Cover Image: The Scourge Between Stars

The Scourge Between Stars

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An intriguing debut that, while not quite avoiding all the tropes of space horror, carves out a memorable enough space in an increasingly-crowded genre to be worth paying attention to.

Something I particularly enjoyed about Brown’s writing in this novella was their ability to really impress upon the reader the desperation of the Calypso and the rest of the fleet in their ramshackle, dingy, and just-barely-possible journey back to the solar system from Proxima Centurai. You can feel the discomfort of the claustrophobic quarters and the hopelessness of the crew, especially when placed against the stories of what it was like for their progenitors to try and survive in the Proxima colony in the first place (a history that does go largely unexplored, to my disappointment, aside from occasional remarks about the conditions there). There’s a slow ratcheting up of tension with a lot of eerie moments placed throughout, making the ultimate reveal of the creatures feel somewhat earned, if not especially scary itself. 

The ending feels a lot….less earned, though, and awfully convenient. The story aspect of Watson’s upgrades and the mysterious force that kept rocking the ship was confusing, and in my opinion wasn’t developed enough to smoothly fit with the rest of the narrative—it gave me the impression of being tacked on to the end instead of a continual plot element. 

Speaking of continual plot elements, the characters, with the exception of protagonist Jacklyn, were a little forgettable. This isn’t a major issue, as it’s hard to have a lot of character depth in a novella, but Jacklyn’s measurable and organic growth from beginning to end have me interested to see what Brown can do with a full novel’s worth of space for development.

The Scourge Between the Stars is an above-average space horror novella, a great debut, and a compact story about survival in an inhospitable environment. Even though I was disappointed with some plot choices and unexplored worldbuilding, I’d still recommend this to anyone who enjoys stories like these.
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If you liked the first two Alien movies you're primed to like this book as well, since it hits many of the plot points of those films. You've got your creepy aliens looming out of the darkness to messily devour folks, you've got tracking the alien through the corridors of a spaceship while it picks off characters all around you, you've got a nefarious plot to possibly try to harness their killing powers because you admire them, and you've got (what seems like) an ending that will seem awfully familiar, to say nothing of the deus ex machina of the actual ending. Brown introduces some unique concepts that are here and then gone, in particular possible cult action and whatever was going on with that droid Watson, a situation about which I needed either more explanation or not to know of at all, and I think that if they'd explored those concepts more fully, this might have seemed more fresh to this reader.
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"The static buzzed in her ear again, but this time it fizzled into clarity. The last fragment of the message came out loud and clear. '. . . is . . . the Atalanta. Something—ssssss—ollow . . . xima. It’s . . . the ship. Wa—ssssss—epeat, warning . . . ssssss—ssssss—ssssss . . . on’t . . . epeat, don’t . . . ssssss. This is Captain Isidora of the Atalanta. I—ssssss—anyone listening. Please. Don’t open the door.'” 

The Scourge Between the Stars by Ness Brown, 176 pgs, Tor Nightfire:
Overall ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Prose ⭐⭐
Pacing ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Character Development ⭐⭐
Scary ⭐⭐💫
Gore ⭐⭐💫
Atmosphere ⭐⭐⭐
Library or Buy-worthy: Library 

I'm such a huge fan of space operas, post apocalyptic space journeys and scifi-horror in general. When an author can take a recycled premise (Alien) in an original direction, I love them even more. I even rate these on a curve because, honestly, I just enjoy reading them (despite their literary worthiness). Repeated phrases got a little annoying, we heard several times how Jacklyn "didn't feel rested, just numb" or her repeatedly jerking back and fighting someone who grabbed her after a tense scene. I wanted a little more creativity but overall I really enjoyed the book. The premise was fantastic though. I liked the haunted ship vibe and the mystery of what was out there as well as the tense political unrest and the mental deterioration of the leaders. I also liked the diverse cast and the weird Artificial Intelligence Watson. The cosmic horror ending could've been a bit darker but I hope there will be a book 2. I'd love more adventures with this group.
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The Scourge Between Stars is DOOM meets Ridley Scott's Prometheus. A taut, thrilling novella that provides plenty of jump scares, ooey gooey gore, and intense shoot 'em up action. This one implores you read it in one sitting.
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The Scourge Between Stars is one of the best books I’ve ever read. In less than 200 pages Ness Brown plants you firmly in First Mate Jacklyn Albright’s terrifying world and takes you on a journey like no other.

