We all know that famous scene. Alien has seeped in to pop culture in the way that legendary cinema often does. When you think of the possible future arrival of off world visitors some of us can’t help but have a slight chill run down our spines as we try to quiet that internal screaming. Can you see it now? Have you summoned up in your mind the image of that squirming, wriggling worm punching its way through the chest of a ship crew member? That fear you feel is the call of your own survival instinct, without it humanity would be lost. Scott Sigler has weaved the spirit of survival, that pure primal fear, in to the pages of his new novel Aliens: Phalanx.
Our protagonist, Ahiliyah, is a product of survival. She lives in a world where everyone plays their part. There is no room for weakness and to be a burden is as bad as being carried off by one of those demons. Her gender has her at a disadvantage but despite being, at times, considered a womb on legs she manages to command respect from some men as a runner. As a runner she is the leader of a crew that ensures the community she serves has the supplies it needs to survive. However, she fights for more. She wants to be a fighter not just a survivor. Through her leadership she earns the loyalty and love of her small team. Creen may not be gifted with the skills of what this world calls ‘a real man’ but has an intelligence and ingenuity that is only marred by his bitterness at the state of the world he lives in. The second in Ahiliyah’s crew, Brandun has everything that can put him in a place of privilege. Brandun is built like a warrior and he is loved like a hero. He has the naivety of being the youngest in the crew on his side so has yet to become jaded with his lot in life like his fellow crew members. He may be a bit of a meat head but Brandun recognises Ahiliyah’s strengths. Together on their many dangerous trade missions to other underground colonies they notice a change in the air. The demons are different. Something is coming. Those in power don’t want to listen and it looks like it is up to Ahiliyah and her team to keep humanity alive.
I couldn’t put this book down. It was so good. Sometimes you just want a really good bit of sci-fi with characters you can get behind. Ahiliyah has so many of the qualities of some of my favourite female heroes. She is a fighter, she wants to do good in her world but she doesn’t take any shit either. I wanted her to win but I wanted her to earn the admiration and respect she deserves. There are just a few characters in science fiction that I feel that for. She is a character that earns her right to stand with bad ass women characters such as Willow from Buffy, Warren from Z-Nation, Michonne from The Walking Dead (TV) and Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games.
I loved Creen as a character. He grounded the crew with his outspoken disillusion with the situation he has found himself in and Brandun brought the heart. All the characters, major and minor, felt solid. The world that Sigler creates feels tangible. The warmth you feel of the underground cities disappears when Ahiliyah take her crew on runs to the other human colonies. In the chill of the outside world Sigler allows paranoia and fear to grow.
There is something about this book that had me glancing over my shoulder, worried that something was creeping up on me. At one point I forgot about time completely and it was only a cat jumping on the glass recycling bin outside causing it to shake creating a loud crashing sound that made me jump out of my skin. I was sitting in a room that was completely dark with only my reading light on not fully realising that day had become night. I blinked into the shadows waiting for a demon to pounce. Of course, I was alone.
You don’t need to know the Alien universe to enjoy this. Scott Sigler doesn’t spoon feed you the lore of the world but does give you enough material to join the dots. I really enjoyed reading this book and would absolutely recommend it to everyone who loves sci-fi or horror. If you love a good, end of the world, fight to the death dystopian read then this is definitely for you. If you love YA dystopia and you are looking to get your fangs into something more grown up then this might also be for you.