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Aliens: Bishop

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Aliens: Bishop is a new (seemingly-canon) entry into the Aliens universe, following on from the events of Alien3 with a platoon of Colonial Marines sent out to retrieve the remains of the Bishop android that his creator, Michael Bishop, has absconded with. Michael is keen to extract the memories and intel from his "son" to help understand the xenomorph, getting first-hand insight into its manoeuvring and life cycle.

The plot unfolds from numerous points of view in order to give a complete overview - predominantly Karri Lee, a young inexperienced marine who is driven by a need to serve in order to get a better life for her refugee family on Earth. Lee is a good new addition to the list of strong female lead characters in the Alien universe, albeit with some conflicting moments of behaviour (the same mousey girl who is pushed around by her new crewmates is the same one that has blackmailed superior officers in the past).

Another addition is the younger brother of Apone from Aliens, who is a carbon copy of the well-known commanding officer.

We also see some events from the view of a Vietnamese ship crew who are boarded and taken hostage by a Chinese ship and used as fodder to harvest some xenomorphs from a batch of alien "eggs".

The marines lead a mission to reclaim Bishop, who is reluctant to release his memories out of respect to his former crew and also to protect the secrets from corrupt corporate hands. We never really find out why they are so keen to get him back - he has no value and as Michael Bishop already has a batch of eggs, there is no real need to preserve the secrets of the xenomorphs.

I felt the action sequences quite poorly narrated and was never truly able to picture what was happen - these scenes either have to be intimately and carefully detailed or they have to be described like someone is watching it - just glimpses of bits and pieces (which would better suit the PoV nature of the book). We somehow fall between the two and I struggled to see how things had unfolded (two examples stick in my mind are the scene where the Vietnamese crew are sealed inside a vault, and one crew member somehow loses a foot and a Chinese soldier is chopped in half - I could not picture what arrangement of bodies would lead to those things happening - and when Apone leads a boarding mission on the Chinese ship - again I couldn't picture the angle of attack and how they moved from there into the ship. Given Alien stories hinge on the suspense and horror, giving the reader an immersive experience is the key to success and I found myself really struggling to be immersed even after rereading passages.

The author has picked up some really bad habits around the use of short sentences. While these can indeed give the reader a sense of excitement, they still have to be sentences, not just half a sentence blurted out weirdly.

If not for the sequences around Bishop and his exploration of where he belongs and his loyalties, this would be nothing more than mediocre fan-fiction, but the use of Bishop really made this feel like an Alien story. However, I much prefer the Stephen Perry books of the 90s, which were sadly rendered non-canon when Alien3 came along and blew away the main characters. Most of the marines are carbon copies of those from the Aliens films and which have been stereotyped to death.

A good re-edit and this book would be right up there with some of the other non-film entries to the universe (and at least this one doesn't use Ripley and have to clumsily wipe her memory to preserve the canon). it certainly points to more to come, i just wonder if the author has overstepped in introducing world governments/authorities to the universe.

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A very enjoyable return to the Aliens universe. This time it's Bishop who has his turn in the light and for the most part, this is great fun to read. The plot isn't Shakespeare, but I don't think you need that.

The movie is my favourite horror and I couldnt wait to read this one.

Would highly recommend

5 stars

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Fans of the Alien and Aliens universe will enjoy this action packed work of science fiction. Based on the character of "Bishop" after the Aliens movie, fans will read further into the evolving "Aliens" fictional work continuing into an alternative timeline where Bishop survived. Anyone reading this book will not be disappointed in getting a general dose of xenomorphs and marines battling out while human factions conduct terrible experiments on follow human beings. Fans of Alien 3 will enjoy the return of the original human version of Bishop, mercenaries, company soldiers, monsters running amok.

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Received an ARC from Titan Books:

4.5 Rounded down

This was a really really outstanding book, with some true depth to its characters. Much better than I was expecting.

The horror elements of Alien were executed outstandingly, with some truly unique in depth explorations of how Synthetics work in the Alien universe.

My only critique and it is minor but the UPP in concept are very dated Soviet Union analogs and the more modern relatable elements of the book clash a bit with their Retro Futurism ascetic.

