Alien: River of Pain, An Audio Drama Adapted from the Novel by Christopher Golden

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I picked up Audible’s Alien: River of Pain audio drama. It seemed like an interesting alternative to the usual audiobook material I listen to, so I wanted to give it a shot. I have a massive collection of old 1940s, 50s, and 60s radio dramas in digital format, consisting of radio programs like The Weird Circle. This Audible Original was not entirely dissimilar to those experiences.
In place of the narrative, an ensemble cast performed the dialogue while digital Foley was used to provide the drama with background noise and contextual sounds that enhanced the three-dimensionality of the overall experience. Though this audio drama was missing the writing style of Christopher Golden’s actual novel, it did capture his written dialogue quite nicely. Impressively, even without the story elements from Golden, it wasn’t at all difficult to follow the events as they were taking place.
River of Pain provides us with details of the events taking place on LV-426 from the point the earliest terraforming efforts were underway. This fills us in up to the loss of contact that led to Burke enlisting Ripley to join the Colonial Marines as they made their way to the fateful–and fatal–encounter with the xenomorphs infesting Hadley’s Hope. We benefit from getting to know characters we barely met in Aliens being fleshed out, in addition to meeting characters we’d never known to exist. Additionally, we catch a glimpse of the overall decency of Gorman before his final moments of life during the events of Aliens.
The experiences on LV-426 are placed in the appropriate location in the timeline with relatively frequent snapshots of the events we’re familiar with from the movie. We’re treated to events we know well, from Ripley’s discovery by the salvage crew to her waking up from nightmares in the hospital, from her demotion to the moment Burke requests that she join the expedition to the colony.
All things considered, I feel like this drama might have been a more immersive experience than a standard audiobook, but it’s not something I’d consider a substitute for the book itself. There’s certainly plenty missing in erasing the narrative of the story, especially when written by someone as talented as Christopher Golden, but this does have its unique value.
There were too many exceptionally talented individuals lending their voices to this audio drama, so I’ll focus on the performances that stand out the most. The dialogue from Ripley was so amazing that I initially assumed they’d simply pulled it straight from the movie. I occasionally felt the same where Newt’s dialogue was concerned. Captain Brackett’s dialogue was performed spectacularly well by the voice actor involved in bringing him to life.

Aliens: Bug Hunt Edited by Jonathan Maberry

When Jonathan Maberry assembles an anthology, a discerning reader should expect a certain degree of excellence from the final product; that is doubly so when that anthology includes material from authors like Christopher Golden, Weston Ochse, Brian Keene, Scott Sigler, and Maberry himself. Aliens: Bug Hunt is certainly no exception.
Pitched by Maberry to the decision-makers handling the literary universe that’s evolved from Ridley Scott’s Alien universe as a series of vignettes, deep-diving into the lives and experiences of the men and women of the Colonial Marines, it’s a magnificent thing to behold.
The collection is kicked off with Paul Kupperberg’s Chance Encounter. He takes us to a far-off planet where low gravity provides a lattice for massive trees to spear the sky and equally impressive jellyfish-like creatures to float amid the highest branches. Unfortunately, for the expedition on-site to collect samples, there’s another lifeform preying on those Floaters and happy to prey on any other lifeforms making themselves available. Like many of these stories, this one focuses on greed and selfishness, and the disastrous consequences when we allow those traits to guide our actions, much as James Cameron’s Aliens did.
Reaper by Dan Abnett introduces us to a world where the corporation’s attempt to grow and harvest grain awakens a swarming colony of organisms with no objective but to consume all available organic material before returning to hibernation, awaiting new growth and new food for the swarm.
Rachel Caine’s Broken introduces us to Bishop, detailing his first minutes of awakened existence and the fateful mission that ultimately brings him into the company of Apone and crew.
Reclamation introduces us to Hicks, long before the events of Aliens, as Yvonne Navarro shares the story of his marriage and his desperate struggle to understand what happened to his wife on a mission that stole her from him five years earlier.
Christopher Golden’s Blowback takes us into the life of Dietrich, quite some time before her fateful mission to LV-426. We witness first-hand the turmoil of romance within the Colonial Marines as death can come from any direction, at any time. Numerous familiar faces populate this story, from Apone and Hicks to Hudson and Vasquez.
Exterminators by Matt Forbeck provides us with another glimpse into Dietrich’s life as she and Frost make their way to a bar on an out-of-the-way colony, only to discover that R&R is not in the cards for them.
Ray Garton’s No Good Deed takes us to LV-426 before the events of Aliens, as a bounty hunter and her sarcastic android chase two escaped prisoners to a colony under siege by xenomorphs. But it may turn out that the aliens aren’t necessarily the most dangerous creatures on the planet.
A most peculiar and horrifying encounter with a different sort of alien sucks us into Zero To Hero by Weston Ochse. As a cowardly Colonial Marine discovers untapped reservoirs of heroism, he discovers that he might have been better off staying home and playing video games.
David Farland’s Dark Mother shares the final hours of Burke’s life after he failed to get Ripley and Newt impregnated as hosts during the events of Aliens.
Episode 22 by Larry Correia details the history of the M41A pulse rifle in a fictional documentary format that is strangely captivating.
Keith R. A. DeCandido provides us with a glimpse into the hazardous life of an embedded journalist in Deep Background, as a group of Colonial Marines investigates a potential attempt by Weyland-Yutani to cultivate and study the xenomorphs on another planet, with another unsuspecting group of civilians.
Brian Keene’s Empty Nest takes us to another xenomorph infestation and provides us with a glimpse of just how far a mother will go to be a mother.
Darkness Falls introduces us to a retired Colonial Marine, desperate to find peace and security in a colony where she expected never to see xenomorphs again. Heather Graham’s is the only story where we get to witness the adaptations of the xenomorph depending on the organism they’re using for a host, and it’s a horrifying outcome.
Hugs To Die For by Mike Resnick and Marina J. Lostetter showcases a fine example of corporate hubris, as a small group of Colonial Marines receives a tour of a facility where xenomorph blood is being harvested for industrial use.
Maberry’s own Deep Black returns us to the prison colony from Alien 3, long after the events from the movie. A three-man team arrives on the planet, learning that all has not been as quiet as expected.
Distressed by James A. Moore introduces us to what is the most horrifying and indescribable alien lifeform of this collection, dragging us along on a surreal, disorienting battle against something virtually impossible to fight.
Scott Sigler’s Dangerous Prey takes us into the alien minds of xenomorphs themselves, and the experience is altogether more captivating than one might expect, becoming part of the hive.
Spite by Tim Lebbon takes a squad of Colonial Marines into conflict with a species of alien with a scorched earth methodology.
The narrators for these stories were superb in almost all respects, most notably James Anderson Foster, Priya Ayyar, Suzanne Elise, Michael David Axtell, and Grover Gardner. Those were just my personal favorites of the narrators involved, but there wasn’t a single one who didn’t thoroughly immerse the listener.