Today I am reviewing ‘Screams from the Void’ by Anne Tibbets as part of the Random Things Blog Tour to celebrate it’s release from Flame Tree Press. Please also check out the other blogs that are taking part in the tour (see the schedule below), and I hope you will pick up the book and support the author.
*Disclaimer: ‘I was given a copy this book in exchange for an honest review, all views are my own.’*
For two years in deep space, the freighter Demeter and a small crew have collected botanical life from other planets. It’s a lesson in patience and hell. Mechanics Ensign Reina is ready to jump ship, if only because her abusive ex is also aboard, as well as her overbearing boss. It’s only after a foreign biological creature sneaks aboard and wreaks havoc on the ship and crew that Reina must find her grit – and maybe create a gadget or two – to survive…that is, if the crew members don’t lose their sanity and turn on each other in the process.
Screams from the Void is a book that hits the ground running and doesn’t really stop until the end, and right from the first page, we know that something is wrong. I will admit I found the first couple of pages a little stilted and I wasn’t sure how I was going to find the book, and then chaos erupted and I found myself immediately hooked, and unable to put the book down.
Sci-Fi Horror isn’t a genre I’m well versed in, but where I think Screams from the Void takes it to the next level, is that this book merges together that ‘other’ horror of a foreign, biological creature and the threat it poses in an environment that lends itself to its success over that of the crew, with a complex web of human relationships and issues. The creature itself is deadly, there is no denying that, but to some extent it felt like a pressure cooker – with the crew, and the underlying issues – the tensions between Raina and her boss, the relationship past and present with her ex-lover, general agitations between people trapped together in a limited space – and turns it all up to the boil, creating a roiling, devastating mix of fear and hate, survival and sacrifice and it works brilliantly. Tibbets knows how to portray those emotions, to bleed them out of each character, until the reader is swept along for the ride.
The world-building was a little on the lighter side with this one, with just enough to set the scene of a ship deep in space, and the unique challenges that posed, without being bogged down in the hard sci-fi elements which can sometimes be a distraction. Here, that light touch helped, because it exacerbated the strangeness of the creature, and the rash that afflicts several members of the crew, and also heightened the atmosphere of fear – because how do you fight and survive, when you’re trapped in a limited space with nowhere to go? There were a few threads that I think might have benefited from a little more development, but for the most part, everything was honed to deliver the biggest emotional impact.
The characters were definitely the focus here, and Tibbets created a beautifully complex cast of characters, each with their own issues and unique voice, and it was easy to envision how this group of people would be in the situation because they were so vividly realised. Raina was a fantastic character, and as chilling as her relationship with her former lover is throughout – and a source of much breath-holding particularly towards the end – you can’t help but want to read more of them. He is not a comfortable character to read, and my skin crawled more than once – and in some ways, he was worse than the creature, a very human monster. The rest of the cast was just as well realised, and even those we see less of or are written for us to dislike (scowls at Raina’s boss) – each pulls us further into the story. They’re messy, they’re human, and it works so well because it is easy to imagine yourself in their shoes – to ask yourself if their reactions would be your reactions if you were in the same situation.
This is not an easy read for many reasons. Some of the relationships between the characters are difficult to read, and there are few moments of being a crew, of being together, to ease the pressing darkness – although fitting for the situation, it might have been nice to have those moments. Then there is the horror aspect, which when paired with the creeping tension of being hunted by the creature, as well as the twists and turns of the crews’ actions, which settles uneasily beneath your skin. There is also plenty of gore and death, although it never felt as though it went too far, but it might not be for everyone.
That said, I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed how the author played with the horror aspect, and her ability to create such a charged, emotional atmosphere that took me beyond the pages and right into the action, and this would be such a fun book to see adapted on the screen – because it’s already so vivid. This is a book for anyone who enjoys sci-fi horror, and especially those who want a healthy, complicated doze of humanity alongside the unknown.
About the Author:
Former TV writer Anne Tibbets is the author of the New Adult speculative series The Line Book One and Two:CARRIER and WALLED (2014). Anne is also co-author of the first book in the military science fiction series EXTINCTION BIOME: INVASION (2016), and authored the second, EXTINCTION BIOME: DISPERSAL (2017), both as Addison Gunn.When Anne isn’t writing or working as a Literary Agent, she’s gardening,gaming, and dodging repeated assassination attempts by her cat.