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Literature / Alien: Out of the Shadows

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Alien: Out of the Shadows is the collective name for a trilogy of novels released in 2014 by Titan Books, which tie into the Alien franchise and were released in conjunction with 20th Century Fox.

The trilogy includes three new stories that take place at various points throughout the timeline of the film series:

  • Out of the Shadows: 37 years after Ellen Ripley went into hypersleep after destroying a xenomorph, she wakes up onboard a mining ship, the Marion, above the planet LV-178. Her elation turns to horror as she realizes that the ship's orbit of alignment is degrading, it's falling towards the planet's surface, xenomorphs are onboard the ship, and an old adversary has returned...
  • Sea of Sorrows: Several hundred years after they were reportedly eradicated for good, Interstellar Commerce Commission deputy Alan Decker discovers that there are dormant xenomorphs still living underneath the surface of LV-178. After being sent by the newly-reformed Weyland-Yutani Corporation to investigate it, Alan finds more than he bargained for, as well as a surprising revelation about one of his ancestors...
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  • River of Pain: Taking place prior to the events of Aliens, the xenomorph attack on Hadley's Hope is revisited, from the perspective of both the colonists and a unit of Colonial Marines. After an unknown creature begins attacking and abducting colonists, Captain Demian Brackett and Administrator Al Simpson find the situation spiralling out of control and mount a desperate last stand...

The books rely heavily on expanding plot points from the films to tell new stories, and were intended to be a reboot for the franchise that tied in more closely with the existing film canon. The trilogy also led into a Massive Multiplayer Crossover comic series called Fire and Stone, which amalgamated elements from the main films, Prometheus and the Predator franchise as part of an interconnected story.

The three novels were adapted into full-cast audio dramas for Audible by producer Dirk Maggs in 2017-2019.


The novels provide examples of the following tropes:

