Foster, Alan Dean

About the Author:

 

Alan Dean Foster has a Batchelor's degree in political science and a Master's degree in Fine Arts.  He lives with his wife, JoAnne Oxley, in Prescott, Arizona, USA.

 

AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:

2.8 out of 5

(4 books)

Dark Star

The novelisation of the classic science fiction movie originally written by Dan O'Bannon ('Alien') and John Carpenter ('The Thing').  Four men crew the Dark Star, a spaceship on a long-term mission to destroy unstable planets and pave the way for human colonisation of stable ones.  However, twenty years into their mission and the crew are beginning to mentally fall apart; a situation matched by the countless malfunctions within the ship herself.

This story is really the origin of the concept of blue-collar workers on spaceships and it's a revolutionary one.  The idea of ordinary, fallible, neurotic men and women working jobs in outer space changed the genre and this story led directly to into the origins of the crew of the space tug Nostromo and, later, to that of the mining vessel Red Dwarf.  Suffice to say, the story to which Foster gets to grip here is an important one for science fiction.

The main noteworthy thing about this book is the way in which it perfectly captures the tension, loneliness, frustration and ennui that dominate the lives of these four characters stuck on a mission which isn't panning out as gloriously as they had imagined.  Unfortunately, Foster does such a good job of capturing the essence of those ideas that the book itself becomes as tedious as the daily grind which its characters face.

That's not to say there aren't interesting things that happen, however.  I particularly liked Pinback's battle of wits with the semi-intelligence alien Beachball and Doolittle's attempts to teach a sentient bomb philosophy in order to prevent it detonating prematurely.  The ending too is by turns melancholy, appropriate and filled with pathos. 

Sadly though, these elements aren't enough to make this book as stimulating as it needs to be and the dark humour of the movie also seems to have been lost in translation.

2 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Splinter Of The Mind's Eye

2 ABY.  The first novel ever written as part of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, published when George Lucas was only beginning to pen the story for 'The Empire Strikes Back'.  Sadly, this book suffers terribly from being written when the franchise was so young.  The story is largely pretty boring and, admittedly because Foster wouldn't have known, there is none of the interesting my-father-wants-to-kill-me-and-I'm-in-love-with-my-sister dynamic that defines Luke's character following the later two movies. 

Basically, this book is a really minor story of little interest and which is full of continuity holes that will really bugs fans (or 'geeks' depending on your viewpoint).  In its defence, however, it does feature a brilliantly tension-building line when Luke senses Vader's approach: "Something blacker than night stirs in the Force." 

Also, if you find the edition with cover art by Star Wars Production Designer Ralph MacQuarrie, it's worth buying just for that.

Followed by Martha Wells' 'Empire and Rebellion: Razor's Edge'.

2 out of 5

 

Star Wars: The Approaching Storm

22 BBY.  Billed as a prelude to Episode II, this book is worse than that rather disappointing movie.  Not having learned his lesson when he wrote the dreadful 'Splinter Of The Mind's Eye', Foster returns to the Galaxy Far Far Away.  The story takes place on Ansion, a planet which Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, along with fellow Jedi Luminara Unduli and Barriss Offee (both from Episode II), have to persuade to remain in the Republic. 

The links to Episode II are tenuous (a vague idea of a Separatist movement, the appearance of Count Dooku on the very last page etc) and did nothing to make the film any deeper, nor reveal any real backstory to it.  The story presented here is a rather boring one in which the Jedi wander around a bit and talk to a few people.  Worse, there's a Jar-Jar Binks style character in the form of Tooqui. 

There is one very good scene which does more to reveal the Jedi's characters than the entire rest of the book.  The Jedi are forced to entertain a crowd and reveal a little of their souls in doing so; Obi-Wan tells a story, Anakin sings, Barriss performs acrobatics with a lightsaber and Luminara uses the Force to make sandstorm art.  Other than that one scene, rubbish.

Followed by R. A. Salvatore's 'Episode II: Attack of the Clones'.

2 out of 5

 

The Complete Alien Omnibus

The collected novelisations of 'Alien', 'Aliens' and 'Alien 3'.  The Alien movies are science fiction classics, but I'm willing to go out on a limb and say that Foster's novelisations are even better.  The story is written with great attention to detail and each character is described well enough that when they finally snuff it, you're genuinely sorry to see them go (in the films, you're glad half the time). 

Also, with the novelisations, we get the versions of the stories before they fell prey to the inevitable editing-for-time-constraints process.  This means we get a fair bit more information about the alien lifecycle such as the fact that the alien in 'Alien' had laid an egg itself - a queen egg.  But better than all that, we get the scene in 'Aliens' in which the Marines set up several automatic machine guns, which on paper comes across with a wonderful amount of tension as the ammo runs down (I was so disappointed when I saw the film version in the Special Edition). 

The only problem I can think of is that in 'Alien 3' Foster features an ox-alien, rather than the much more effective dog-alien seen in the film.

5 out of 5

Read more...

Science Fiction (here)

Aliens (here)

Star Wars (here)