‘Alien Vault’ by Ian Nathan book review

Ian Nathan, a long-time executive editor for Empire magazine, has excelled in penning an exhaustive tome fit for any film lover’s coffee table with the opening of the Alien Vault.

Akin to previous releases based on the Star Wars films and the Marvel comic archive, each chapter is accompanied with annotated fold outs and reprinted collectables that offer a wealth of behind the scenes information on Ridley Scott’s epic space opera.

The film, released in 1979 at the peak of a sci-fi boom that had been ushered in with the recent release of Star Wars and the imminent release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, was a hard pitch for writers Dan O’Bannon and Ron Shusett to persuade 20th Century Fox to bankroll. However, once the relatively inexperienced Ridley Scott (who only had commercials and the sumptuous The Duellists recently under his belt) came on board, the pieces began to fall into place and most importantly Scott’s art-school background recognised HR Giger for the genius that he was and the rest is motion picture history.

The book is split into five chapters covering (quite similarly to Mark Kermode’s superlative documentary): Birth, Nostromo, The Perfect Organism, Ripley and Legacy, and each section comes with the aforementioned fold-outs and blue-prints.

In all honesty this seems a somewhat tacked on idea with very little information being given in these freebies that couldn’t be covered with a glossy image elsewhere in the book (a Nostromo rainbow sticker any-one?!). However, there is no questioning that Nathan is an avid Scott fan, even if some of the material is rather scant and repetitive (being told about the Space Jockey’s cost and dimensions on adjacent pages).

Much of the interest for me in the book came with the Legacy section, which examines the releases of the three sequels and the cross-pollination into graphic novels and books. Whilst thankfully little is made of the execrable Alien Vs. Predator movies, there is a suggestion in the press kit that the book is being released in the run up to Scott’s Prometheus ‘prequel’, although said project is still more than a few months away and that film doesn’t even get a mention in the closing sections, suggesting perhaps that the gestation of this book has been taking place over quite some time.

Whilst there are more in-depth stories for the über-fans in Dennis Lowe’s superb Alien Makers DVD series, this will more than suffice to whet the appetite of Alien fans until the release of Prometheus, and whilst the sequels have taken some of the shine off of the original, this book reminds you what a daring project this must have been in the late ‘70s and how lucky we are to be able to revisit both the theatrical and director’s cut in the recent Blu-ray release.


Published on Thursday 8th September 2011 by Aurum Press.

> Buy the book on Amazon.