Jack assumes the mantle of Captain after her father mysteriously locks himself away and now she is left with the colossal responsibility of ensuring the health and safety of the 6000+ people aboard the generation ship Calypso as the crew struggle to figure out a way to get them back to Earth. 

On top of the brewing resentment among the slowly starving masses, Jack has to deal with brutal attacks to the ship from an undetectable enemy lurking in the vast darkness surrounding them and with an unknown threat banging on the bulkhead walls that Jack is desperately hoping is a figment of her imagination. 

I am in awe of how much Ness Brown was able to pack into their debut novella. I had goosebumps and sweaty clammy hands the entire time I was reading this book. 

In short, this was the best movie I’ve ever watched in my head in my life. And I highly recommend you check it out when it’s released on April 4th. 

Thank you NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for this advanced reader copy of The Scourge Between Stars by Ness Brown to be reviewed.
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I think one of my favorite things in horror is space horror. The idea of being in space, with nowhere to go other than the spaceship you call your home is such a claustrophobic scene. It was a good set up for sure, the terror that our main character Jacklyn felt when there were loud, terrifying bangs surrounding her when she was alone, working on that ship which was all her own. Adding the terror and loneliness of space to being <i>alone</i> while something unfamiliar is crashing all around you really got the hair to raise off of my arms.

I did feel a little overwhelmed by just <i>how much</i> was put into this book. <spoiler>There was family trauma, traumatic loss, mental instability, sexual assault to a droid (implied but definitely can read between the lines),  failed ex-earth colony, failing travel to a new colony, alien "invasion", and even a new medical technology derived from the DNA of said alien</spoiler>. It could have made a <i>really</i> solid full length novel and I would have really enjoyed being able to thoroughly explore all of that. There was just a lot that seemed so good but there just wasn't enough time to really feel fulfilled on all of it. It did make the world feel richer, but I didn't get to really enjoy it. 

I was a little disappointed with the horror at the end. The build up to the reveal was so good, when the team was heading through each and every section of the ship and the paralyzing fear that came from each and every step knowing the monsters were right near them, even when Jack was alone, in the elevator, terrified and alone. -chef's kiss- stunning! But everything after? The scenes where the creatures descended and took Jack's teammates? Eh. It was creepy and I don't need the gore but it just was... a little underwhelming. There wasn't a solid, or chilling moment when describing the monsters. I may just been inexperienced with horror but the reveal was just... okay!

I did love Jack, I did love her relationships and I was so interested on what was going on in her life. It was a solid novella, I just wish there was more!
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*Thank you NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for this copy of The Scourge Between Stars by Ness Brown to be reviewed. 
Great sci-fi read.   Jack was a great strong female character.  If you liked Ripley from the Alien franchise you will like Jack.   Fast paced, quick read.  It kept me on the edge of my seat.  It was a book that was hard to put down.
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The Scourge Between Stars is a fast-paced sci-fi horror that takes place on a generation ship limping its way toward home after a failed colonization attempt. Despite the ship’s vast size, the writing builds suspense and atmosphere masterfully to convey the horror of being trapped inside with *something else*. 

The setup of a missing and unresponsive captain and a first mate filling in and already in over her head made for an excellent story and I loved Jack as a lead. She was competent and assertive but also compassionate and listened to the experts around her. The way she worked with her crew gave me a compelling group of people that I rooted for and worried for, and served to make the tension throughout the story that much more intense. 