Upon a re-read my opinions may have changed as this book reads EXTREMELY well and has some outstanding action bits, it will certainly be read again in the future.

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Massively damaged in Aliens and Alien3, the synthetic Bishop asked to be shut down forever. His creator, Michael Bishop, has other plans. He seeks the Xenomorph knowledge stored in the android’s mind, and brings Bishop back to life―but for what reason? No longer an employee of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, Michael tells his creation that he seeks to advance medical research for the benefit of humanity. Yet where does he get the resources needed to advance his work. With whom do his new allegiances lie?

Bishop is pursued by Colonial Marines Captain Marcel Apone, commander of the Il Conde and younger brother of Master Sergeant Alexander Apone, one of the casualties of the doomed mission to LV-426. Also on his trail are the “Dog Catchers,” commandos employed by Weyland-Yutani.

Who else might benefit from Bishop’s intimate knowledge of the deadliest creatures in the galaxy?

This week I’ve been reading Aliens: Bishop by T R Napper. Based on the book blurb it ticks all the boxes when it comes to satisfying my thirst for sci-fi action. Single-minded killing machines versus humanity’s finest sounds like a fight I’d be happy to watch*. Things are bound to get all kinds of messy. Let’s find out, shall we?

I’ve always found Bishop to be a fascinating character. An outsider, literally by design, who is desperate to be part of something bigger than himself. The introspection he displays is the highlight of the book. There is an uncertainty that plagues him. Is he more than the sum of his parts? Can artificial intelligence ever be truly conscious? Fancy that, thoughtful/topical ideas hidden away in the pages of a sci-fi novel.

Chapters alternate viewpoints so we get to see events play out from various perspectives. This isn’t just Bishop’s story. There is Private Karri Lee, a rookie Colonial Marine and no-nonsense Aussie, who finds herself quickly knee-deep in all manner of guts and glory. Talk about a baptism of fire. The other standout character is a criminal called Xuan Nguyen. Through no fault of her own, she ends up in the wrong place at the worst possible time. Xuan’s Newt-esque journey of survival against overwhelming odds features some of my favourite moments.

The other thing the Napper perfectly captures is the sense of camaraderie between the various groups found in the narrative. There is a sense of common purpose in the Colonial Marines ranks. They’re a rough and ready extended family who are willing to die for their adopted brothers and sisters. Elsewhere, a group of Vietnamese smugglers, living on the periphery of society find strength in each other’s presence. Even a contingent of the Chinese military thrown into the mix has a strong comradeship. It may be driven by a dictatorial regime, but it is there nonetheless.

As an aside, I couldn’t help but picture Lance Henriksen whenever Bishop is mentioned. Henriksen was the perfect actor to play Bishop on screen. Dude looks more human than human. Somehow he manages to be utterly nondescript but also otherworldly in the same breath. He could well be a synthetic**.

Like its celluloid predecessors, Aliens: Bishop works because it taps into our primal fears. The claustrophobia of deep space feels palpable. The xenomorphs are as terrifying as they have ever been. So far removed from humanity and all that we understand, the aliens come across as the living embodiment of fear. Acid for blood and an additional secondary mouth also help to fuel that nightmare.

For the eagle-eyed fans amongst you, there are some nice Aliens-related Easter eggs and throw-away lines for you to spot.

When it comes to fast-paced all guns blazing space mayhem, my needs are relatively simple. I dont think you can go wrong with a tale featuring an unhinged megalomaniacal genius, demonic acid-blooded parasites and a group of low-level military grunts who end up getting the rough end of the deal. I really enjoyed Aliens: Bishop. It’s the perfect continuation of the Alien mythology. I love it when tie-in fiction is well executed like this. The narrative fits seamlessly into the wider Alienverse and adds extra depth to a much-loved franchise. I know there is a new Alien movie forthcoming and also a television series in development, but it might be a while until we can cast our beady eyes on them. In the meantime, in order to scratch that particular Alien-flavoured itch, I’d suggest checking this book out.

Aliens: Bishop is published by Titan Books and is available now. Great fun as a standalone read but even better if you’ve watched Aliens and Alien3.

