of Origins ) are given very little screen time or development in Alien: Covenant, it’s straight up mystifying.
Then there’s what Dean Foster chooses to focus on, which is both interesting and profoundly frustrating. The group behind the attacks have very good reasons for what they’re doing, yet these are only hinted at but never explored in the detail you’d like.
It’s as if Dean Foster attempted to staplegun a Cthonic cosmic horror plot onto the back of a pretty straightforward SF novel. Where the two meet it’s usually pretty fun but they get in each other’s way far too much. An entire novel from the point of view of the cult, or even the internal Weyland-Yutani politics we see here, would have been genuinely interesting. Instead, it always cuts away to either relatively needless cameos from the Covenant crew or Lope and Rosenthal starring in a near-future season of 24.
At least they’re both engaging characters here in a way they never were in the movie. The world they move through is less fortunate. Dean Foster’s take on the futuristic UK can be effective but when it fails, it fails badly. In particular, Bevridge, one of Lope’s contacts who talks like a World War 2 fighter pilot, is a bad misstep.
Perhaps the worst sin the novel commits is one of damage control. The closing action sequence is both perfunctory and feels like something that was asked to be tacked on by the studio. It attempts to address arguably the largest issue with the plot of the screen version of Alien: Covenant, namely the profoundly stupid idea that such a massive ship only has one shuttle. Dean Foster makes a valiant attempt to explain why they launched with only one, but it ultimately only compounds the situation, making the flaw more obvious instead of less.
In a strange way, that’s almost a recommendation for the book. Origins is better paced and way more focused than Covenant, while Dean Foster has a good ear for dialogue, a great eye for character and writes a magnificently off-the-wall action sequence that actually includes the line:
‘A moment later, the first goat blew up.’
The problem is that what starts out as an interesting novel ends up hammered into shape to fit the front-end of a movie. Sadly, Alien: Covenant is neither improved nor excused by this book. A curiosity then, but nothing more.
Alien: Covenant – Origins is out now priced £7.99 from Titan books