If I said, in space, no one can hear you scream—what comes to mind? If you’re like me, you immediately go to the movie Alien, and its sequel, Aliens, two of the best science-fiction horror movies of all time, and favorites of mine. Both films are classics and have influenced a generation of storytellers. The idea of being billions of miles away from home, hurtling through space in a ship, the only thing between you and vacuum a few layers of steel, is bad enough. Add in creepy aliens with acid spit who hide in the shadows and want to plant embryos inside your body to incubate their young?
Dang. I feel an Alien mega-marathon coming….
Recapturing that ultimate chill going up your spine the Aliens movies created isn’t easy. Caliban from Garth Ennis and Facundo Percio does a damned fine job in that regard.
The Caliban is a mining ship. Her crew consists of the people who fly and maintain the ship, and the miners who travel in sleep pods, only being woken when a resource-rich planet is nearby. The mission of the Caliban is to bring those resources back to the Earth. They do have a warp technology allowing them to travel faster than light, but it can still take a long time to travel back and forth to Earth.
On one such trip, the unthinkable happens; another ship enters warp and collides with the Caliban, both ships occupying the same space at the same time. The two ships become intertwined, one giant lump of metal hurtling through space. The crew finds themselves trapped in sections of the ship intersected by the alien vessel; the only way to gather together and figure out who survived and what damage has been done is to travel through parts of the alien ship. There’s no sign of a crew, only cargo pods, each containing another strange alien species.
As they work to survive, something starts to hunt them. Each death is bloody and gruesome. There isn’t even safety in numbers. With the ship’s systems damaged, precious oxygen potentially leaking into space, and no possibility of rescue, the survivors have to figure out what’s hunting them, stop it, and figure out a way to get home.
Garth Ennis isn’t one to shy away from violence, gore and horror, and this book has all three. The setting is intense and utterly creepy. We see things through the eyes of Nomi, one of the crew who works to interface the computers of the two ships, initiate some for of communication. She’s on the bridge when the collision happens, watches as the miners tumble into the vacuum of space. Has to deal with everything happening all at once, the loss of her friends and crewmates, and the horror of being hunted by something she doesn’t understand. Her terror is real, and you feel it with her.
Ennis weaves a dark and gritty story with some familiar moments, but plenty of twists and turns. And in the end, he manages to deliver a pretty powerful emotional blow. The art by Percio is highly detailed and really delivers on the creep factor. I know I started this out by mentioning Aliens, and the art really does gather that Giger-esque design and look; it’s gorgeous and rich.
If you’re looking for an intense sci-fi horror story, Caliban is for you.
Patrick Hester is an author, blogger and 2013 Hugo Award Winner for Best Fanzine (Editor - SF Signal), and 2014 Hugo Award Winner for Best Fancast. He lives in Colorado, writes science fiction and fantasy, and can usually be found hanging out on his Twitter feed. His Functional Nerds and SF Signal weekly podcasts have both been nominated for Parsec awards, and the SF Signal podcast was nominated for a 2012, 2013, and 2014 Hugo Award. In addition to his Kirkus posts, he writes for atfmb.com, SF Signal and Functional Nerds.