My musical recommendation to accompany this novel was an easy one. It had to be the soundtrack to Aliens by James Horner. It couldn’t be anything else, could it? All the bombastic martial flair one moment and then hauntingly creepy strings the next. Great stuff.

*Not take part in though, I’d be dead in seconds.

**I hope it’s obvious that this is meant as a compliment. I’m just highlighting the versatility of the actor and his chameleon-like ability to inhabit a character. I dont imagine for a second Lance Henriksen is not human. Mind you wasn’t he a vampire in Near Dark so who the heck knows?

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I dont usually read 'franchise' novels, no matter how much I have loved the original material but there was no way I wasn't go to read Aliens: Bishop as I already had planned to pick anything by T. R. Napper. His novel, 36 Streets, is easily one of the best Australian SF novels, and one of the best cyper-punk novels ever (and cyper-punk is my least favourite genre). Following directly after the events of Alien 3, the book starts with the scene were Bishop asks Ripley, as a friend, to switch him off. Some point later Bishop awakes to a new supper body, and a visit from his 'father' Micheal. Plenty of new characters as the race to rescue Bishop from a surprising number bad guys, including a freshly hatched batch of Aliens. Great action, lots of horrifying claustrophobic moments, lots of nods to original material.
Cant wait for the author to return to his '36 Streets' universe, but I wouldn't object to another adventure with Bishop either.
3.5 Stars

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A superb semi-sequel to Aliens!
Napper has taken what we love about Bishop and expanded it into a story that all fans of the franchise will lap up in their droves.
Events from the past, relations to other characters we know and even a mention of Ripley make this a terrific read.
The writing is brilliant, the new characters are engaging and the whole book pops from the firs5 page until the last.
Highly recommended

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Acting as a direct sequel to Alien³, T.R. Napper’s Aliens: Bishop picks up soon after Ellen Ripley’s sacrifice on the prison planet of Fiorina 161. As one might expect from the title, Napper’s sequel resurrects the synthetic lifeform of Bishop under the guiding hand of his creator and genius techbro Weyland-Yutani stooge, Michael Bishop, both portrayed onscreen in equal turns of charm and menace by Lance Henriksen. The android Bishop has a lot of information stored in his head about the Xenomorphic threat that the human Bishop wants, even if the latter’s motivations are somewhat nebulous — at least to the artificial Bishop. I suspect Alien fans will guess Michael Bishop’s motives and attempts at finagling loose all that primo data for what they are straight off the bat.

As with so many other Alien tie-in books, Napper centers his story around the Colonial Marines. We’re introduced to new recruit Karri Lee, on her first big adventure, under the leadership of Captain Marcel Apone, whose brother led the ill-fated mission to LV-426 and was killed by the Xenomorphic threat. Apone and his squad are hunting for Michael Bishop, who has gone rogue from Weyland-Yutani and landed on the company’s kill list for his betrayal. Rounding things out is a third storyline involving the Chinese communists of the UPP and their research into the Xenomorphs, which involves familiarizing a score of Vietnamese prisoners to a whole lot of alien eggs…

It takes a while for the three storylines to sync up and for Napper to give us the full-frontal assault between marines and alien killing machines, but Aliens: Bishop is never any duller for it. Napper invests the story with plenty of tension between Private Lee and her squad, inner-conflict for both Lee and Bishop as they attempt to understand their current circumstances and what brought them there, and confusion amongst the captive Vietnamese as we all wait for the inevitable to happen to them. Even though the story itself flows exactly as expected and with an almost workmanlike regularity in various expected plot beats, Bishop is still surprisingly readable. That may be down to my so easily being able to imagine Lance Henriksen back in the roles he made so famous, though.

Aliens: Bishop is ultimately a work of conflicts, both on and off the page. Story- and character-wise, it’s engaging and interesting enough to keep you turning the pages, but never delivers any real surprises and genuine suspense. Napper’s writing style isn’t exactly captivating, either, and can often be frustrating as he tries to Shatnerize his way across 400-some pages. You see, Napper is addicted to comma usage, allowing him to pump his sentences full of clauses and modifiers when they should have been rewritten for conciseness. Unnecessary commas proliferate the text to an annoyingly noticeable degree. The end result are sentences like, “Karri had loved to read, as a child.” And, “Taking the salt, Karrie sprinkled it, generously, over the yellow pile of eggs.” At one point, I found myself counting how many commas Napper used in a single paragraph purely out of curiosity (nine times across three sentences, by the way), all the while wishing that an editor with a firmer hand had demanded some rewrites.

