You know a three book series is a little light on for ideas when one has to skip forward hundreds of years and deal with a descendent of the first book's main character, only for the third book to zap back into the past to tell a tale only peripherally related to that same main character. Such is the major flaw with this final novel in the newest ALIEN trilogy sanctioned and promoted as canon by the good executives at 20th Century Fox.
Christoper Golden is this time handed writing duties for Alien: River of Pain and its very obvious why. The man is a wordsmith who can construct a hell of a paragraph. But he can only work with what he is given; or, if you prefer, it doesn't matter how much you polish a turd ...
Golden takes the reader back to tell the story of how Newt's family and the rest of the colony at Hadley's Hope, situated on a nasty piece of rock called LV-426 or Acheron (which translates to the titular "River of Pain"), are taken over by the alien infestation Ripley, Hicks, Bishop and co eventually run into during the events of the movie, Aliens.
As you might guess, there isn't a lot of narrative to work with here. Colonists find the derelict space jockey ship, disturb the eggs, get face-huggered, aliens emerge, death and destruction reign supreme. So Golden does his best to flesh this out by giving us more detail about Newt's family (which is fine), shoe-horning in a bunch of colonial marines (which seems odd) and detailing pointless other characters who seem to exist purely to add an extra 100 pages to the novel. Worse, for some reason somebody decided re-creating scenes from the first two films in the series would serve some kind of purpose here. It doesn't. It's just annoying and a waste of time.
It takes more than half the novel before the aliens finally appear, and then everything seems to go into fast-forward mode. Scenes that should have been tense are over in less than a page; characters who were moderately sketched in die with nary a whimper; while others who were barely mentioned last far, far longer. It all seems random and badly planned. Only Newt's mother, Anne, and the new CO for the marines, Captain Brackett, seem to have any kind of arc. The rest are just alien fodder so it's hard to care one whit when they commence dying like flies.
As a huge fan of the Aliens universe, Alien: River of Pain was a major disappointment and by far the worst novel in the series. Had it been the first, not even Golden's pretty way with words would have prompted me to return for the subsequent tales. I guess I should be thankful then, that like a crappy dessert wine, it was saved until last.
2 Face-Fulls of Alien Vomit for Alien: River of Pain.