Alien: Out of the Shadows Review (Audible)

Alien Out of the Shadows Audiobook Review

Alien: Out of the Shadows is a novel, audiobook, and – in this particular case – an Audible audio drama.

Set between Alien and Aliens, the first two movies, Tim Lebbon’s take on the Alien universe pits the crew of the Marion against a Xenomorph invasion upon a mining colony.

Respectful of the source material, whilst carving out its own path, Out of the Shadows is a thoroughly impressive production.

With a phenomenal cast, excellent sound engineering, and a solid narrative, this Audible audio drama is well worth your time.

Xeno Evil, Hear no Evil

In a tense, horror-like series like Alien, immersion is paramount so I was utterly thrilled by the production value of Out of the Shadows.

This is definitely one to listen to with your headphones on, rather than through speakers (bonus points if you have headphones with binaural audio!)

All of the classic sci-fi audio cues are here.

Metal clangs satisfyingly, sliding doors whirr open, and lift shafts judder and moan in their decrepitude. Meanwhile, – the protagonists’ voices echo authentically in the depths of the mining colony.

Occasionally you’ll hear the Aliens chitter away in the background, signalling their closer proximity. Always a threat.

Alien Out of the Shadows Book Review Spaceship
The menacing depths of the mining colony

And then there’s the voice acting, of which I’m not sure the English language possesses enough superlatives. Seriously – the cast is incredible.

Solid Narrative, Greatly Enhanced by the Characters

Out of the Shadows presents an enjoyable tale. Not wholly original, but thrilling nonetheless. However, it’s the characters that make it a success.

You’ll immediately recognise a familiar voice in Matthew Lewis (of Neville Longbottom fame). Lewis puts in a fantastic performance as Baxter.

Laurel Lefkow as Ripley is inspired. I actually had to pause and triple-check that Sigourney Weaver wasn’t in the credits. Amazing.

Meanwhile, Rutger Hauer plays a menacing AI – thwarting our heroes/fodder at every step. Again, an impeccably sinister performance. 

The crew themselves are good fun, with Hooper as the leader; voiced strongly by Corey Johnson.

Ripley & Jonesy Alien Out of the Shadows
Yes - Jonesy returns for another outing

Lachance is really great fun too, adding levity to an increasingly stressful journey, whilst Sneddon has easily the best arc in the narrative. 

Typically in this genre, characters are introduced simply to die. It’s therefore pleasantly surprising that the wider cast aren’t just ‘Alien fodder’ –  they’re an entertaining cast in their own right.

Out of the Shadows is packed with Alien tropes and fan service, but it doesn’t feel gimmicky.

There are even some neat references to the wider universe, including Alien: Isolation – the excellent survival horror video game starring Amanda Ripley (seriously, if you’re an Alien fan – or just a survival horror fan – you need to pick up a copy of that game).

Conclusion

With ten episodes at around 28 minutes each, Alien: Out of the Shadows is a really addictive listen. It has that quintessential ‘just one more episode’ vibe, which so many TV shows try (and ultimately fail) to capture.

If you’re an Alien fan – you’ll love this. And even if you aren’t an Alien purist, there’s a lot to appreciate here. Certainly more than the movies Fox has released in recent years.

The cast is wonderful, the narrative works as an efficient vehicle for the characters, and this Audible production is of the absolute highest quality.

I can’t wait to listen to it again, and I strongly encourage anyone reading this review to do so too!

And if audio dramas aren’t for you, the book is included in Amazon’s generous Kindle Unlimited programme.

4/5

You can listen to the entirety of Alien: Out of the Shadows for free, with a trial at Audible.

What it Feels Like for a Girl Book Review

What it Feels Like for a Girl Paris Lees Book Review

Paris Lees is a journalist, model, and now a published author. 

Known for being the first transgender columnist for Vogue, What if Feels Like for a Girl is a memoir of her formative years in Hucknall, Nottingham. It’s even written in a Hucknall dialect!

This is a truly remarkable book. It’s an uplifting and empowering memoir of self-identity. It’s smart, witty, and authentic. However, it’s also filled with immense sadness, including stories of physical & emotional abuse.

There are very few books that make you want to laugh, cry, despair, cringe, and shout out for joy all in one chapter, but What It Feels Like for a Girl is one of them.

Overview: What it Feels Like for a Girl

Through chapters named after popular songs at the time (feel good inc. / smack my bitch up / scream if you wanna go faster, etc…), Paris recounts her experiences through the prism of Byron – named after Nottingham’s own son, Lord Byron.