Although every bit of praise I have for Aliens: Bishop is measured with some kind of critique in a “six of one, half-dozen of the other” way, I found there to be enough additive material to the Alien universe to be more than willing to go with the flow, even as Napper attempts to clone some of that Aliens magic for his own ends (one character, Hettrick, is basically a Hudson clone to go along with Apone’s brother, who makes it clear that delivering lengthy, rousing, hoo-rah speeches at regular intervals is a genetic trait). Napper doesn’t offer anything really new or unique here that hasn’t been done elsewhere, and arguably done better even within this own franchise’s sometimes sloppy universe, although the book’s final moments do open one intriguing possibility for future installments. I suspect, too, that this won’t be the last we see of Bishop. It’s hard to keep a good artificial person down.

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The Alien Franchise (tied with the Predator one) is probably one of my favourites out there. I love Xenomorphs and have enjoyed several of the books set in the universe. I also love the synthetics/androids in the franchise and finally I adored Napper’s 36 Streets that I read last year. So it’s safe to say when the chance came to read an ARC of Aliens Bishop I was more than a little excited and that excitement was not misplaced.
For me the writing was perfect. I was instantly immersed in the world of Alien and I loved every minute. It was interesting to see a different side to Bishop, or at least to see how those around them wanted to use the knowledge of the Xenomorphs and for what reasons. Tied to the writing is the way Napper brings Bishop to life, figuratively and literally (since he is given a new body). I found Napper kept the synthetic true to his characters from the films (not an easy feat sometimes) but did give him a bit of freedom and further developed his character as well. I also loved the new characters as well that are fleshed out and enjoyable, I particularly loved Karri. While there a lot of a new characters the few, including Bishop that are ’canon’ in the sense they are connected and developed in the franchise already are true to their existing character as well.

The other thing I liked about this novel is while it has action and horror, what else would you expect from an Aliens novel, Napper focuses on the characters. On what they go through, how they interact and react. Now that isn’t to say there’s no action, or it’s some psychological study of the characters but I often find in horror particularly that the characters suffer, both figuratively and literally again, and the focus is on the horror, gore or action. For me that can sometimes disconnect me from the story. Why do I care if someone gets captured, or killed or anything for that matter if the characters have no personality? If I haven’t been given enough to bond or at least like or dislike them (looking at Cortazar there) how am I meant to be invested if they manage to live or die? Well Napper does make sure you care about the characters and he does it well.

In short if you love the Aliens franchise you will enjoy this novel, or if you are looking for a good sci-fi horror and not really into the franchise that much you still might enjoy it. I know I did!

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Aliens: Bishop by T. R. Napper

Aliens (1986) is one of the best movie sequels ever made. It successfully continues a story while being bigger and very different from Alien (1979). Honestly, I have a soft spot for David Fincher’s Alien³ (1992) as well. It is not nearly as successful at doing what Aliens did, but it expands the world in a reasonable way, even if it is a bit cruel to the characters. Aliens: Bishop is a direct sequel to Alien³.

A very worthy sequel it is. I’ve read a couple other Alien universe novels and I haven’t been terribly impressed. Often, the characters and world never quite feel right. Aliens: Bishop‘s biggest achievement is that is nails both the character of Bishop (who isn’t always our main POV) and the feeling of camaraderie between characters that permeates the first two movies. It further expands the story universe and adds a number of strong new characters. I’m especially appreciative of the female characters, but then that is also something the early movies in the franchise are known for.

As happens with stories about robots and android, the plot centers around questions of what makes a human human, with additional themes of emigration and belonging. And, oh yeah, there are a bunch of pretty intense battle scenes because this is an Aliens story after all.

