With Hollywood's "Alien" film franchise currently in limbo, acolytes of the Xenomorph will be pleased to know the legacy of the sci-fi horror saga still has a vibrant pulse in the form of a new in-universe "Alien" novel just hatched from London-based Titan Books.
"Alien: Into Charybdis" has just arrived from bestselling author Alex White ("A Big Ship at The Edge of the Universe") with a fresh tale of dread starring those relentless acid-spewing creatures first introduced in director Ridley Scott's original "Alien" feature in 1979.
This is White's second trip into the chilling world of "Alien" after penning the acclaimed 2018 novel, "Alien: The Cold Forge." Here readers will descend into the depths of a rogue colony where evil dwells in the tunnels of an abandoned Weyland-Yutani facility in the Middle East.
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Check out the official synopsis:
"Shy" Hunt and the tech team from McAllen Integrations thought they'd have an easy job—set up environmental systems for the brand new Hasanova Data Solutions colony, built on the abandoned ruins of a complex known as "Charybdis." There are just two problems: the colony belongs to the Iranian state, so diplomacy is strained at best, and the complex is located above a series of hidden caves that contain deadly secrets. When a bizarre ship lands on a nearby island, one of the workers is attacked by a taloned creature, and trust evaporates between the Iranians and Americans. The McAllen Integrations crew are imprisoned, accused as spies, but manage to send out a distress signal… to the Colonial Marines.
Space.com spoke with White regarding this riveting new "Alien" novel to learn more about how the Iran-set story provides ample shocks and screams, where the research process led, and honoring the fanbase with a tale of interspecies conflict, this time erupting in our own backyard.
After the chat, stay tuned for an exclusive chapter excerpt from "Alien: Into Charybdis" to rattle your nerves!
Space.com: Can you take us on a speed run of this new "Alien" novel's plot and tease what sort of story fans can expect?
Alex White: "Into Charybdis" is the story of a group of American colony maintenance contractors and Iranian data center workers. The Americans are there to connect the thermostats, lights, etc. to the network, and the Iranians just want to do their own jobs maintaining their data center. When Xenomorph-related stuff starts to happen, the paranoia between the two nationalities ratchets up to an explosive level— and that's when they call the Colonial Marines.
Expect lots of tense, tight drama, pulse-pounding action and of course, horror!
Space.com: What interesting research did you conduct while composing this novel, and how was the process different from "Alien: The Cold Forge?"
Alex White: I brought on even more researchers than before! I worked with military consultants, Iranian cultural consultants, volcanologists, geologists, biologists, water treatment specialists and more. The science was certainly one of the most enjoyable aspects of "The Cold Forge," and I wanted to capitalize on that. If you like weird trivia, my "Alien" books are for you.
Space.com: Was there any particular personal stamp you hoped to deliver here and what new Xenomorph tricks did you add?
White: I always want to make people think. No matter what the Xenomorphs do, there's no way they will ever be as evil as a human being. They can't help themselves—but the people in my stories can. As far as what new tricks they have... I'd never tip my hand by telling you that! There are definitely new tricks, though.
Space.com: What keeps you inspired to plunge back into the "Alien" sandbox and why does the property stay relevant after 42 years?
White: It's the fanbase. They're even more passionate about the films than I am, and it's infectious. I think "Alien" will be relevant forever, because its plots function on corporate malfeasance. That's an evergreen story, and it's all too realistic to anyone who reads it.
Space.com: Where would you take the "Alien" film franchise if handed the keys to the kingdom?
White: I'd take it exactly where I took "Into Charybdis." I can safely say that book shakes up a whole lot of that universe, and I'm excited to see the follow-ons.
Space.com: Will you be back for another "Alien" project to complete your trilogy?
White: There aren't any plans at the moment, but I can't say for sure. It's such a wonderful setting, and I obviously love writing for it. We'll just have to see what the future holds.
Now enjoy an exclusive chapter excerpt for "Alien: Into Charybdis" by Alex White, published by Titan Books. © 2021 20th Century Studios.
Kamran shoulders through the pack of guards, down the passageway, and finds an opening.
They've reached a lab.
He creeps inside. The room is at least as large as Haroun's ridiculous office, filled with all sorts of biology equipment: sample trays and pipettes, glassware, dryboxes, microscopes, and cameras. Kamran sweeps his glow bar over the nearest countertop, finding a bunch of empty sample tubes and plastic tops. His own shadow looms, cast by flashlights at his back. When he looks at the way he came, no one has followed him.
"Don't worry. It's clear," Captain Akbari says. "What is it?"
The ceilings here are high, maybe six meters or more, and various gasifiers and distillate columns encircle the room. Everything above him is a dense maze of dark pipes and decaying insulation. He has no way of knowing how far up they extend, but there's significant liquid routing capability. Perhaps they were working on biofuel.
"Hard to say," Kamran replies.
