Rating: 5 out of 5
Alex White’s Alien: Into Charybdis is sort of a follow-on to his Alien: The Cold Forge. You probably don’t need to read that one first, and you’ll spend the first half or more of this book wondering why I say you should, but it does become relevant and I think I would have been a bit confused had I not read that book first. I’m a huge fan of the Alien franchise, and I think Alex White’s books stand up very well to the other material out there.
Cheyenne (Shy) Hunt is a contractor–her and her team handle contracts for installation and maintenance of colony infrastructure (yes, even in space you need HVAC maintenance!). They take a job on a planet that’s literally called “Hasanova Data Solutions” that is run by the Iranians. A couple of people on the contractor crew are not entirely happy about this, but they need the money badly. The actual colony is, so far, a big island with a stable lava tube in the middle. This feature, called Charybdis, is a whirlpool of water and toxic gases, and anything that goes over the safety railings isn’t coming back. A local named Kamran Afghanzadeh is tasked with making sure the contractors stick to what they’re supposed to do and don’t go poking around. Of course Shy and Noah stumble across something they shouldn’t see, and suddenly they’re virtually prisoners. Then the Iranians come across a certain xenomorph, and Noah decides it’s time to send a distress call.
I love that the main characters are blue-collar workers in space. It’s creative and interesting, and brings some unusual skills and knowledge to the table. The Iranians and the Americans are pretty prickly for a while, and some of it starts out seeming like stereotypical bigotry, but when push comes to shove, all the characters have depth and nuance.
There are a couple of unexplained mysteries that got dropped in that never paid off; I was a bit disappointed by that, but it’s really my only complaint. We do, however, get to find out what happened to Dr. Blue Marsalis after the end of Alien: The Cold Forge, which is great. She was such an excellent character.
The colony is unusual in its makeup, size, and unique challenges, and the author makes wonderful use of these things when everything goes to hell. It’s also interesting to see what sorts of tricks their would-be rescuers have up their sleeves now that the military knows a lot more about the xenomorphs. It has enabled some interesting advances in technology and some new ways of dealing with the aliens.
I think if you enjoy the Alien franchise, you’ll love this book. It hits all of the sweet spots for character interplay, horror, science fiction, and combat against the deadliest creatures the universe has seen.
Content warning for blood & gore, dismemberment, spiders, a little bigotry, child harm, and child death.