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The Aliens franchise has been a personal favourite of mine since a very irresponsible uncle let me watch the second film at no what must have been no more than five years old (I cant remember the exact age, only that it's one of the earliest films I can remember seeing). I came to the franchise through the second film, and as such it's become my favourite, and I love the cast of characters that surround Ripley throughout. One of those I always liked was Bishop, and knowing how the film ends up and how much of a good guy he is I always feel bad for him in the beginning when Ripley knows a plate out of his hands. He deserves some good.

Well, it seems like Aliens: Bishop is setting things right for him, at least a bit. Set after the events of Alien 3, which saw the artificial human broken and smashed beyond repair, the book follows a number of plot threads that work towards bringing Bishop home.

Not long after the events of the film, Bishop wakes up inside a lab, his mind installed into a new body thanks to his creator, Michael Bishop (who we also last saw in Alien 3). Bishops last memory is asking Ripley to shut him off, saying that he might be able to be repaired, but he'd never be perfect again. But it turns out when powerful people want what you know amazing things can happen. Instead of being fixed up Bishop is in a younger, stronger body. A fresh start. His 'father' tells him that he did this because he needs Bishop's help, that he needs the Xenomrph knowledge that he;s carrying inside him.

Whilst Bishop is reluctant to just give this knowledge over, Michael assures him that it's purely for medical research, and that he has no interest in using the aliens as a weapon the way others in Weyland-Yutani do. He's even left the company behind, having defected over to the Chinese superpowers. Bishop wants to believe his creator, and the two of them agree to work together, slowly unlocking the secrets of the Xenomorph whilst Bishop holds the cache of data hostage, waiting to trust Michael fully before giving it over.

Meanwhile, on a Colonial Marine cruiser, Marcel Apone, younger brother of Bishop's former commanding officer, is searching for the android. He wants to learn more about what happened to his brother and his unit, as well as learning all he can to help him destroy the Xenomorphs. New to his unit is Private Karri Lee, an Australian refugee who joined up to get her mother and brothers out of the camps and into a decent home. Having blackmailed herself into a passing grade, she's tested like never before when Apone's unit go after Bishop, forcing her to push herself further and harder than ever before.

There's also a sub-plot about the crew of a Vietnamese smuggling ship who get captured by the Chinese military and forced into a chamber where alien eggs are waiting for them, and the one member of the crew who manages to survive the experience. All three of these stories end up coming together in a violent, bloody finale.

The new Aliens books from Titan have been expanding the universe in fun and exciting ways, and bringing Bishop back into things feels like a great addition to this expanding and evolving new timeline that's being crafted. And for those who might be worried about a beloved Aliens character who died in Alien 3 being brought back to life in a new piece of media, don't be, this is a far step away from Aliens: Colonial Marines and their awful handling of a similar idea.

This is my first T.R. Napper novel, and I didn't know what to expect when I picked it up. I was, to be completely honest, a little worries about what might happen in the book. I liked Bishop and wanted him to be handled well. And Napper does do that. He manages to make Bishop feel new and interesting, having expanded his character in new directions, whilst also keeping him true to what we've seen of him before. Pretty much every line of dialogue he says in the book you can hear Lance Henriksen saying as he's managed to capture Bishops voice.

The other characters are all blank slates, and Napper has pretty free reign to do what he wants with them, and ends up creating an interesting cast. Karri Lee is my favourite of the new characters, and I loved learning more about her over the course of the book. Her backstory was engaging, and at times heartbreaking, and her reasons for doing what she does are very understandable ones. It's also great to see her evolving relationships with the other members of her unit. She's also one of the few queer characters I can think of in the Aliens universe, and if we see more of her in the future I'm hoping that this is something that gets expanded upon beyond a few mentions.

Some of the other characters, like Xuan go through a very rough time, and her experiences as a victim in the book are awful to read. There are times where you're expecting her horrific death to come at any moment, or where you're expecting her to end her own life. Despite this she manages to have a quiet strength to her that keeps pushing her to survive. She doesn't rail against the injustices being forced upon her, she doesn't have a big cathartic moment where she gets to rage against those that harmed her. Instead, she has a much more realistic journey, one where her pain and trauma are going to be following her for long after the book is done.

