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Nightflyers, by George R. R. Martin

Nightflyers – currently streaming on Netflix – is a horror-Sci Fi novella from Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin.

Nightflyers ends with the sign-off “Dubuque, Iowa. November, 1978”. As such, it predates both Martin’s Game of Thrones fantasy series (1991- ) and Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979). I mention Alien as there are some similar elements here which – given the success of the film and those which have followed – may seem less fresh to present-day readers of Nightflyers.

The Nightflyer, like the Nostromo, is a spaceship venturing far into deep space. Here, at least, the crew (a mix of telepaths, xenotechs and linguists) at least are intentionally searching for a mythical alien race, the Volcryn.

As the ship journeys into the furthest reaches of the universe, the ‘Nightflyers’ become increasingly suspicious of their unseen pilot, Royd Eris (Eris interacts with them as a hologram). Paranoia reaches a peak when, one by one, the crew is targeted by a malevolent force.

“I know everything that occurs on the Nightflyer,” Royd said.
“You have been watching us,” d’Branin said gravely, accusation in his tone. “Then it is so, what Thale says, about us being watched. Royd, how could you? Spying is beneath you.”
The ghost’s transparent eyes had no life in them, did not see. “Do not tell the others,” Royd warned.

Nightflyers is a ‘popcorn’ read: it’s cinematic, with a plot driven by intrigue, suspense and action rather than significant themes. The pace picks up considerably in the second half of the book, becoming quite a compulsive read towards the end.

As a consequence, however, it sacrifices dialogue (which is overly theatrical) and a sense of the believable. The characters are enjoyable, if a little stock – particularly the descriptions of the women. The names are imaginative, though it’s helpful that Martin often references them by their characteristics or crew role.

Martin, George R. R. Nightflyers. London: Harper Voyager, 2018.

Similar to: The Martian (Andy Weir). Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Matthew Riley (thriller, action, adventure). Ray Bradbury (science fiction) with some similarity to Issac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke.


Words: my own except where quoted.
Photo by Yoal Desurmont via Unsplash.