I found this to be a very enjoyable horror story in space. It delivered its revelations in such a way that I went from doubtful of its direction to truly surprised. Its pace and characters had me fully invested in the outcome. I didn’t feel that Jack’s history and backstory had quite enough page time to really have the emotional effect that was intended, and I do have some minor complaints about the conclusion that left me just a bit disappointed, but overall it was a highly enjoyable read that I’d recommend to fans of Alien-style space horrors especially.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Tor / Nightfire for this eARC in exchange for my honest review.

Ness Brown’s debut, The Scourge Between Stars, is touted as a Sci-Fi Horror novella.  I found it to be Sci-Fi Horror light.  The author is an astrophysics graduate who appears to use their expertise in building the tense closed confines of a large ship in the black void of space and the scientific aspects of the story.

The main character Jack is the First Mate captaining a generational ship in place of the Captain, who has sequestered himself in his quarters. The colony ship returns from a failed attempt at colonizing a distant planet, Proxima b, suffering major issues with important ship mechanics and food supplies when all hell breaks loose.  Jack must now make life/death decisions for their crew while dealing with an unknown entity traveling with them. 

The story seems influenced by ‘Aliens,’ which I don’t mind as I love the franchise. I wish the author had fleshed out more details here and there, especially the backstory for the failed colony. How many generations have passed in space, making their way back home? The why and how of the android Watson and the influence of outside sources at the end.

I look forward to reading more fleshed-out novels by Ness Brown. The Scourge Between Stars was a quick read, and a great jump start for my foray into Sci-Fi Horror.
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This was incredibly terrifying sci-horror story. It takes one of my favorite narratives (trapped in space with thing trying to kill the humans), but it is hard to do something original with it. Ness Brown was able to create the same intensity these narratives typically have, without it being just another version of Alien. I really look forward to other works from this author!

Thank you to TOR and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC. These thoughts are entirely my own.
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In all honesty, I don't have much to say about this book because, well, it is a rather short one. The premise did intrigue me since I do rather like the concept of space horror. In execution is where it ends up falling short though because I don't think the author quite managed to successfully tell a new and tantalizing story. This is a very hard genre to navigate because most space horrors revolve around the same thing, and as an author, you have to somehow rise above mediocrity. 

I am not saying that this was bad, it was just mediocre. Especially when you naturally compare it to titles that excelled in this area and became the face of the genre (I am talking about Aliens here). Even Aliens: Isolation offered a far better and more visceral experience, so if you like the concept as I did, maybe stick to those instead. 

Thank you, NetGalley and Tor, for giving me the opportunity to review this in advance. My review will be posted to my blog two weeks prior to the release date.
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As someone who doesn't read sci-fi or horror often, The Scourge Between Stars was a great read. The writing was incredibly descriptive and the perfect pace. The book kept me on my toes; every time I became comfortable, it pushed a button, which I think is perfect for Science Horror. 
The book does a great job at presenting post apocalyptic space exploration, and the return to Earth after a failed attempt to find another habitable planet. However, this already complicated situation is made worse when all the other ships carrying humans go down and a new monster emerges in their limitless night. I really enjoyed reading this book and highly recommend, especially to fans of movies like Alien and Predator.
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This is the most recent book that I finished and though it’s not out yet, I wanted to bring it to your attention. I had pretty high expectations for it. As someone who loves the Dead Space video game series, the story here sounded very familiar to it. It’s also easily comparable to the Alien franchise. It’s sci fi novella, and it was great.

It’s about the last humans of a failed colony who are heading back to Earth. The ship they are on is in bad shape and might not make it there so you already have the intensity of that and then there’s a murder. And then another. And they get a warning from another ship to not open the door. It’s a very fast-paced story that makes you want to keep turning the pages even with the length, I think this would have benefitted a lot if it was a full length novel. I feel that away about every novella though. You are on the edge of your seat just like the crew you’re reading about, there are great action scenes. This is Ness Brown’s debut book, and I can’t wait to read more by them. It comes out April 4. I gave this 4 out of 5 stars.
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The Scourge Between Stars is a sci-fi horror action novella that was scary and quite a page turner! The characters described are typical Star Trek like positions although they have lived and worked their whole lives aboard this vessel. It is more than a job it is their existence.