Other great characters include the arsehole smart-gunner who tries to make Karri's life hell, but ends up as a character you want to see live and whose relationship with Karri is worth seeing, and the Chinese officer being forced by her commanders to do terrible things but knows they're wrong, who ultimately tries to do the right thing. The book also features the return of another character who appeared in Alien 3, who ended up stealing most of the scenes they're in.

The reason I'm talking about the characters over say the horror, or action, of an Aliens book is that despite the book featuring lots of both of those, the majority of the book deals with characters. This is a character driven narrative, one where we spend time getting to know these people, watching them push themselves, evolving into better people. As a result, you care about them when the chaos and the killing begins, and you end up worried for them when the Xenomorphs show up. Not every Aliens book goes out of its way to do this, and this is precisely the reason why this one was so good to read.

Aliens: Bishop could have been a cheap cash-in on nostalgia, another attempt to bring back a beloved character and give the fans something sub-par in exchange for their time and money. But what we got is a great character study, and one of the most enjoyable Aliens books from Titan. I really hope to see more in the series from Napper, and I hope that we get more stories with this cast of characters.

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A very enjoyable return to the Aliens universe. This time it's Bishop who has his turn in the light and for the most part, this is great fun to read. The plot isn't Shakespeare, but I don't think you need that.

Essentially, discovery, intrigue, containment, betrayal and escape.

All that said, it's a lot of fun to read and there are some really interesting characters to discover and it's always interesting to read how the same story is told again. Very entertaining and I'm grateful for the publisher in sharing this with me.

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Title: Aliens: Bishop
Authors: T. R. Napper
Publisher: Titan Books, 20th Century Studios
Release Date: December 5, 2023 (USA / CA) / December 12 2023 (UK)
Price: Hardback only– US $24.95 / CA $33.95 / UK £15.09

The following review contains mild spoilers.

For those who grew up with the Alien films, the iconic science-fiction and horror franchise represents the pain of a promise squandered, the sting of Icarus flying too close to the sun. The first two films each left an indelible mark on cinema. Ridley Scott’s Alien practically wrote the book on claustrophobic horror, withholding sight of the monster for most of the film and allowing the terror to build. James Cameron took a bold risk shifting the genre of the second installment to action; while some lamented the shift from unkillable beast to bug infestation, the film won over critics and audiences while defining the genre for the next forty years. From the Halo video games series to James Cameron’s reimagination in Avatar, Colonial Marines have dominated the storytelling landscape.

Following up these two masterpieces was always going to be difficult, but the third film suffered terribly under the shifting leadership decisions at 20th Century Studios. Despite near constant interference from the powers that be, director David Fincher did manage to craft a fitting, albeit dark conclusion to the trilogy, exploring the bleakness of hyper-capitalism and human cruelty. The film has aged well and has looked better with the passage of time, particularly with the Assembly Cut.

Alien: Resurrection however was a disaster. The studio insisted on bringing Ripley back; and while Sigourney Weaver turned in another masterful performance, the decision eroded the power of Ripley’s sacrifice at the end of Alien 3. Add to that the bizarre Newborn Alien, and many fans would rather the film was never made; indeed most pretend it wasn’t.

For years, hardcore Alien fans have wondered if the magic could be recaptured, if the franchise might be saved by going back and building off of the original trilogy or even pretending the third film never happened. Thankfully, T. R. Napper has given fans the best of both worlds in his soon-to-be released Aliens: Bishop. The novel brings together the best of the original trilogy and integrates it beautifully into the new storytelling universe brought together by Titan Books.

Plot Synopsis

In a true continuation to the story of the Alien film trilogy, Aliens: Bishop begins in the days following the events on Fiorina 161, the prison planet where Ellen Ripley died killing the last-known Xenomorph specimen and where Weyland-Yutani recovered the remains of synthetic Lance Bishop, whose “death” locked away priceless research on the Xenomorph XX121 species.

While Ripley was lost, the terrifying creatures she fought were not. The company had always known more specimens existed; and the knowledge possessed by Bishop is now priceless, a surefire competitive advantage for unlocking the potential of the Xenomorph biology and its technological applications.

