In 1979, director Ridley Scott revolutionized the sci-fi genre with his landmark film Alien. The movie’s realistic future mixed with Swiss artist H.R. Giger’s grotesque alien design, terrified viewers. Using Scott and Giger’s work as a foundation, James Cameron created the action-packed sequel Aliens in 1986. Although Cameron’s film concentrated less on horror, he introduced equally grounded and imaginative technology to the same universe.

Sadly the franchise declined with the following sequels, Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection. However this weekend, Ridley Scott hopes to revitalize science fiction horror with his epic flick Prometheus, which is rumored to an Alien prequel. In preparation for my viewing of the film, I checked out two paperbacks recently re-released by Titan Books: The Book of Alien and Aliens – Colonial Marines Technical Manual.

The Book of Alien

This behind the scenes book by Paul Scanlon and Michael Gross is loaded with information about the talented production designers and artists that labored to make Alien so believable. There is commentary from designer Ron Cobb, nifty concept art, and photos from the film. As an engineer, Cobb’s perspective is fascinating because he describes the pragmatic mindset he used to design spacecraft. Additionally, Scanlon and Gross celebrate Swiss artist H.R. Giger’s “biomechanical” style that was employed to create the movie’s frightening alien. What’s strange though is that they simultaneously mock Giger for being a weirdo. They discuss about the bizarre collection of skeletons that he had for inspiration and his insistence on heavy leather attire even intense heat.     

Unfortunately it looks like nothing has changed with this paperback since the 1993 edition. That’s sad because this book could use an upgrade in a number of departments. It is printed on surprisingly thin paper and photos look incredibly grainy. Images are arranged in strange ways and captions are either placed in odd places, or nonexistent for some items. Overall text is Spartan and the volume relies too heavily on pictures to tell its story. The Book of Alien is a cool piece of movie memorabilia, but it definitely feels dated.               

Aliens – Colonial Marines Technical Manual

What The Book of Alien lacks in text, Aliens – Colonial Marines Technical Manual has in ample supply. That’s not necessarily a good thing however, since the writing is much denser. This operational manual describes the organization, weapons, and vehicles utilized by the Colonial Marines from James Cameron’s Aliens. It speaks in military jargon and lists specific scientific statistics about the technology. As a result, reading this book is comparable in excitement to someone narrating a car repair manual. To jazz up the text there are pictures from the film, detailed schematics, and fake quotes from Colonial Marines on a computer screen background.

The most intriguing section of Aliens – Colonial Marines Technical Manual is less mechanical in nature. It contains a series of transcripts from scientists who are studying the events of Alien and Aliens. Interspersed between pictures from Aliens, are theories between the scientists on how the alien biology must work. These statements are still somewhat complicated in nature, but interesting. Despite its entertaining photos and drawings, Aliens – Colonial Marines Technical Manual is really more for military buffs than movie fans.  

The Book of Alien and Aliens – Colonial Marines Technical Manual are now available in stores and online at