Every hard decision Jack, a take-charge, no-nonsense attitude must make decisions without her absent Captain, who is her father, who locks himself away, displays her vulnerability as she tries to save everyone on board and her entire flotilla from the unexpected alien life form who has invaded under their radar.

Jack, our main character, was born on this ship like many others as the flotilla of ships are coming from a failed colony. It will take centuries to get to their intended location or back to a degraded almost destroyed Earth.  Supplies and morale is dangerously low when simultaneously a mutiny begins and strange knocks on the walls and a sense of uneasiness overwhelms the characters.  Then a body is found, and it is ruled that the murderer is not human. 

There are various androids and robots to assist on board but the one who irritates her is the most, Watson, because of its resemblance to one she loved, also she gets the most help from. I liked the relationship development between Jack's character and the android, Watson. Learning about the relationship between Watson and its creator, Otto, led Jack to be more open and trusting of the android.

The sci-fi isn't dense and hard to read, so casual readers can pick it up without becoming too bogged down by scientific details. It's a quick read too.

I liked that Jack never gives up, she was willing to sacrifice herself.

Thank you to Netgalley, Ness Brown and Tor Nightfire for the ARC of this novella. I look forward to reading more from this author. I provided an honest opinion of this ARC.
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I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Scourge Between the Stars had an intriguing premise but I just couldn't get into the writing style. The prose was a little purple, which felt really out of place in a claustrophobic space thriller.
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This was a pretty intriguing read. Though a lot of the plot was fairly cookie-cutter 'murderous intruder aboard a spaceship' though with the little sprinkles of the role of the AI robot, that kept things intriguing. I kept wondering 'just how big are the vents, anyway?'. 
"Jack' was the only real character we get to connect with, and I appreciated that she was not impenetrable. I liked the intrigue of the 'engagements' though never explained. So there were some parts of the book that I enjoyed though this may be a great pick for someone who doesn't read sci-fi but likes the movie Alien. I felt like I've read at least 3 or so other books that were exactly like this.
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A sci-fi horror novella about a ship carrying something hidden and the fight against it.
Had a good time reading this. It’s a novella so it won’t take up much of your time but is fantastic when you want some bite sized spooks. I’m excited to see future works from Ness Brown!
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The Scourge Between Stars is an entertaining creature feature, but the real scourge in the novella is a lack of space.  

As much as critique is not my favourite part of book reviewing, I'm going to start by saying that this book is an example of what I call “novella syndrome” - where the novella just feels too short, and I’m left frustrated. I think novellas have their place - some stories need more space than a short story but don’t have enough content for a full novel - but I don’t see any reason this book couldn’t have been a full novel. None of the aspects - characters, world-building, or the ship mechanics - felt fleshed out. There are too many characters so that when they die, you don’t feel anything because you didn’t know them at all. As such, I found the story lacked tension. 

While Jack’s motivations and actions made sense, there were aspects of her personality that fell flat due to a lack of backstory. Her initial dislike of the android is never explained, and there isn’t space in the novel for the family drama that the plot hinges around. Had this novel been filled out with flashbacks or memories, a reveal that happens at the end would have been really cool, but there’s too much going on to give it proper attention. 