But the Weyland-Yutani Corporation isn’t the only one seeking Bishop’s remains; a contingent of Colonial Marines has located the USCSS Patna, the Conestoga-class troop transport ship, owned by Wey-Yu and converted to a medical frigate. Colonial Marines Captain Marcel Apone, brother of the fallen Master Sergeant Alexander Apone, arrives at the USCSS Patna via the USS Il Conde as the novel begins. For Apone, finding and reactivating Bishop is the only chance at discovering what really happened to his brother and exacting revenge; beyond that, Lance Bishop served the Colonial Marines–for Apone, that means leaving him behind is not acceptable.

Xenomorphs Stalk the Pages of this Well-Paced Drama
From the opening pages of the novel, Aliens: Bishop reunites readers with the beloved world they left behind in the 80s: fans are caught up once more in a “chicken-shit outfit,” guided by the firm hand of Apone. The instant nostalgia is an effective hook for the story while characters are established and set pieces are placed. Readers don’t have to wait too long for the action to begin however as the marines are soon riding “an express elevator to hell.”

From there, the novel is structured around three distinct storylines that intertwine to create razor-sharp tension: Colonial Marines, the Union of Progressive Peoples, and the Bishops. Indeed, within each of these groupings are rather compelling subplots that give a depth to the story and deliver to the reader a sense that very real lives hang in the balance.

The introduction of the Xenomorph in the novel is one of my favorites in recent memory. I won’t give away major spoilers here, but by including more nations and interested parties than the original films did, we get a fresh experience. This isn’t your typical “marines stumble into a hive” moment. The terror that these characters feel as they suffer shock from what’s happening and struggle to survive is damn compelling. Napper also utilizes fresh language to describe the various phases of XX121, much in the same manner that Scott Sigler did in Aliens: Phalanx when he referred to them as demons. These altered lexicons deepen the mystique of the Perfect Organism and add to its mythos.

Napper also works to develop empathy in readers for his characters far before they play cat and mouse with the Xenomorph; as such, there is an intense longing for these characters to survive these encounters, beyond just the typical “rooting” for the humans win. Character such as Private Karri Lee, who joined the Colonial Marines to win housing for her refugee-camp-bound family; Xuan Nguyen, a Vietnamese smuggler betrayed by her comrades, a victim of both racism and classism that have rendered her little more than livestock in the eyes of powerful nation states; these characters are easy to root for, and we feel their pain radiate from the novel’s pages.

While the Xenomorphs may not lurk on every page of this story, their presence is always felt. In this sense, Napper accomplishes the art of horror and tension mastered by Ridley Scott in Alien. Napper, like many of the newest contributors to the Alien storytelling universe, does an excellent job of balancing the power of soldiers and the terrifying nature of the creatures. Badass marines let their pulse rifles do the talking, but even then, the Xenos are resilient and damn hard to kill. A blown off limb or fractured piece of chitinous armor won’t stop their relentless charge. I’ve come to really appreciate writers who can balance these forces in the Alien novels, and T. R. Napper does this well.

"The beast was black, and monstrous, and had no eyes. No eyes, by the heavens, no eyes, and below the place its eyes should be, a demon maw filled with razor-sharp teeth, dripping, drooling, seeking." --Aliens: Bishop, T. R. Napper

The novel is officially divided into three acts. While the first focuses on world building, the desire to reunite with characters from the films and explore familiar places carries the story in a way that never feels slow or monotonous. By the time the second and third acts get going, readers will feel like they don’t know which story arc they want to read most–a mark of a true page-turner. I found myself yelling at the end of chapters only to remember how much I wanted a resolution to the next character’s chapter.

Synth, Interrupted

Questioning the nature of life and whether artificial persons deserve the rights and respect of “real people” aren’t new ideas in science-fiction; but T.R. Napper’s Aliens: Bishop goes far beyond these philosophical quandaries in ways that are deeply satisfying and feel like the next evolution of the discussion.

