Charybdis. A gaping maw of rushing water and lighting. Poisonous gasses well up from the depths, threatening all who live and work on the planet. Hasanova Data Solutions, an Iranian-controlled company, purchased the sphere and installation (mysteriously) from Weyland Corp. (a known bioweapon developer) at auction. The facility has aging environmental controls in dire need of fixing, and an American company answers the call to travel across space to complete the repairs needed.
An American contractor crew, heading to an Iranian facility previously owned by Weyland, with a few hundred citizens living and working in its depths. It’s like a lit fuse on a big giant firework you’ve bought from a roadside stand on a gravel road in a rural town: You’re not quite sure what it does because the warning label is smudged and written in a language you’ve never seen. How far should you stand back? Are the kids safe? The joy of big dangerous fireworks is in the unknown, the anticipation of lighting a wick that leads to a powder keg, and hoping like hell the authorities don’t show up afterwards asking shocked bystanders how things went so wrong.
Author Alex White revels in this method of firecracker storytelling. White’s uncanny ability to set the stage for all the aspects of great Alien carnage is on full display in their new novel, Alien: Into Charybdis. White taps into a Michael Crichton-esque method of introducing the reader to the main characters while at the same time exploring the setting and a foreboding sense of rotten happenings and conflict just beneath the surface.
The putrid moldering does not take long to bubble up and start claiming victims. The Charybdis complex is built over a system of hidden caves, and long protected secrets of biological weapon development. Little by little, White peels back the skin of the infected planet, and the black chitinous shell of the xenomorph begins to reveal itself. That’s before the Colonial Marines arrive, loaded with new xenomorph-fighting technology and orders to secure the facility by any means necessary.
And by any means necessary, we can safely assume that folks will find the end of their paths at the black scaly hands of xenomorphs or well-placed bullets. There’ll be no spoilers here, but rest assured, the current trajectory of the Alien franchise in written form is well stewarded by White. It’s clear that White understands that the heart of this universe is surrounded by the moral ineptitude of humanity and their desire to control the natural world. The xenomorphs are a species evolved with a simple purpose: facehug the victims, populate, spread. The desire of humans to weaponize and harness this power illustrates the pure darkness that lives in the hearts of men. There’s no leash strong enough to control the aliens, and attempts to do so lead only to death and betrayal. No winners exist on a planet infested with humans and colonized by aliens.
Alien: Into Charybdis doesn’t hold back. White’s willingness to develop strong, believable characters, to take time to craft a person the reader cares about before killing them with incredibly creative or jarring ways is a blunt force instrument. White uses this hammer to imprint the reader with the knowledge that no one’s safety is guaranteed in the Alien universe. The synthesis of character peril and reader anxiety is a difficult trick to pull off, but White boasts a natural ability to accomplish this with ease. It’s never forced, or trite, but is instead a seamless palette of setting, character development, conflict and plot trajectory that culminates in a final battle of good humans vs evil humans. At points in this novel, the aliens themselves become a bit of a side story and almost forgotten, but a solid twist of an alien/human hybrid reference to White’s earlier masterpiece, Aliens: The Cold Forge, drives the escalating action deep into the bowels of that scary, yet familiar place.
I can’t stress this enough: Alex White has some serious chops. Alien: Into Charybdis is quite simply a must-own for fans of the franchise, and one an aficionado would be sorely mistaken to skip. White’s smooth and silky delivery also makes for an easy read if you only saw Sigourney Weaver do her thing a few decades ago but would suddenly like to dive back into the Alien universe. An ultra-sexy cover adds a little eye-candy, and coupled with the fantastic setting, characters and action within the bindings, Alien: Into Charybdis is a novel that needs to be owned!
Image courtesy of Titan Books and Disney/20th Century Fox