Now, believe me, I love a good Alien homage, as I am a huge fan of the movies and books. And it’s clear this book was intended as such, given a rather fun line that twisted the “in space no one can hear you scream” tagline of the movie, the climax fight having (very) similar elements to Alien and Alien Resurrection, and a person finding the intruder “perfect” (a la Ash in Alien). I do imagine it’s hard to write a space horror about a creature menacing a spaceship without making people think of Alien, so leaning into that isn’t a bad idea if you can mix it up somehow. This book, unfortunately, doesn’t have anything to help it stand apart. The stakes initially seem different - a bigger ship, more people, a lost-in-space aspect rather than just a mission home - but it’s mainly people hunting around the ship for the creature that’s killing them one by one. If not for the diversity of the characters - which I definitely enjoyed - it made me think of 80's b-movies that leapt on the Alien bandwagon (this isn't necessarily a bad thing - I love those old movies). 

I also am being picky here, and call me such (or worse) if you want, but Xenomorphs are thin and very flexible. Despite the piping and electrical and H-vac in the walls of the Nostromo, the xeno is able to maneuver in there until it grows too big. And that’s the aspect of this book that didn’t work for me the most. The aliens in this book have a carapace and considerable bulk. Why is this massive generation ship built with enough space in the walls for a human-sized creature to move through it? Empty space on a spaceship seems like an illogical design, as you would want things created with as much spacial efficiency as possible (jamming those walls full of components) to use less oxygen. Random passageways with nothing in them is a huge waste of resources, especially on a ship that fits six thousand, so I didn’t really understand how the monsters were living within the walls. Unless I severely missed something. 

I also don’t think the lost-in-space aspect was needed; it only served to compete with the main story. The space could have been used to flesh out the characters more.

I will say, I thought the tone of the novel was excellent. Before the action really starts, Brown has some really evocative metaphors and language to foreshadow the horror aspects. Mundane things are described as oozing or vomiting, which helped situate the novel as a horror. I was really into the novel for the first third. 

Had the novel been full-length, these things could have been resolved, and the horror aspects made scarier because we actually cared about the crew. 

Overall, while the novel had great potential, I loved the diversity of the characters, and I do appreciate the Alien homage, it just suffered from being too short. I do think the author shows promise, and I’d like to see what they do with a full-length novel.  

One caveat: I think someone who isn’t as obsessed with the Alien movies would enjoy it a lot more than me; it's just too similar for my tastes.
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When I saw the cover of The Scourge Between Stars, I was excited to read it. I've always been fascinated (and horrified) by space so I was looking forward to it. I enjoyed the descriptions of space, the stars and planets. 

Brown is an astrophysicist. I was worried her writing would be hard to digest but it really is a pretty easy read. 

Watson was my favorite character. Honestly, I didn't really care about any of the other characters. Apart from Jack they all just kind of blended together for me and I was left feeling meh about them.

TSBS clocks in at 120 pages but sometimes it felt a little too long. Lots of banging noises and going up and down in lifts. I think the ending felt a little weak. It felt easily explained away and wrapped up in a bow. There were things that happened that don't really get a lot of explanation. Overall this is a decent novella that doesn't break new ground.
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The spooky parts were SOLID - the stress and anticipation as they work through the dark, cold ship deck by deck, occasionally being confronted with some leftover gore or a sudden attack really ramped up the tension. Jack was also a really good, complex MC and Ness did a fantastic job of teasing out the various layers to her personality and her relationship with her role, her family, and the rest of the officers.

Where things didn’t hold up was mostly in the background/worldbuilding part. We didn’t have enough of a look at what “normal” looked like before things started going wrong. Like, there are riots and mutinies but we don’t understand enough about what caused them and what daily life looks like for the regular citizens on the ship. There’s also not much sense of scale. I couldn’t figure out how many people were on the Calypso, how many ships were in the Goddess class (fleet?), or how many other fleets there were. Like it’s just the barest hint of “there’s way more people out there” but I couldn’t comprehend the scale. And also, like, comms between ships, and why all of this was going down at the same time was pretty unclear.

Read it for the vibes and take it as self-contained, and you’ll enjoy it much more than trying to tease out more details where they aren’t offered. Overall, great debut, and I can’t wait to see what Ness comes up with next!
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