Lance Bishop isn’t just a synthetic person. He’s a synthetic suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

"Bishop closed his eyes, involuntarily, for a moment. In that blink he saw friends terrified, confused, wounded from acid burns. He saw a moon colony, its infrastructure disintegrating under an imminent nuclear explosion. He saw a black curved blade connected to the tail of the Xenomorph Queen, sticking out of his chest. Felt it. He put his hand where it had pierced him." --Aliens: Bishop, T. R. Napper

Fear that stays with us; the sense that we’ve failed some crucial task and try as we might, cannot fix what’s broken, cannot save those we’ve lost; these are the experiences that mark our humanity, the legacy of primates standing upon the edge of the evolutionary knife. That Bishop feels these pains too makes him one with humanity and marks the next step in our evolution. Some indescribable essence has been passed from organic life to synthetic. It is ironic then that Michael Bishop seeks this very accomplishment as he pursues immortality even as his greatest accomplishment sits unappreciated in front of him in Lance Bishop.

These lines cross in all kinds of interesting ways in the novel. Michael becomes less human as he seeks to upload his consciousness into the cloud while Lance draws near to the essence of humanity as he faces his own trauma. It is in his willingness to grapple with the deaths of his friends on LV-426 and Fiorina 161 that he achieves the best of our own humanity.

An Expanded Universe Befitting an Era

If Alien was truckers in space and Aliens an allegory for Vietnam, Aliens: Bishop is a beautiful and fitting amalgamation of late cold-war politics and twenty-first century cynicism. Napper both captures the natural progression of the narrative told in the original trilogy while integrating the fears and new threats of the 2020s, a world bursting with international tensions alongside the nearly limitless application of artificial intelligence–a world where everything must be questioned: our loyalties, our politics, our definition of life itself.

I had a chance to chat with T. R. Napper about his novel and the expanded universe of the story. He noted that the geopolitical aspects mattered to him as much as the philosophical questions about life and human nature.

“I think it’s fair to say I wanted to give readers what they would expect, in terms of Bishop (and what it means to be human) and the terror of the Xenomorphs,” Napper explained. “But also explore corners of the universe they were unfamiliar with, such as China, Vietnam, Australia, the Australia Wars, the Dog Wars.”

Prior to his career as a writer, T.R. Napper served as a diplomat and aid coordinator, securing humanitarian assistance in Southeast Asia for a decade. He even received a commendation from the government of Laos for his work. These experiences give his storytelling a mark of authenticity in Aliens: Bishop; the collisions between the Chinese and Vietnamese, Eastern and Western nations, and the people who guarded refugee camps and those who fought to survive. These add depth to the novel’s overlapping conflicts. The narrative tension succeeds at each level from the desperation to survive the Xenomorph to the indictment of twenty-first century global politics.

Perhaps most poignant is Napper’s critique that we consider the possible rights of artificial intelligence and synthetics while ignoring the rights of marginalized human populations. As humanity barrels forward into the twenty-first century, Napper’s concerns seem not only relevant, but prescient.

Final Score

It gives me a strange mixture of anguish and joy to reflect on T. R. Napper’s novel. If I could journey back in time and give this book to my younger self, the one who waited decades for this epic to continue, I know there would be elation. But it is also true that the lost years for this franchise cultivated an ownership in the Alien community that might not otherwise exist.

To persist as a fan during the brutal years following Alien: Resurrection, one had to live in their own imagination, to take sustenance from rewatching the original trilogy or from pouring over the Dark Horse comics and wondering what could have been, what still might be. Those decades of yearning made Aliens: Bishop hit home in a way that’s special. This is the story I’d been waiting for, the continuation all of us in the community deserved. And some part of me, a large part if I’m being honest, hopes that the powers that be will consider adapting it into a proper film. So thank you T.R. Napper–not bad for a human.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

David Lasby is the Editor In Chief for Boss Rush Network. His favorite video games are The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, and the Aliens franchise. You can find him on Twitter to talk all things Nintendo, sci-fi / fantasy, and creative writing.

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This was my first time reading a book based on a movie series, and Aliens is my absolute FAVORITE horror/sci-fi movie series. This book did not disappoint, and felt like a great addition to the saga. It felt like I was reading a continuation of the movie, and I want to think the publishers are allowing me to be a part of it early.

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