From being beaten up in Hucknall town centre for being a ‘poof’, to her wild nights in Nottingham with the Fallen Divas, eventual imprisonment, and beyond – the book charts her awakening as Paris in a lucid, highly self-aware way.

Numerous times, Byron – and then Paris – reflects upon why they can’t simply be treated as they are, rather than who society wants them to be.

What It Feels Like for a Girl Lord Byron
The eponymous Byron - the world's first 'rock star' poet (1788 - 1824)

Through What It Feels Like for a Girl, Paris holds a mirror up to the world, highlighting its treatment of trans people and, of course, what it means to be a girl.

Why What it Feels Like for a Girl Isn't A Trans Memoir

Both in newspaper articles, and in an excellent discussion on Owen Jones’s podcast, Paris has expressed frustration at the expectations surrounding this book.

Many (not unreasonably, to be fair) expected it to be a trans memoir, covering all of the details surrounding her transition. 

Her point is that Michelle Obama’s memoir isn’t a ‘woman book’, nor is David Cameron’s memoir a ‘man book’, so why should hers be a ‘trans book’?

It’s a fair point and well made.

But if this is not a trans memoir, discussing the ins-and-outs of Paris’s transition, then what is it?

What it Feels Like for A Girl Paris Lees
Paris Lees promoting What It Feels Like for a Girl

Well, it’s the story of a working class East Midlands family coming to terms (or not) with the fact that their child is trans. 

It’s about Paris discovering her own identity, embracing it, and posing incisive, critical questions about British society’s tolerance of trans people in the early 2000s. 

And it’s about female empowerment and Paris taking control of her life.

Lots of love has gone into writing of What It Feels Like for a Girl, and it shows. 

Conclusion

What It Feels Like for a Girl is is a terrific book, and I’d strongly urge any of my readers to pick up a copy.

It presents a lens for which a reader, of any background, can get a glimpse into the LGBTQ+ experience in the late ’90s / early ’00s East Midlands. In this respect, it makes for a highly educational book, fostering empathy and understanding in the reader.

I grew up in Nottingham too, living there for 25 years of my life though admittedly on the more privileged end of the city. And in this respect, What It Feels Like for a Girl has given me a fresh perspective on a place I thought I knew inside-out – and that’s quite special.

To conclude, this is an excellent memoir. It’s a tough read at times, and the content can be quite distressing, but it remains an inspirational piece of writing and an essential read.

5/5

Paris Lees’ What It Feels Like for a Girl is available to buy in hardback at Waterstones.

The Book Snob Book Tag

This is the first book tag I’ve done in a while so firstly, thank you to the wonderful Esther @ CozywithBooks for tagging me in the Book Snob Book Tag! 

I very much enjoyed reading her responses, so you should check those out here. We started blogging around a similar time and her blog is constantly evolving in impressive ways, so do consider giving her a follow.

Credit to Booktuber Tia and All the Books for creating this tag – check out her channel if you’re into all that booktubing goodness!

And now, onto the book tag in question – the Book Snob Book Tag!

Book Snob Book Tag Questions

Adaptation Snob: Do you always read the book before watching the film/ TV show?

I will usually try to read the book first. 

After all, an adaptation is just that – a showrunner’s adaptation of an author’s writing. When you watch the cinematic version first, it delivers a bias as to how those characters look and behave. You will never be able to read the book without preconceptions.

Because of this, I’d rather read a book through my own eyes, rather than the prism of another’s.

That isn’t to say that I always prefer the book. For example, whilst I don’t particularly have much love for Game of Thrones as a franchise, the TV show is very well produced and far superior to what I have read of the books.

Format Snob: You can only choose 1 format in which to read books for the rest of your life.

Which one do you choose: physical books, eBooks, or audiobooks?

From an environmental standpoint, I probably ought to say eBooks (I suspect this is worth a blog of its own), but paperbacks are the goldilocks zone for reading for me.

Hardbacks are too unwieldy and often look better on the shelf (missing the point of reading). eBooks are fantastic – and to be fair I probably read more eBooks right now – but they aren’t very sexy, are they?

Paperbacks just feel right. There’s a vague authenticity to them that’s difficult to explain. I suppose in a world where we’re constantly paying for live services (Netflix, Xbox Game Pass, Disney+, etc.), there’s something genuine & sincere about consuming actual, tangible goods.

Ship Snob: Would you date or marry a non-reader?

Of course.

I often rephrase this question around gaming. ‘Would I ever date or marry someone who doesn’t play video games?’ – a huge passion of mine – and there the absurdity is laid bare.

If I absolutely adored someone, but they didn’t like playing video games, why would that be a dealbreaker? The same applies to reading – we don’t all enjoy the same things, and it’s unreasonable to compel our loved ones to do so.

