In space no one can here you scream, he wrote
August 9, 2009 8:41 AM   Subscribe

What's the best literary equivalent of Alien/Aliens?

Well obviously there's the Alan Dean Foster adaptations for a start... and the comics.

And I'm not limiting it to 'monster on a spaceship' or 'monsters on a planet + space marines' but anything that successfully merges Space Fiction/Opera and Horror.
posted by fearfulsymmetry to Media & Arts (21 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Beowulf, sort of.
posted by Nonce at 8:45 AM on August 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

posted by iconomy at 8:51 AM on August 9, 2009

Maybe some of the Dan Abnett Warhammer 40k books?

Pandora's Star has a pretty awesome ass-kicking alien, but it's not horror in the slightest bit.

I thought some of the bits in Hyperion were pretty creepy...
posted by Lord_Pall at 8:52 AM on August 9, 2009

Anime? Try "Divergence Eve" and the sequel "Misaki Chronicles". Together they make up one story, and despite the ridiculous character designs and copious gratuitous nudity, it's actually a superb story about very engaging characters.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:56 AM on August 9, 2009

7 Days a Skeptic

not sure if this fits the definition of literary-- you mean books only? there's lots of games in the space fiction + horror genre (system shock 2 is another good one)
posted by jcruelty at 9:01 AM on August 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Legacy of Heorot has colonists landing on what seems like an idyllic planet only to discover ravening aliens called Grendels and a strange ecosystem. Very "Aliens"-like. There's a sequel called Beowulf's Children. The books are by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Steven Barnes. I remember quite liking them when I read them 15 years ago, but my memory is a bit foggy.
posted by Jupiter Jones at 9:32 AM on August 9, 2009 [4 favorites]

Dawn (the first book of the Lilith's Brood trilogy) by Octavia Butler is pretty horrific, though I'm not sure if I'd quite consider it horror.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:41 AM on August 9, 2009

Neal Asher's "Polity" series might be of interest, particularly the books set on the planet Spatterjay. You might also be interested in Dan Simmons in general, particularly the Hyperion / Endymion books.
posted by aught at 9:59 AM on August 9, 2009

"Hyperion" by Dan Simmons fits the bill and is a great read.

"Ship of Fools" by Richard Paul Russo is OK but not brilliant

"The Gone-Away World" by Nick Harkaway only sort of fits the bill, but is very good.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 10:02 AM on August 9, 2009

The copy of "Legacy of Heorot" I read actually said something like "This is Aliens written by people who know what they're talking about" on the back. I enjoyed it when I read it as a teenager.
posted by tomcooke at 10:08 AM on August 9, 2009

Literary ... one of the progenitors of the horror genre, House on the Borderland, has many Alien elements. Or perhaps I should say, Alien has many elements from House on the Borderland.
posted by coffeefilter at 10:32 AM on August 9, 2009

Stephen Donaldson's Gap Cycle is fascinating and horrifying, and most of the human characters are equally as monstrous as the actual "monster" alien characters. It's basically a sci-fi reworking of Wagner's Ring Cycle.
posted by elizardbits at 11:20 AM on August 9, 2009

Definitely seek out Octavia E. Butler, but I'd recommend her story Bloodchild. If Alien depicts the ultimate unwanted pregnancy, Butler's story tries to imagine a consensual version. Definitely pegged the horror meter for me.
posted by drdanger at 12:51 PM on August 9, 2009

Agreeing with Hyperion and Dawn. Maybe not horror in the same way Alien is horror, but disturbing and mind-blowing and definitely worth reading.
posted by hishtafel at 12:54 PM on August 9, 2009

Have you read John W. Campbell's novella "Who Goes There?" Great story. (Also the basis for The Thing, which I haven't seen so I don't know if it's better or worse.)
posted by zompist at 1:22 PM on August 9, 2009

Thirding Legacy of Heorot. It's not military sci fi in the way that Aliens is, but it uses its monsters in very similar ways. And, just like the xenomorphs, Heorot's monsters have a few nifty hooks. Plus it's just plain good. Well written and a story that carries you along.

The sequel, Dragons Of Heorot, is workmanlike. It has a new "mystery monster" theme without resorting to clichéd threat escalation, but it just wasn't as compelling to me.

Have you read Jurassic Park, the novel? It's definitely not space opera, but I'd call it sci fi and when I was reading it for the first time it reminded me more of Alien/Aliens than of anything else. It has quite a different feel to the film - as much a horror story as a science story - and events turn out differently enough that watching the move won't have spoiled things for you.

I enjoyed The Lost World too; unlike the execrable film it's a worthy sequel. More of the same perhaps, but it's good to know that if you like the first book, there's more if you want it.
posted by Lorc at 1:25 PM on August 9, 2009

Unto Leviathan by Richard Paul Russo is pretty good on the slow-burning-scary-in-space front.
posted by Luddite at 2:52 PM on August 9, 2009

You should read AE Van Vogt's Voyage of the Space Beagle which includes the very story many think Alien ripped off.
posted by A189Nut at 4:26 PM on August 9, 2009

The opening section of Armor by John Steakly has a lot of the adrenalin rush of Aliens about it.
posted by doozer_ex_machina at 6:26 AM on August 10, 2009

posted by iconomy

Could you elaborate? I like Alien and Aliens, and I love Dune, but I wouldn't consider the latter to be a horror story.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:31 AM on August 10, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions... Some of which I've read/heard of before but a lot was new to me. Have a nice list to take to the library (and probably Amazon) anyway.

One thing that I love about the original Alien film, on top of the monster in a can, is the sense of well 'alieness' to it that was kind of dropped in the later films. The fact that we never really learn anything about the organic ship, the Space Jockey, the origins of the alien etc... but there's a whole underlying sense of doom and the idea that space is just full of horror waiting to be discovered. I don't know of anything else that's got close to that, apart from may be Lovecraft (who was, I think, a pretty significant influence on Geiger). But if anyone else... ?
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:24 PM on August 10, 2009

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