Scary in space has always spoken to me as being like Alien in terms of suspense; there is a monster in the dark, and you know its coming.
Tibbets places you on the page with an ominous whisper in you ear; its already here. It’s behind you.
There is no hesitation, no stopping, and no escape aboard the freighter Demeter. The gradual introduction of the crew while unknown havoc explodes (literally) across the ship promises a story of high stakes, and with more than one element of horror.
The main protagonist, Ensign Reina, speaks to many of us as putting up with an awful situation for the “job” until enough is enough. From a boss who constantly degrades her to make up for his own ineptitude (who hasn’t been there?), to a sexy ex who’s bad boy side is way badder than any of us wants, Reina’s got her hands full. But her patience is running out quicker than the crew has members left.
Alongside Reina’s struggle is chief science officer Pollux who’s drive for constant improvement allowed dangerous cargo aboard. Something that’s hidden among the greenery of her collection of alien plant life to bring back to Earth. And when it bursts out of those early pages of the book, I wondered for the briefest moments if this fluffy critter wasn’t totally misunderstood.
There are visceral moments of this book I won’t be able to scrub off my mind imagining. I’m not a big fan of bloody scenes, my empathy/imagination can’t hack it, but while the body count triggered my gross meter, it wasn’t the only vileness on the ship.
There is an alien on board. Its going to kill them all, and have I mentioned yet, that laser fire can’t kill it? Forget running out of ammo, throwing it out the airlock, or just plain wrestling it to death, lets start with the fact its invisible. You can’t see the damn thing. Pollux bought an invisible death machine on board and now she’s got to get rid of it.
Pollux’s zero BS attitude and Reina’s adaptability on a very dysfunctional ship give a hope that vanishes as quickly as the pace advances. Separated early on, the two differing viewpoints each add their own aspect of terror. Reina, side by side with her abusive ex, and Pollux, fighting off a debilitating rash that’s slowly stealing her thoughts.
For all their ingenuity, their struggle paints a horrible picture of how very f***ed they all are. And this was my one contention with the book. There were a couple of scenes were there was an over emphasis of the fact they had zero chance, but once that was done, I got on with seeing exactly how they were going to get out of it.
Because as much as you’re wondering what they’re going to do about this creature, it was only a part of the stakes. Reina’s ex Morven isn’t so much her ex as the guy from her past she can’t escape; from falling in love with, from still loving despite all he’s done, let alone what he’s about to do.
The two intertwining threads of Reina’s personal demons vs the actual one roaming the ship weave a tangled terrified stream through the story. How you can be mentally trapped, as well as physically, and the emotional turmoil trying to extract from that situation. Reina spoke to a part of me that has cringed when a man raises his voice.
Tibbets proves there’s more than one way to scare a reader and I’m not ashamed to say I kept the lights on and watched Disney after finishing this book. Thoroughly recommend for the well balanced characters you can empathize with in their weakness, the science fiction elements made believable, and the kind of horror that leaves you terrified of the void. When science advances far enough for intergalactic travel, nobody sign me up for space botany.