Rating: 5 out of 5
I’m a total sucker for “Alien”-franchise books, and Alien: The Cold Forge, by Alex White, is just the right blend of sci-fi and horror. Dorian Sudler, the director of special resources for Weyland-Yutani, is on his way to a space station to audit them. Dorian loves firing people and finding ways to save money, and he’s already anticipating just how much fun this trip will be. The station is actually being run by a skeleton staff because it’s host to just three projects, all of which are highly secretive. One is Glitter Edifice, which is being run by Dr. Blue Marsalis. She’s supposed to be weaponizing the xenomorphs, but she’s secretly blowing through the face-huggers in an attempt to find a substance they inject into the host bodies that’s capable of rewriting DNA. She has a nasty genetic illness that she won’t survive much longer if she can’t make it work. And if Dorian finds out she’s running her own experiments using the almost priceless, limited supply of xenomorph eggs, he’ll cancel her project and she’ll die in short order. Then, the product of one of the other projects “escapes”–a program that’s built to enter a network and be as destructive as possible–cyber-warfare, basically.
Blue and Dorian are the two point-of-view characters and it’s fascinating. Dorian is pretty clearly a psychopath, but not your average psychopath. He makes decisions and takes actions that, once you’ve seen his reasoning, make sense, but are unexpected. Blue is rather self-centered for her part, but I mean, when you’ve been dying for a decade and you’re running out of time to stop it, that makes some sense. And I like the fact that she isn’t perfect and pure.
Blue is also a disabled heroine, and that is handled extremely well. She isn’t paralyzed or completely incapable of walking, which is great–almost all media focused on the disabled show that either you need a wheelchair or you don’t, and there’s no partially-mobile middle ground. That depiction has done a lot of harm to disabled people who are capable of standing up and taking a few steps, only to have people around them insist that means they aren’t disabled. Blue needs a lot of medications and a lot of care.
Marcus is a synthetic, and he’s Blue’s arms and legs in a sense. Blue can “pilot” Marcus, taking him over entirely, and in that state she’s basically superhuman. But it also damages the relationships she might have had with the crew, leaving them not entirely trusting of her or interested in helping her out. Marcus also handles things like Blue’s meds and the care of her colostomy bag and catheter–the presence of which is, again, handled very well. Blue still has a lot of interaction with the story on her own, not just through Marcus. He isn’t used as a magical escape to make Blue essentially non-disabled, and he’s both a help and a hindrance.
The xenomorphs are seen very soon after the book starts–Blue has already hatched quite a few of them. Once Silversmile, the aggressive program, escapes, it’s inevitable that the xenomorphs will somehow escape. At first I thought they were going to entirely elide the how of their escape, because we seem to go straight from them being trapped to them being on the loose. But the story unfolds later in the tale, when our characters are finding out certain secrets.
Many of the side characters have interest as well. Some we never find out a lot about, but hey, someone has to die first! And even in the brief interactions with some of them there’s always a touch of personality. The pacing is also top-notch, with plenty of action building up throughout the book. If, like me, you love the combination of sci-fi and horror that the Alien franchise has practically trademarked, then I think you’ll love this book!
Content note: abstracted sex scene; blood and gore.