Aliens Phalanx by Scott Sigler
Titan, pb, £7.99
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
Ataegina is a cursed planet. Black husked demons with “tooth-tongues” roam the land, taking anyone caught unawares back to Black Smoke Mountain to be made into more demons. Ahiliyah of Lemeth Hold is one of those people who must venture out of her hold to ensure its survival, trading with other holds for much needed supplies. But when she starts seeing the demons during the day, Ahiliyah realises there is more going on than just a random occurrence, but no one will listen to her, a mere woman of only nineteen years. Can she convince people to pay attention before her hold succumbs to the demonic hoard?
First, I should explain that I am a massive Alien fan. I watched Alien and Aliens as an impressionable young person, and they are the standards which I compare other horror too, as well as the equal treatment of men and women. So, when I say that Alien Phalanx fits in perfectly with the Alien Universe, it comes from a place of understanding.
Ahiliyah is a strong believable female character. As a runner, someone who braves the outside to trade with other holds, her thoughts are of the safety of her hold rather than herself. She wants more for her future reduced to a wife constantly having children. She faces sexism on almost every page and comes to understand how expendable she is to the leading caste of her hold. She uses the developing situation to her advantage which is always for the greatest preservation of life. Ripley would be proud.
How Sigler brings this world into the accepted Alien universe is clever. I don’t want to give anything away but it is intelligent and succinct, bringing a futuristic hint into what appears to be a medieval-type world, which then vanishes again, leaving the world untouched by its tech. Questions about how the xenomorphs have ended up on this planet are answered leaving space for a hopeful future for Ahiliyah and the survivors, even if it is not a perfect one.
And finally, I must mention the xenomorphs themselves. There are moments where the characters are trapped in their underground holds and they can hear the xenomorphs. In these moments, Sigler recreates the tension and claustrophobia of the first movie where nightmares hide in the shadows and the screams of its victims’ echo in the halls.
Whether this is your first foray into the xenomorph universe or whether you’ve been there from the start, I can’t recommend Aliens Phalanx enough.