Posted May-18-2018 8:34 PM
Author Alex White delves into the Alienverse with his novel Alien: The Cold Forge.
Published by Titan Books it is considered one of 6 novels under Titan/Fox to be considered canon along with:
Alien: Covenant novelization
Alien: Covenant Origins
Alien: Out of the Shadows
Alien: River of Pain
Alien: Sea of Sorrows
With the failure of the Hadley’s Hope, Weyland-Yutani has suffered a devastating defeat—the loss of the Aliens. Yet there’s a reason the company rose to the top, and they have a redundancy already in place. Remote station RB-323 abruptly becomes their greatest hope for weaponizing the Xenomorph, but there’s a spy aboard—someone who doesn’t necessarily act in the company’s best interests. If discovered, this person may have no choice but to destroy RB-323… and everyone on board. That is, if the Xenomorphs don’t do the job first.
The plot for The Cold Forge seems like an all-to-familiar affair in the alienverse; Weyland-Yutani up to their usual nefarious ways, plotting to use the Xenomorph for bio-weapons research (an angle I admittedly strongly dislike). And as usual, all hell breaks loose as our titular beasties inevitably escape and rain hell down on the inhabitants of isolated research station on RB-323.
But what sets TCF apart is how heightened everything is in. Antagonist and corporate stooge Dorian Sudler is an absolute bastard in his role as the bureaucratic, penny-pinching WY auditor sent to investigate and trim the fat from the over-budgeted, under-performing projects on RB-323. On the contrary, protagonist Blue Moralis is one of the most broken and compelling characters ever written into the Alienverse. Her body, so riddled with degenerative diseases, is forced to pilot a synthetic in order to conduct her research. Given the best treatments WY had available Blue instead embezzles the companies hard-earned into pursuing her own Xenomorph agenda. The Cold Forge if rife with robust and interesting characters beyond the usual two dimension jarheads and aloof scientists we typically encountered in such premises. All the main characters are nicely fleshed out and their individual agenda’s and personalities set up interesting dynamics and interactions amongst the small crew.
RB-323 is almost a character unto itself, a labyrinthine complex strapped to an asteroid, orbiting an angry star, out in the ass-end of known space. There are some sublime zero-g scenes with fleshed out physics that White himself sought professional expertise to pull off. This isolated facility serves as Blue’s testing grounds for uncovering the secrets of the xenomorph’s powerful mutagen Plagiarus Praepotens aka “The black goo”. Without giving away spoilers Alex White links the Black Goo mutagen we see in Prometheus with the Facehugger’s delivery system, an idea much explored in our forum but lacking in canonable details. There is one particularly gripping and graphic scene which will stay with me for some time! It is quiet the read!
There are several passing references to other characters, locations and events in the Alienverse, thankfully the token Ripley reference is not amongst them. Humorously the “poetry reading synthetics of the past” do get an honourable mention…..Yes you David.
Also of interest, the Seegson Corp. from Alien: Isolation return as competitors vying to buy in to WY stocks. The Powerloader from Aliens also makes a return, and although this may come across as fanboy service, it is done subtly without grandiose posing to get attention. White simply works these elements into his story as any other objects or construct in the Alienverse.
Although I dislike the angle of Weyland-Yutani as simply pursing the potential bio-weapons application from the Xeno, this angle only serves to set-up the far more intricate stories within The Cold Forge. And in truth, it worked for the purpose and scope of this novel. This is simply a Black Ops arm of the far-reaching multi-faceted company.
The Cold Forge only takes baby-steps with expanding the universe, but the steps it does make are far-reaching and important. Without a doubt the exploration of the how the Xenomorph reproduces is the most fascinating part of this novel, and we now have a name greater than “The Black Goo” for the mutagen responsible for the most destructive species in the universe.
The AI angle was also interesting, exploring how and why the synthetics of previous films/novels become ‘broken’ and the impact this has on their functionality. This is done without ramming it down our throat like Alien Covenant did.
A solid and enthralling read, this is second only to Tim Lebbon’s Out of the Shadows in my opinion.