Book Review: Alien: The Archive and The Art of Alien: Isolation

The way I see it, good horror/sci-fi franchises spin entertaining yarns across multiple films, TV shows, novels, comic books and video games; great horror/sci-fi franchises allow their fans to see all of the hard work that goes in to making such franchises successful in their various iterations. This is why I prefer to buy DVDs and Blu-rays with ample amounts of bonus content, and why I'm still so thankful for Lucasfilm's generous releases of behind-the-scenes materials for each of the Star Wars movies and animated series. This is also why I'm still giddy over picking up the two latest books about the Alien franchise by Titan Books, Alien: The Archive and The Art of Alien: Isolation. In addition to providing insights into the production of Alien movies and video games, the books serve as a vivid reminders as to how vital the work of artists such as H.R. Giger, Ron Cobb and Jean Girard have been to the success and ongoing popularity of franchise.

Even though its 2014 publication was scheduled to coincide with the 35th anniversary of Alien, Alien: The Archive actually reads like the print companion to the Alien Anthology Blu-ray box set. Like Anthology, Archive provides detailed information about the production of each of the four films, along with pages upon pages of concept art, movie stills and behind-the-scenes photos. None of the photos or art work in Archives are on the same level of detail as the removable inserts in Ian Nathan's Alien Vault book, but that's OK--its coverage of the saga is so exhaustive that fans will be nothing but satisfied with the book's content. If you're an Alien completist like me, Alien: The Archive is a must-have.

The Art of Alien: Isolation examines the production of the latest (and greatest) entry in the series of licensed Alien video games, and it includes interviews with and concept art from the Isolation development team at The Creative Assembly. The book walks you through the creative process behind the game, and how the team went about its analysis of the first Alien in order to expand upon the world of Weyland-Yutani, its corporate competitors, and the biomechanical parasites that it covets. The content of this book goes a long way towards explaining why Isolation was a hit while its predecessor Aliens: Colonial Marines was a dud: Instead of rehashing creature, weapon and environment designs from the movies in order to make a Call of Duty-esque shooter, The Creative Assembly team put ample amounts of thought and planning into the creation of the doomed space station Sevastopol so that it fit the Alien universe where space travel is rife with greed, duplicity and decay. With such hard work and creativity behind it, Isolation has become a welcome addition to the saga--which is all the more reason why The Art of Alien: Isolation fits perfectly on the book shelf of any Alien fan.


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