How do you defend yourself from a huge Alien menace with just spears and crossbows? Aliens: Phalanx sets the scene.
When a film franchise hits the big time, it’s not uncommon for it to spread to other mediums. Two years after Aliens was released to cinemas in 1986, Dark Horse bought the licence to produce comics based upon that property.
It wasn’t long before novels followed soon after with the first few books adapting the original comic runs.
Fast-forward to 2021, and we’ve had around twenty-five novels based upon the Aliens franchise. Having acquired a new Kindle, my interest in reading has peaked again (I can read in the dark!).
I decided I wanted to catch up on some of these novels as the Aliens franchise is one of my favourites. I planned to read them in release order, but one stood out from the others.
They say you should never judge a book by its cover, but that’s exactly what I did with Aliens: Phalanx by Scott Sigler. The cover depicts an alien studying a bloody knight’s helmet which has become lodged on its long spiny tail.
Reading the blurb reveals that this alien infested story took place on a world inhabited by humanity that has only reached medieval levels of technology.
No spaceships? No chases down metal corridors lit by flashing red beacons? No guns? This definitely sounded different.
The story is set on the planet of Ataegina, where humanity once thrived until the arrival of the aliens or as the natives refer to them, demons or “tooth-tongues”.
When the aliens arrived thousands of people were killed or taken away to a place known as Black Smoke Mountain where a creature referred to as the Demon Mother would turn the poor souls into more Demons.
The survivors moved into heavily fortified holds, usually situated in mountainous regions for extra protection. The entrance ways would be littered with booby traps designed to kill any approaching enemies or demons.
But people can’t survive in isolation and the various holds need to trade with each other so that they can survive. Medicine and food that can only be produced locally to specific holds needs to be traded far and wide.
This is where the main protagonists enter our story, three young people from the Lemeth hold who are known as runners. They ferry goods and messages between the holds and have been trained in how to hide from the demons.
Ahiliyah is the eldest at around eighteen years old and has become very skilful in her task and running between the holds takes several days at a time. She may not be the strongest but she’s very smart and this will take her a long way as the story reaches its climax.
Brandun is only fifteen but is a big stocky guy who will no doubt grow into a strong warrior. He is the physical strength of this trio.
Finally, Creen is the youngest and certainly has a mouth on him. He’s not afraid to speak his mind and include a healthy dose of profanity in there as well. But he is also seemingly wise beyond his years.
Creen hates being a runner, but it is a task that is put upon all the fit young people in the hold.
To survive in this world, everyone from a very young age is given a job to do within the hold. Humanity is in decline as the numbers within the holds is slowly diminishing.
The occupants of the holds have metalwork knowledge and can create spears, shields and crossbows. These are their only weapons against the demons which they believe to be unstoppable.
There have been attempts to fight the demons in the past but this always ended in a large loss of life, hence everyone is now afraid to leave their hold.
As the story progresses, our trio discover that the aliens are slowly clearing out holds one by one. There won’t be long before our heroes’ own home will come under attack. What can they possibly do to defend themselves?
Aliens: Phalanx was a gripping book which had me hooked from the opening pages. Every encounter with an alien is an intense situation that doesn’t always end well. This story can become quite graphic at times.
Without spoilers, there are several hints along the way that something isn’t quite as it seems. Even though I successfully figured out a large part of the ending reveal, there were still surprises that I didn’t see coming.
Aliens: Phalanx was an interesting original take on the whole Aliens mythos and I highly recommend it.
A very entertaining and engaging tale of aliens versus humanity without a single gun or blaster in sight.