  • Absurdly Dedicated Worker: Ash in Out of the Shadows has been keeping Ripley in stasis and her shuttle away from any rescue for 37 years, on the off chance he might pick up another signal indicating the presence of the alien lifeform he was ordered to procure a specimen of. His every action through the entire book is him still attempting to fulfill Special Order 937, nearly four decades after it was issued, and he fully intends to keep attempting to fulfill it until the heat death of the universe if need be.
  • Action Survivor: Ripley (obviously), Brackett, Newt, Jones and Decker all get this by the end of their respective novels.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The first and third books do this in spades:
    • Shadows has a heretofore-unseen adventure involving Ripley that takes place between Alien and Aliens, with an assortment of additional characters and subplots.
    • Pain, meanwhile, semi-canonizes the Newt's Tale comic adaptation, and shows that there were not only Colonial Marines stationed at Hadley's Hope during the xenomorph outbreak, but at least one group of survivors that escaped the planet on a ship.
  • Always Save the Girl: Subverted. Brackett goes to rescue Newt at the end of Pain, but is unsuccessful and instead finds a different young girl, who he saves and brings with the group of survivors who escape on the shuttle.
  • Ascended Extra: Administrator Simpson appeared in one scene in the Special Edition of Aliens, but has a much larger role in Pain.
  • Audio Play: The trilogy has been adapted into "Audible Original Audio Dramas," with score, sound effects, and a pretty impressive cast bringing the stories to life. These include Alexander Siddig as Doctor Reese, Rutger Hauer as Ash, and Laurel Lefkow doing a nearly-flawless impression of Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: In Sea of Sorrows, the novel ends with Weyland-Yutani successfully acquiring a Xenomorph Queen chestburster and Drone chestburster.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed:
    • In Shadows, Sneddon performs a Heroic Sacrifice by blowing herself (as a chestburster starts to rip out of her) and a xenomorph up with a grenade to prevent it from attacking further.
    • Subverted in Pain. During the colonist's final stand against the xenomorphs, Newt's mother picks up a gun and intends to put her children out of their misery before turning the gun on herself. She gets ready to pull the trigger...and then Newt tells her there's another way, and leads them towards a ventilation grate during the attack. Not that it helps, considering that her mother and brother get ripped apart seconds later, forcing her to flee into the duct.
  • Bizarre Alien Senses: It is explained in Sorrows that the xenomorphs Decker finds at New Galveston can "sense" the fact that he's a descendant of Ellen Ripley, and personally target him as a result.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: Shadows ends with Chief Engineer Hoop (the only other survivor besides Ripley) left adrift in a transport shuttle with no stasis pod and no long-distance travel capabilities.
  • Canon Discontinuity:
    • According to 20th Century Fox, the Shadows trilogy effectively wipes most (if not all) of the previous Expanded Universe content from canon, as they wanted to present a more unified, coherent universe for the franchise. It very nearly did this to the third and fourth films, but Fox changed its mind at the last minute and forced a rewrite to include references to them.
    • Certain elements of Out of the Shadows are contradicted by Alien: Covenant, throwing the novel's canonical status into question.
    • And Alien: The Roleplaying Game further muddies the waters, elaborating on the Alien 'Verse for players to have adventures in. It makes references to some EU material decanonized by Shadows Trilogy. . . but no references to the trilogy itself. Since this is also part of an effort to present a unified, cohesive Expanded Universe for the Alien franchise (the RPG and Aliens Fireteam Elite refer to many of the same events), it leaves it open if the Shadows trilogy was just a "dry run" at sorting out the continuity and is no longer canonical itself, or if further works are building upon its efforts without being obvious about it.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The Marion mining ship has a functioning Weyland-Yutani Medpod onboard.
    • When Ripley sees the inside of the Samson she tells the crew of the Marion that's how the Nostromo was starting to look. This implies that the most notable added scene of the Director's Cut, Ripley finding Dallas cocooned to the wall as the Alien started building a nest, happened.
    • One of the chapters in Pain has a Marine telling some of the other colonists about the equipment they commonly use, including the VP78 Pistol (from Aliens vs. Predator).
    • In Sorrows, Decker is told that both Ripley and her daughter, Amanda had both previously combatted the xenomorphs and survived. In Shadows, Ash's report notes that Amanda Ripley's ship had once docked at Sevastapol station as well.
    • In Sea of Sorrows, Adams is impregnated by a Royal Facehugger, previously seen in Alien³'s Assembly Cut.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Ash in Shadows, who not only uploaded his evidence from the xenomorph encounters to the Narcissus' computer before he died, but also uploaded a copy of himself into its mainframe just in case anything went wrong.
  • Create Your Own Villain: Retroactively in Sorrows. Ripley and Call's directions for the USS Auriga to crash into Earth in Alien: Resurrection is what allowed the defunct Weyland-Yutani to return as a global superpower.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Baxter the engineer, who is partially pulled out of an elevator by a xeno, bisected by a pillar while ascending. What's left of him falls back into the mine with the creature holding onto him on the way down.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: In Sea of Sorrows, Decker falls in love with the boisterous but friendly merc Adams. Close to the end of the novel, Adams is impregnated by a Royal Facehugger and her body is taken by Weyland-Yutani, who have no intentions of trying to save her.
  • Dungeon Crawl: Ripley and the Marion crew venturing through then mines, derelict, and alien city is basically one of these, complete with random encounters.
  • Dying Town: New Galveston, at the beginning of Sorrows.
  • Faking the Dead: The surviving crew of the Marion comes across a room containing several mummified Xenomorphs birthed from a species of humanoid dog-like aliens thousands of years ago. It turns out they're not dead, but in hibernation.
