During the early days of Alien Covenant hype, there were two books announced: the official novelization of the movie and a prequel novel. Alan Dean Foster crafted a novelization that was arguably better than the movie itself. The prequel novel was originally announced as a story explaining what happened with David and Shaw during their time together, this was a story many wanted to read. Somewhere along the line something changed, Mr. Foster had to change the direction of the novel. Instead of the David and Shaw story, we get a story about a secret plot to stop the Covenant launch.
My enthusiasm for this dissipated a bit after the original premise was scrapped, but still excited for Origins due to Alan Dean Foster’s involvement. The book starts off very promising. An engaging prologue that seems to reference the Engineers grabs you right off the bat. Looking back, perhaps this is the type of material Foster hoped to work with. From there we get a picture of the Earth’s current condition and why the Covenant must embark on its mission. Earth is referenced as a place overflowing with “corruption, exploitation, overuse and sheer grime”. This is somewhat alluded to in the Alien movies, it’s great to read more about it. A corporation like Weyland-Yutani can’t exist in a world of puppies and happy faces after all.
Unlike the movie, we get some more insight into Branson. He comes off as an interesting character, whom might have been better off getting a bit more screen time other than a spot in The Last Supper short. With his early death, we might’ve appreciated it’s effects a bit more. Foster captures the feel of James Franco perfectly. We also are introduced to Hideo Yutani (I kept thinking of Hideo Kojima, the Metal Gear creator when I saw his name), the new head of Weyland-Yutani. After Peter Weyland’s disappearance and presumed death, he orchestrates a merger. They mention trying to get the Walter model correct after the missteps of the David situation. Out of respect for Weyland, they wanted to make sure the new model was perfect. Cool little detail.
One last connection to Alien:Covenant is during the early meetings of Lope and Rosenthal. Lope ends up recruiting her to join the security team, and when asked to grab a bite to eat she responds, “I needed a shower before the fight. Now I really need one. I’m kind of a stickler for showering”. As you remember, she was Neomorph lunch when she stepped aside to wash up. This was obviously an attempt to make that silly decision in the movie to seem a bit more logical. Not a bad idea, I appreciated the effort. It’s something I’ll think about now at least.
Unfortunately, everything after this just didn’t hold my interest. An Alien novel without any aliens needs to stand out for it to work. This wasn’t able to do so. The Covenant crew is ripe for more character and story development but this was a huge missed opportunity. As the story began to focus more and more on the cult “Earthsavers” and the Yutani family, the ability to get through a chapter became tougher and tougher. A prophet has visions of evil creatures waiting for the Covenant crew on their journey, him and his minions do anything and everything possible to stop it from taking off. Not quite as interesting as the questions Prometheus and Covenant asked about creation.
The novel itself is not poorly written. Alan Dean Foster’s writing is what gets me through the book. Even when it was barely holding my interest, I was able to get through it due the excellent writing. With a story titled “Origin” you expect more. If it was the studio’s idea to not let him write more about David, Shaw, the Engineers and/or the Covenant crew, it was a huge mistake. I understand wanting to leave these avenues open, but more freedom needs to be given to the author.
To close it out, this was a disappointing read after the early excitement. Hardcore fans will get some enjoyment out of it, but I can not slot it into the “must-read” category.
Final score: 5 out of 10 facehuggers.