If said hypothetical partner didn’t respect my passions however, or actively tried to steer me from them, then that’s another issue. I just don’t believe in forcing people to change against their will.

Genre Snob: You have to ditch one genre – never to be read again for the rest of your life.

Which one do you ditch?

Easy. Romance fiction.

Specifically of the spicy, Mills & Boon kind.

I understand that there’s a strong market for it, and i’m certainly not judging the readers or authors in that genre, but it’s absolute white noise to me.

Sorry folks – not my bag.

Uber Genre Snob: You can only choose to read from one genre for the rest of your life. Which genre do you choose?

This is the hardest, most gut-wrenching question. 

Largely because the idea of only ever reading a single genre for the rest of my life is my bookish equivalent of hearing thee sound of one hand clapping. This is predominantly why I pride Tales from Absurdia on being a genre-agnostic blog.

However, if I had to choose, it would likely be philosophical literature. Anything published by Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, or Dostoevsky for example.

Community Snob: Which genre do you think receives the most snobbery from the bookish community?

This is a difficult question. I know that plenty of literary sorts get quite lairy about YA fiction, but when you consider that Bookstagram, BookTok, BookTube, and co. are largely populated by YA content creators, I think it’s fair to say that YA is pretty popular amongst most people.

I’d argue that commercial romance fiction probably receives the most snobbery – and as you may have gleaned from my earlier response, I probably fall into that bias myself.

If I see a book cover with a glossy male torso, or one of those minimalist Jilly Cooper-style book covers, I just glaze over.

As do a lot of people, to be fair. I just can’t deal with them. Sorry!

Tags

I’m tagging the following four bloggers to partake in the Book Snob Book Tag – they’re an excellent bunch, so do check out their blogs!

Desert Island Lit | Episode 1 (Ria Amber Tesia)

Ria Amber Tesia

Ria is an author, blogger, journalist, and food critic. An all rounded individual, she works in marketing and has a passion for literature, cooking, and political PR.

Welcome to the first ever Desert Island Lit!

In this series, I ask my guests to pick five – and only five – books to take with them to the Island of Absurdia. A solitary island where one whiles away their days in joyful isolation, accompanied only by their favourite literature! 

I’m absolutely thrilled to begin this brand new feature with Ria Amber Tesia – an author, journalist, food critic, and now a good friend. We first met on LinkedIn as fellow marketeers and realised we had an absolute shedload in common – not least our passion for literature!

Ria published her debut novel, Screaming Snowflakes, in 2012 and is currently working on a sequel. You can find out more about her literary and culinary pursuits at riaambertesia.com.

Let’s begin…

Ria's Journey to The Islands of Absurdia...

Ria has been swept away on an existential tide and finds herself in solitary confinement on the Isle of Absurdia.

And because we’re on the Isle of Absurdia, our esteemed guest will receive a copy of The Myth of Sisyphus and a luxury item of their choice – in this case being her prized Vivienne Westwood gladiator platform sandals!

Desert Island Lit Picks

1) A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

a little princess burnett book cover

This is my favourite book of all time.

I first came across this book aged 10 years old, when I was a precocious young ‘un, and always keen to read and learn more about a different time. I knew it was special right off the bat when I got sucked into the narrative, within minutes of reading.

I really identified with the imaginative and strong Sara Crewe, because she was a role model for me. It’s that misconception that being an analytical creative is an oxymoron, because you surely can’t be both, right? Growing up, you were either into sciences or the creative subjects like English Literature, drama and writing.

Sara Crewe gave me hope that I can be both and embrace both aspects – that of being analytical and creative – to become an awesome human being.

This is the oldest book on my bookshelf. The battered paperback looks out of place, but not having it on the bookshelf is non-negotiable. I must have read the book at least 100 times and here’s to another 100 times.

2) Asma’s Indian Kitchen by Asma Khan

I had to buy this book two years’ ago when I came across Asma’s cooking whilst she was doing a food demo on a cooking show on TV. She is the founder and vivacious proprietor of Darjeeling Express, one of London’s finest restaurants.

I remember thinking “Wow, who is this bird whose passion for food is so infectious, that it makes me want to drop everything and start a cookalong with her?” Her cookbook is accessible, beautiful and doubles up as a coffee table book.

I love cooking. Whenever I want a cooking ‘jhzuzz’, if I don’t really know what to cook during my weekly meal-planning Saturday evening session, then Asma’s book is one of the first that I read.

I must have picked up and read, and cooked from Asma’s book around 30+ times, and I am now at that stage where I can cook some of her recipes without referring to her book.

Result!

