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: Infiltrator by Weston Ochse, Narrated by Bronson Pinchot

I don’t know when–or even if–I’ll have a chance to play Aliens: Fireteam, but listening to the audiobook for Weston Ochse’s Aliens: Infiltrator certainly sets the stage for a fascinating and original action/horror gaming experience. If I never get around to playing the game, it won’t be for lack of interest, and it certainly won’t be due to this book disappointing me.
The protagonist, Dr. Hoenikker, serves as a cipher of sorts, the lens through which we experience the introduction to the Weyland-Yutani scientific facility. While there’s ample character development across the board, Hoenikker being the newest member of the scientific team provides us with a great opportunity to experience everything through a fresh set of eyes. With his military experience, Ochse does a fantastic job bringing the supporting cast of characters to life, particularly the former Colonial Marines on staff at Pala Station.
With Murphy’s Law in full effect, Dr. Hoenikker joins the crew of Pala Station just as an infiltrator begins a campaign of corporate espionage. As with the real world, this relatively small trouble of spying and theft escalates in a cascade effect that explodes into an utter nightmare by the conclusion. Laboratory experiments go horribly wrong, communication breaks down, and everything falls apart.
Experimenting with what we’ve come to think of as the black goo from the Alien prequel films from Ridley Scott, we encounter some interesting and dangerous creatures produced from the local fauna, potentially more deadly than the Xenomorphs we’ve all come to know and love. This being an Alien novel, of course, there are Xenomorphs in the mix, and we get further exposure to how the black goo can modify the outcome of the genesis taking place.
Bronson Pinchot’s narration is sufficiently skilled that the characters almost always sound distinctly separate and discernable as individual actors in the narrative playing out. I especially enjoyed the performance for Rawlings, who I couldn’t help but picture as an African American Matthew McConaughey. The only instances where Pinchot’s narration failed was concerning female characters, but I’ve heard worse over time.