I'd heard about author William Gibson's script for Alien 3. As I understand the story, the studio was looking for some input on where they could take the Alien universe after the box office success of Aliens (thank you, James Cameron), so a call was put out to the writing community. Gibson was one of the big names that actually responded -- if I understand the particulars correctly, he even got to a second draft on the project before the suits inevitably passed. Some of his tale's details have been online for ages, but I decided rather than wade through those why not actually read a full-fledged adaptation of the first draft to see what all the fuss was about.
Without spoiling too many of the surprises, I found Alien 3 a bit undercooked mostly because it essentially repeats much of what made Aliens such a break-out phenomenon: Gibson's story puts the Xenomorphs in high gear as their species infects not one but two different space stations -- pretty big, life-sustaining colonies -- which inevitably have to go the way of the dodo in order to keep the creatures from destroying life everywhere. But because it's so similar -- because it really copies the tone and pace of the Cameron film -- I'm not surprised the studio passed.
Now, I'm not abreast of what author Gibson may've been 'assigned' by the studio -- getting near to spoiler territory here, peeps -- but Ripley really isn't even in here. Upon their arrival/rescue from a deep space recovery, her ship is infected with another of the aliens -- one that hibernated inside the android Bishop -- and this is important because events transpire that lead to the hero being put into a comatose state. Although Newt and Nicks survive, the child is sent packing not long after being given a bit of story (along with Ripley in stasis again), leaving Hicks and Bishop to take charge and eliminate this kinda/sorta all-new breed of Xenos in the action.
1992's big screen outing -- Alien 3 -- has lived through as awful lot of criticism for how that movie killed off Newt and Hicks unceremoniously, leaving Ripley alone once more (though Bishop makes a brief appearance) to fight and save the day in a space-based penal colony when it's learned that she's also infected and dying from an alien spore. Don't get me wrong: there are plenty of other reasons to dislike the third outing, but fans seemed to be most insulted by the way two beloved characters were dispatched so callously. Gibson's novel pretty much would have remedied this situation (to a point), choosing instead of sacrificing Ripley ... and I can't imagine audiences would've been happy with this turn of events.
There are a few other items introduced to the wider Alien universe. For example, one of these space colonies is actually an offshoot of a Socialist/Communist state, and the narrative pretty much re-introduces the Cold War albeit set in space. While these two sides -- capitalists and (erm) other -- are at odds with one another, there is not all-out-war of any kind. (Peacetime agreements have kept them playing nicely.) The company -- Weiland-Yutani -- is still up to their old shenanigans trying against all hopes to 'weaponize' the alien species, and Gibson's tale kinda/sorta explores how this all-powerful corporation might even up-the-ante from efforts in Aliens to make such an outcome possible. While this aspect was a bit derivative, it still built on established canon in a way viewers could relate.
Alas, because so very much of the action was dedicated to reliving the frenzy of Aliens, I just wasn't all that impressed with the novel. True, it was great to see Hicks back in action -- the book gives him a new complement of wannabe Colonial Marines to shoulder up into action with -- but they're largely retreads of folks we've already seen in this universe and end up being disposable when the right set of circumstances present themselves. Similarly, Bishop gets a welcome amount of additional screentime, but the book ends up treating the synthetic more as comic relief (in my opinion), and it just didn't work tonally for me as often as it was tried.
Perhaps the biggest change to the Xenomorph mythology (at least, as presented on film) is that the egg-laying aspect of their birthing process gets a huge overhaul: Gibson eliminates that breeding function, and these aliens have evolved to the point of simply being an airborne virus. In other words, all a victim need be is standing in close proximity to another infected person (to a degree), and he/she can also be turned into an alien incubator. No longer must a single egg be deposited: now a human being can produce many tiny alien hatchlings, thus increasing the species ability to propagate exponentially.
I've read that Gibson himself toned down this aspect in his version of the second draft; still, based on this foundation being so similar to Aliens, I'm not inclined to seek that one out and give it a read. I believe it's available out there -- comic adaptation? -- but I'll pass. Besides, unlike so many, I'm one who was actually kinda/sorta okay with the developments of Alien 3 as presented on film. Certainly, I can understand the collective disappointment over Newt and Hicks' deaths, but that story definitely wanted to take the character of Ripley to some very dark places emotionally, so I think their respective deaths were a necessary evil. Telling that story the way the studio did, Ripley needed to be entirely on-her-own, especially given where she ends up.
So ... I guess I'd conclude Gibson's Alien 3 wasn't an awful read. It served up some nice action, revisited the characters of Hicks and Bishop (for those who liked that sort of thing), and pushed the boundaries of what was possible with Xenomorph biology. In the end, however, I just felt it was too much a rehash of Aliens thematically to stand entirely on its own the way the resulting film does.
As always, thanks for reading ... and live long and prosper!