3) The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

I read this book last year because it seemed to be everywhere.

Psychological thrillers are one of my favourite genres, and this one didn’t disappoint. It is one of those rare books, that despite knowing the ending, I have gone to reread. It is expertly written, and perfectly ratchets up the tension so subtly, it really hits you over the head when you do get the nuances.

This is possibly a book that rivals The Sixth Sense in terms of shock ending. Characters are well drawn out, and the people you rooted for at the beginning, completely do a 180 so that your allegiances and loyalty also switch. A very clever, taut plot that will keep you hooked, which is why this book should be studied in syllabuses across the world, because it really is a masterpiece.

It is always a little tricky trying to expound the plot of a thriller, without giving too much away. Suffice to say, the author lures you in, holds you hostage to your emotions, then delivers that killer sweet release. A must read.

4) Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie

This is my first book by this author, which is when I fell in love with Hercule Poirot and her Agatha Christie’s writing. Hercule Poirot was also my first literary crush, it’s all about “those little grey cells”.

I discovered Poirot at primary school, I must have been around 11 years old. The way the characters just leapt off the page into fully formed, 3D characters, felt like magic.

I’ve read this book a few times, and I always try to catch the TV dramatisation whenever it airs, because the TV adaptation is really loyal to the book. I do love Agatha Christie’s writing, it feels like an old soul is writing about old, bygone times, and I really love this.

This book reminds me of childhood and the joy of discovering new authors and new writing. I think the book strikes a chord with me, because I also love history (why didn’t I study it at uni?!).

5) The Blair Years: The Alastair Campbell Diaries

I have always been intrigued by political PR, an interest which has matured and continues to do so, this past decade.

This book by Alastair Campbell casts a light on the inner workings of a political mind and office, and gives me a greater understanding behind the decision-making process of optics and policy.

Campbell is a divisive figure, yet his books are informative and entertain. I loved reading about the instances that really got behind the scenes of a lean, mean, political PR machine. I found the long running feud between Peter Mandelson and Gordon Brown jaw-dropping to discover.

To learn more about key players of that time who strode the corridors of power is nothing short of fascinating. This book continues to inform and entertain, 14 years after publication.

A massive thank you to Ria for taking part in this debut edition of
Desert Island Lit! 
And if you’d like to know more about this episode’s guest, do check out her social channels below.

Islands of Abandonment Book Review

Islands of Abandonment Cal Flyn Book Review Blog Header

Journalist Cal Flyn has published something truly special in Islands of Abandonment: Life in the Post-Human Landscape.

A non-fiction book, Flyn examines places around the world that have since been left behind by people. Often to the benefit of said places.

We travel to Chernobyl, out of town Detroit, the DMZ between North and South Korea, and even places closer to home in West Lothian, Scotland – just to name a handful of spots around the globe.

These places have typically been abandoned by humans following disasters, either natural or man-made. Others have been abandoned due to war or financial ruin.

Despite the somewhat sombre subject matter, Islands of Abandonment is a truly fascinating read, with shades of optimism and well worth anyone’s time.

Overview: Islands of Abandonment

There’s a strong climate change theme to Islands of Abandonment. Flyn finds, on her journeys, that whilst many of these places have been abandoned, they’re cultivating a life of their own. Nature is fighting back.

In fact, it’s argued throughout the book that in spite of mankind’s effects on the climate, nature can still rebound – create life of its own from the wreckage left behind. 

The phrase ‘in spite’ does a lot of heavy lifting here. Flyn isn’t arguing that people can continue to damage the environment. Rather, she floats the idea that nature endures. To quote Dr Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park, “Life, uh, finds a way.”

Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park
Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park

In Chernobyl, trees intersect with buildings – extending through the floors and windows. In the Bikini ATOL, where the Hiroshima bomb was tested, a vibrant underwater community of aquatic plants and animals are thriving. 

And in the Korean DMZ – now a virtually untouched Eden, Sumatran tigers roam free.

Flyn writes about these places with wonder and amazement, interviewing locals for insight commentary on the backgrounds behind these abandoned places.

Conclusion

This is the climate change book we need right now. If climate change fatigue is the problem, then Islands of Abandonment is the antidote.

Flyn’s book is optimistic, though rightly cautious, and is an eye-opening insight into the abandoned world that exists between our towns & cities around the globe.

I’m not sure that the English language possesses enough superlatives for this book. Seriously, buy it, borrow it from the library, and shout about it – it’s a phenomenal piece of writing and a strong contender for Tales from Absurdia’s Book of the Year.

5/5

Cal Flyn’s Islands of Abandonment is available to buy in hardback at all good bookstores.