Review: Alien: River of Pain by Christopher Golden and Dirk Maggs [audiobook]

Alien: River of Pain: An Audible Original Drama
$14.95 $14.95
By Christopher Golden, Dirk Maggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My original ALIEN: RIVER OF PAIN audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook Reviewer.

Alien: River of Pain, the latest Audible Original Drama to commemorate Alien Day (4/26, as in the planetary vacation hot-spot LV-426), picks up right on the heels of the film, Alien, and last year’s audiodrama, Alien: Out of the Shadows. Here, a group of colonists have begun settling and terraforming the inhospitable rock cataloged as LV-426, now renamed Acheron. Fans of the movie Aliens know exactly where things are headed, though, and this story serves as a direct prequel and side-story to that film, as author Christopher Golden takes us through the xenomorphic siege of the lost colony.

Much of this production’s first half is a slow burn, as listeners are introduced to the various factions and individuals within the colony. There’s the colony administrator, the various teams of surveyors, including Russ and Anne Jorden and their children (one of whom is the first human born on Acheron and goes by the nickname Newt), scientists from the Weyland-Yutani mega-corporation, and a team of marines, led by their new commander Damien Brackett. Interspersed between the story of Acheron’s development are snippets of Ellen Ripley’s recovery, much of which is lifted straight out of Aliens and provides a timeline of continuity between the two stories. Fans of Laurel Lefkow will be pleased to know the actress returns from Out of the Shadows to once again voice Ripley, delivering a pitch-perfect performance that eerily and uncannily resembles Sigourney Weaver’s original performance.

It’s not until the mid-way point of the production that things kick into high gear after the Jorden’s receive orders from Weyland-Yutani to survey a set of very specific coordinates, which lead them to a very familiar derelict ship, and a very familiar discovery. From that point on, the production gets it Alien freakshow going good.

While River of Pain is an entertaining listen, due largely to Dirk Maggs’ intense production values and fully immersive soundscape, and solid performances across the board from the drama’s large cast, this does come with a caveat. This is an enjoyable listen, but nothing about the story is particularly surprising. Anybody who has seen Aliens knows exactly what this story is about and how it will unravel right from the very start (although the very last moments do provide an interesting twist and potential for future exploration). The cast and crew are certainly game for it all, though, and I’m certainly happy to listen to an Audible Original, particularly when it involves one of my favorite sci-fi horror franchises. From a production standpoint, this book is certainly a success and is chock-full of atmosphere, gunfire, screams, and alien threats lurking right behind you.

With this latest release, Audible has now produced two dramas based on novels originally published as part of Titan Books’ 2014 trilogy. Alien: Sea of Sorrows, written by James A. Moore, has yet to be adapted, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed for an Alien Day 2018 release.

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Michael Patrick Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.

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