  • Foregone Conclusion: We know that Ripley has to end the book exactly as she ended in Alien so she can be found at the start of Aliens. Likewise, it's also a given that Hadley's Hope will eventually be overrun, and that Brackett's pledge to stop Weyland-Yutani no matter what the cost will end up being a hollow threat, as they are still in full swing for a long time after the events of the third film.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: Baxter in Shadows, who's bisected after he's partially pulled out of an elevator by a xenomorph.
  • Hope Spot: Much like in Newt's Tale, Anne Jorden is swayed from her attempt to kill herself and her children as the xenos break through the last of the defenses by her own daughter, who tells her there's a way to escape. They flee through the carnage and get to an airduct... and then Anne and her son are eviscerated right in front of Newt, traumatizing her before she flees into the ventilation system.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Hoop makes sure to grab a bottle of bourbon for his last-ditch plan to escape the Marion. "Heavy, impractical, and absolutely necessary." Even when dropping the bottle would easily save him from being blown out into space, he hangs on to it.
    Fuck you! his mind screamed. Fuck you! If I survive, I'm going to want a drink!
  • Improvised Weapon: The engineers onboard the Marion use mining tools to combat the xenos onboard the Samson, and are surprisingly successful, wiping all but one of them out.
  • Insectoid Aliens: The Xenomorphs are repeatedly compared to eusocial insects, not only due to their exoskeletons but their hive-building behaviour and caste system - the Marion crew encounter and kill a young Queen, and the mercenaries hired by Weyland-Yutani in Sea of Sorrows encounter a fully-grown one.
  • Interquel: Both Out of the Shadows and River of Pain take place between the events of Alien and Aliens.
  • It's Personal: The xenomorphs themselves get this in Sorrows, as they go after Decker because he is a descendant of Ellen Ripley.
  • It's the Only Way to Be Sure: Owing to Ripley's pervasive habit of very thoroughly dealing with the Aliens, the Company has little to no actual information on them, their capabilities, or the hazards of dealing with them. Resulting in many attempts to learn more about them going horribly awry because they don't know enough to take appropriate precautions.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Ripley gets her recent memories wiped near the end of Shadows, as she has been suffering from nightmares about her daughter and doesn't want to remember any of her experiences on LV-178.
  • Mega-Corp: Weyland-Yutani was rebuilt following the events of the fourth film, and has resumed its role as the villainous corporation (attempts to capture xenomorphs included).
  • Mythology Gag: In Out of the Shadows, Dallas is referred to as Ripley's lover. A deleted scene had Ripley propositioning Dallas for sex, because she "just needs a release." Ridley Scott had also intended to make it explicit that pretty much everyone on the Nostromo had been sexually involved with pretty much everyone else on the Nostromo, regardless of gender (Ash being the obvious exception). The Marion crew make a few half-joking references to passing the ridiculous amount of time they'll be spending in Ripley's very cramped shuttle by having lots of sex (Kasyanov even packs contraceptives for the trip when it's down to just her, Hoop, and Ripley).
  • No Endor Holocaust: Averted. It is explained in Sea of Sorrows that the impact of the USS Auriga slamming into Earth nearly caused a global Ice Age and damaged the planet's ecosystem, and was only reversed after the reformed Weyland-Yutani terraformed the planet.
  • Not Quite Dead: Science Officer Ash in Shadows, who uploaded his AI into the Narcissus' mainframe before he was killed. It also occurs when the same AI does one more villainous action after being explicitly deleted from the mainframe.
  • Paranoia Fuel: Invoked in-universe. The Hadley's Hope colonists start getting this once the xenomorph escapes and begins to abduct people.
  • Rewrite:
    • The attack on Hadley's. Not only were there a group of Colonial Marines stationed on the planet, but several people (including the Captain, a young girl, at least one Marine and a scientist) survived by escaping on a shuttle during the last stand.
    • Ripley states in Shadows that the xeno on the Nostromo killed Lambert by ripping a hole in her face and hanging her from the ceiling. This fails to take into account that her pants are missing in the film, nor the disturbing noises Ripley head over the intercomm as she was running towards her and Parker.
  • Saved by Canon: In Out of the Shadows we know that whatever happens, Ripley is going to end up back in stasis in the Narcissus, with none of the crew of the Marion aboard.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: In Pain, most of the colonists and Marines who attempt to attack the hive under the atmosphere processor bail out once they see what they're up against, leaving Brackett on his own.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In Out of the Shadows, Ash's last thoughts before death are wondering whether he will dream, just as HAL 9000 once did.
    • In Sea of Sorrows, one of the mercenaries examines a dead Xenomorph and declares it to be "an ugly motherfucker."
  • A Storm Is Coming: One of the colonists at Hadley's Hope (who has undergone Sanity Slippage) tells a group of Marines that he believes this is going to happen to the colony soon, just before he's shot dead by a Marine.
  • Taking You with Me: Sneddon blows herself and a xenomorph up in this fashion in the first book.
  • Theme Naming:
    • The Samson and Delilah, the two mining ships featured in the first book, named after characters from the Bible.
    • The second and third books have references to water in their name.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The colonists at Hadley's open a secured barricade not once, but twice, after they think Marines or other colonists are outside, only to discover that there's a horde of xenos who bust in and massacre them.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Newt. She sees her father get facehugged (and eventually killed via chestburster right in front of her), her mother eviscerated, the colonists massacred and her brother sprayed with acid blood before she escapes into the ventilation system.
  • Villainous Rescue: Invoked in Sorrows. Weyland-Yutani reformed itself after the events of the fourth film and ended up saving Earth itself, which was in danger of heading into a new Ice Age as a result of the damage from the Auriga's crash, via terraforming.