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Sonja Ska Reviews, 2/1/2024

Sometimes horror comes from under the bed, and sometimes it comes from above. Buckle in for some cosmic terrors that will leave you afraid to look into the sky.


 

The Scourge Between Stars by Ness Brown



The Scourge Between Stars by Ness Brown is a debut sci-fi horror following Calypso, a starship returning from a doomed mission to colonize a new home planet. Thrust into the role of stand-in-captain, Jacklyn Albright grapples with authority, the prospect of returning to a dying Earth, and the growing realization of a threat onboard. 


Does The Scourge Between Stars read like a fairly predictable Alien-esque retelling? Sure. But it's also a fun, fast-paced creature feature with heaps of tension and suspense. Death follows Jacklyn like a shadow, making the already cramped hallways feel even more claustrophobic and dark as the power goes out. Mixed with the gunfire and fighting for survival, however, is also a compelling story of a young woman fighting her own prejudices as she grows into the leader her crew needs to survive.


Scourge could have easily been a novel, and the third act takes the brunt of the consequences of it feeling too short, but that's an easy shortcoming to make peace with. If anything, it makes me more excited for a longer novel by Brown in the future.


Great for fans of space horror, creature features, fast-paced action with short chapters, characters you can root for, and bringing new twists to old favorites. 




 

Don't Look Into The Trees

by Jason Nickey



Following a bonfire, Justin, Billy, and their drunk friend, Kevin, are returning to their isolated cabin when an emergency broadcast warns of bizarre lights in the sky. Warned to return home and barricade themselves inside, Justin and Billy must figure out how to survive.


There's nothing better than closing a book and thinking: Man, that was fun. My first reaction was to lump Don't Look In The Trees within the ranks of campy B-rated creature features, and while there's nothing I love more than late-night Syfy flicks, the comparison would be a disservice. While there's a steady undercurrent of tension that builds from the prologue, there's so much more to this Appalachian novella than quick kills and monsters - although there is plenty of that - and it's all thanks to Nickey's innate talent for creating authentic characters that are dynamic but, more importantly, likable. What started as a creepy romp in the woods suddenly made me invested in everyone's survival, which quickly upped the stakes and tension. 


This is perfect for anyone who loves isolated settings, nods to folklore, and the overall sensation of feeling trapped and helpless.


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