Book Review: The Book of Alien
In 1979, Ridley Scott's feature film ALIEN changed the way audiences saw science fiction and horror. With the upcoming release of PROMETHEUS, Titan Books is re-releasing “The Book of Alien,” an in-depth guide to the film that started it all. From the back cover: “In space no one can hear you scream! In 1979, a movie was released that was to capture the imagination of the world, and become a science fiction classic… Alien. This exciting book takes you right behind the scenes of Alien and talks to the key people involved, including H. R. Giger and director, Ridley Scott. It shows every creative stage, through designs and sketches, models and costumes, that went into such a unique vision of the future, and graphically demonstrates just why the movie won an Oscar for its visual effects.”
“The Book of Alien,” as described certainly delivers on its promise. This in-depth book gives an impressive look at the making of the hit film. It is hard not to be a little more than captivated as it explores the beginnings of the production, yet it also delivers on giving us some fascinating input on Giger and his art. As a fan, it would be hard not to be truly excited about a book such as this. While much of this information can be heard in countless interviews and DVD commentaries, it is nice to be able to read through the pages while looking at detailed pictures and drawings. The text of “The Book of Alien” is a most fascinating resource. It is especially nice to read some input from the artist involved, specifically about the beginning stages. Especially eye-opening is when the artists who created the look of the spaceships and of course Giger’s ALIEN talk about working on this classic feature and his belief that “The Alien is the star of the movie.”
In one especially insightful passage, an eyewitness account is given of a “guy looking like Count Dracula, dressed all in black leather… surrounded by a room full of bones and he was carving away frantically at this giant block of styrofoam…” The writing here is especially rich as it describes Giger working on a hot day fully decked out in leather. It also notes that his inspirational force is Lovecraft which is not terribly surprising. It is exciting to learn about this famed artist and this is certainly a good way to gather a little bit of knowledge on him, with a few pictures for additional insight. The written portion of this reference is however limited, the majority of the book consists of set photographs, stills and drawings from ALIEN. Being a thin book, the photographs are on display throughout, and mostly consist of the Xenomorph and the set design. You won’t see character shots featuring the cast where they are lounging on the futuristic set having a cup of coffee. You will see many a concept drawing of a landscape that fans have studied, dreamt about and maybe even been inspired by for the past thirty-three years. If you are a collector and consider the ALIEN franchise to be an important part of the history of cinema – or you simply think it is awesome as f*ck – this book is worth the purchase.
As far as the bad, the text here is very engaging yet there is not enough of it for my liking. The book itself – a thin paperback – has a cheap quality to it that may discourage some from the fifteen dollar price tag. As terrific as the information inside is, it would’ve been nice to see a more expansive making of hardback as opposed to the flimsy book they offer. Yet this is a minor complaint as it is what is inside that is important, and thankfully there is enough in these pages to make every ALIEN fan salivate like a Xenomorph would right before chomping down on its next victim.