Fiction Reviews

Screams from the Void

(2021) Anne Tibbets, Flame Tree Press, £20 / Can$32.95 / US$24.95, hrdbk, 233pp, ISBN 978-1-787-58573-7


This one’s a bit of a roller coaster. Scary sci-fi in the vein of Alien and Escape Velocity, it moves at pace and lurches from twist to turn with satisfying inevitability. The Demeter is a freighter out in deep space, picking up exotic plants from around the thinly explored fringes of human expansion. It turns out, though, that they’ve picked up something dangerously unexpected…

You know the drill: a small crew, packed with a mixture of incompetents and malcontents, picked off one by one by a force they can’t control. Ensign Reina is our point-of-view character, an engineer who almost single-handedly keeps the ship going while her useless boss Osric yells and harangues her. She’s also got to deal with her abusive ex-boyfriend, Morven, who shifts from full on amorous to outright hostile in his efforts to win her over (or drag her back) into their relationship.

The Demeter is only a couple of weeks away from Earth when the Bridge crew comes across something unexpected in the air vents, a ‘foreign biological’ they picked up earlier in the trip. Needless to say, the ‘biological’ has claws. It’s also got a super-strong hide and a chameleon-like ability to hide in plain sight.  And it’s hungry.

There’s blood, there’s gore, and, with every officer apart from the ship’s cook either dead or missing, before long the plucky Reina and her dwindling band of fellow ensigns are fighting for their lives.

Working out who the real monster here is central to this book and drives the narrative. It’s not covering any new ground, and the way the plot plays out is predictable, but it’s edge-of-the-seat nonetheless, a competent and enjoyable descent into terror.  As someone once said, in space, no-one can hear you scream.

Mark Bilsborough


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