"F***!" It's Shy, and with her outburst comes the rustling of webbing and body armor. "What the fuck was that?" Akbari disappears from the door frame.
"Hey," Kamran calls out. "Send her in here." When no one moves to comply, he adds, "I need her help identifying some of this equipment."
"Fine," the nearest man replies, sending down the line for her. When she arrives, her face is blotchy in his green light.
"Sorry," she says. "I'm sorry. Someone touched my leg. I think. I don't know. I'm… I'm sorry." Kamran isn't keen to hash it out in front of the security people, so he points to a boxy piece of equipment that looks like a centrifuge.
"What do you suppose this is?" he asks in English.
"I don't know." She's not paying attention to the box. She's looking back at the guards. He can't have her going back out there with Akbari's people.
"What's it for, though?"
"I… I don't know, Kamran."
He leans down and whispers. "Please look, and let's guess, so you can remain in here with me."
"It, uh…" she says, "it looks like some of the blood testing equipment we used to use for horses." Then she adds, "Like a Fisher Sequencer."
Sure enough, he wipes away the dusty label and finds the words "Fisher Scientific."
"I'd call that a decent wager," he breathes, discomfited. She's supposed to be an interface developer; Haroun would be beside himself with paranoia upon hearing her guess, and Kamran wonders if he'd be justified. "How did you know that?"
"I was in vet med," Shy says. "But this isn't the ship. You said we were going to the ship. I don't want to go there, either, but you promised—"
"I know, I'm sorry. Just hold on a little while longer."
He pulls the spring latch, opening the front cover to find thousands of tiny test tubes arrayed on the base, and needle pipettes in neat rows along the top. There's a sample collection section in the back, but he can't figure out what's inside—whatever it is has rotted to jet black. He spies a handle to remove the cassette, clearly marked by a half-dozen stickers.
"So this is all medical gear?" he says.
He turns to see her pointing at a drybox. There's a glint of mottled glass underneath the hood. He wipes away the dust to find what looks like an icicle inside, plugged on one end by a metal filament. He calls for one of the security force, and Akbari steps cautiously into the room. The man shines his white flashlight over it. The glass is green, like an ancient bottle of Coca-Cola, covered in shallow bumps. He spots a much smaller piece in the corner of the box, about the size of a golf ball, teardrop-shaped with a crack at the taper.
It's an ampoule, but for what?
He looks around for some nitrile gloves, and locates a box of them. When he opens it, they've clearly spoiled, coming out like sheets of dead skin.
"What are you doing?" Shy asks.
"We should bring back a sample." He snaps at Akbari and points to the gloves on his utility belt. "Give me a pair. A baggie, too."
He pulls on the gloves and heads over to the piece of Fisher equipment. He doesn't want to open the drybox, since he has no idea what that ampoule contained, but the sample collector looked like it was still sealed. Pushing the little door aside, he takes hold of the container release.
"Careful," Shy says.
"Easy as pie," he grunts, but it's not. The knob is stuck, and he gives it another turn with a bit more force.
"Afghanzadeh, leave that alone," Akbari says. "We've got to keep moving."
"It's fine. Just a bit stuck, and—"
It clicks free under pressure, and Kamran draws back a lot harder than he intended. His hand crashes into the roof of the box, and a sharp pain runs up the side of his index finger.
"Ah!" he hisses, pulling back to find a long cut from one of the needles, blood welling under his glove.
"Shit." Shy takes hold of his glow bar to inspect the cut. "You okay?"
"Yeah," he says. "Need to get some disinfectant, though. Probably a tetanus shot."
Then it starts to itch.
What the hell is it?
Pain wells in his fingertip, and it feels as if it's going to split. He yelps in panic, ripping off his glove as Shy tries to get a closer look. Every threshold of flensing agony gives way to another—a needle becomes a knife becomes a sword. The agony crawls over his finger, into the rest of his hand.
Khoda, save me! What did I do?
He holds his quivering digit up to his face, blood stained black by the green light of the glow bar. His veins bulge around the cut, throbbing gray under his skin. Except they're not veins. Something is burrowing into him.
He should shout for help. That's the only sensible thing to do in that situation. They have to get it off of him—out of him, and fast. It's infectious. Tourniquet? What'll stop it?
The screaming man in Storehouse Forty-Four—he had this crawling inside his neck.
Another sharp pain slices across his wrist as blood boils up over the surface in terrible welts. It's as if Kamran is cooking, or melting, and panic sets its claws into him. He sucks a breath through clenched teeth to cry out for any medical attention he can get.
But the hissing noise doesn't end just because he stopped. There's something above him, up in the pipes, and he holds up his light to try and find the source. If there's a gas leak, and he's got an urgent infection…
Nothing could be more important than his hand, right? But he spies movement above, something the size of a human. He thrusts his glowbar upward in terror, raking the shadows for a form.
Instantly, he regrets it.
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