Aliens: Bishop by T R Napper

December 11, 2023

Please note, Aliens: Bishop is a direct sequel to the events in Aliens and Alien3. If you’ve not seen both of these cinematic gems then the book-related waffle that follows will contain some mild spoilers. Consider yourself duly warned!

Massively damaged in Aliens and Alien3, the synthetic Bishop asked to be shut down forever. His creator, Michael Bishop, has other plans. He seeks the Xenomorph knowledge stored in the android’s mind, and brings Bishop back to life―but for what reason? No longer an employee of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, Michael tells his creation that he seeks to advance medical research for the benefit of humanity. Yet where does he get the resources needed to advance his work. With whom do his new allegiances lie?

Bishop is pursued by Colonial Marines Captain Marcel Apone, commander of the Il Conde and younger brother of Master Sergeant Alexander Apone, one of the casualties of the doomed mission to LV-426. Also on his trail are the “Dog Catchers,” commandos employed by Weyland-Yutani.

Who else might benefit from Bishop’s intimate knowledge of the deadliest creatures in the galaxy?

This week I’ve been reading Aliens: Bishop by T R Napper. Based on the book blurb it ticks all the boxes when it comes to satisfying my thirst for sci-fi action. Single-minded killing machines versus humanity’s finest sounds like a fight I’d be happy to watch*. Things are bound to get all kinds of messy. Let’s find out, shall we?

I’ve always found Bishop to be a fascinating character. An outsider, literally by design, who is desperate to be part of something bigger than himself. The introspection he displays is the highlight of the book. There is an uncertainty that plagues him. Is he more than the sum of his parts? Can artificial intelligence ever be truly conscious? Fancy that, thoughtful/topical ideas hidden away in the pages of a sci-fi novel.

Chapters alternate viewpoints so we get to see events play out from various perspectives. This isn’t just Bishop’s story. There is Private Karri Lee, a rookie Colonial Marine and no-nonsense Aussie, who finds herself quickly knee-deep in all manner of guts and glory. Talk about a baptism of fire. The other standout character is a criminal called Xuan Nguyen. Through no fault of her own, she ends up in the wrong place at the worst possible time. Xuan’s Newt-esque journey of survival against overwhelming odds features some of my favourite moments.

The other thing the Napper perfectly captures is the sense of camaraderie between the various groups found in the narrative. There is a sense of common purpose in the Colonial Marines ranks. They’re a rough and ready extended family who are willing to die for their adopted brothers and sisters. Elsewhere, a group of Vietnamese smugglers, living on the periphery of society find strength in each other’s presence. Even a contingent of the Chinese military thrown into the mix has a strong comradeship. It may be driven by a dictatorial regime, but it is there nonetheless.

As an aside, I couldn’t help but picture Lance Henriksen whenever Bishop is mentioned. Henriksen was the perfect actor to play Bishop on screen. Dude looks more human than human. Somehow he manages to be utterly nondescript but also otherworldly in the same breath. He could well be a synthetic**.

Like its celluloid predecessors, Aliens: Bishop works because it taps into our primal fears. The claustrophobia of deep space feels palpable. The xenomorphs are as terrifying as they have ever been. So far removed from humanity and all that we understand, the aliens come across as the living embodiment of fear. Acid for blood and an additional secondary mouth also help to fuel that nightmare.

For the eagle-eyed fans amongst you, there are some nice Aliens-related Easter eggs and throw-away lines for you to spot.

When it comes to fast-paced all guns blazing space mayhem, my needs are relatively simple. I dont think you can go wrong with a tale featuring an unhinged megalomaniacal genius, demonic acid-blooded parasites and a group of low-level military grunts who end up getting the rough end of the deal. I really enjoyed Aliens: Bishop. It’s the perfect continuation of the Alien mythology. I love it when tie-in fiction is well executed like this. The narrative fits seamlessly into the wider Alienverse and adds extra depth to a much-loved franchise. I know there is a new Alien movie forthcoming and also a television series in development, but it might be a while until we can cast our beady eyes on them. In the meantime, in order to scratch that particular Alien-flavoured itch, I’d suggest checking this book out.

Aliens: Bishop is published by Titan Books and is available now. Great fun as a standalone read but even better if you’ve watched Aliens and Alien3.

My musical recommendation to accompany this novel was an easy one. It had to be the soundtrack to Aliens by James Horner. It couldn’t be anything else, could it? All the bombastic martial flair one moment and then hauntingly creepy strings the next. Great stuff.

*Not take part in though, I’d be dead in seconds.

**I hope it’s obvious that this is meant as a compliment. I’m just highlighting the versatility of the actor and his chameleon-like ability to inhabit a character. I dont imagine for a second Lance Henriksen is not human. Mind you wasn’t he a vampire in Near Dark so who the heck knows?

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