The Scourge Between Stars

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Pub Date Apr 04 2023 | Archive Date Apr 30 2023


Ness Brown's The Scourge Between Stars is a tense, claustrophobic sci-fi/horror blend set aboard a doomed generation ship harboring something terrible within its walls.

“A perfect scare to swallow up in one sitting.” —Chloe Gong, #1 New York Times bestselling author of These Violent Delights
A LibraryReads Pick! • Featured on the 2024 RUSA Reading List: Science Fiction

As acting captain of the starship Calypso, Jacklyn Albright is responsible for keeping the last of humanity alive as they limp back to Earth from their forebears’ failed colony on a distant planet.

Faced with constant threats of starvation and destruction in the treacherous minefield of interstellar space, Jacklyn's crew has reached their breaking point. As unrest begins to spread throughout the ship’s Wards, a new threat emerges, picking off crew members in grim, bloody fashion.

Jacklyn and her team must hunt down the ship’s unknown intruder if they have any hope of making it back to their solar system alive.

“Highly recommended.” —Library Journal, STARRED review

Ness Brown's The Scourge Between Stars is a tense, claustrophobic sci-fi/horror blend set aboard a doomed generation ship harboring something terrible within its walls.

“A perfect scare to swallow up...

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ISBN 9781250834683
PRICE $16.99 (USD)

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Average rating from 193 members

Featured Reviews

God this was what I was hoping for from the description, it had the tense atmosphere that I was looking for. The story was interesting and I was hoping for the main characters survival. I could feel the claustrophobic elements in the book and I felt like I was in the story with the characters. I'm excited to read more from Ness Brown, as this was enjoyable. Overall this was a great scifi read and I really enjoyed getting to go on this journey with them.

"The hairs on Jacklyn’s nape stood up. “What do you mean?” she asked lowly, even though she already knew. “She used to beg me to make the ship go faster,” he sighed, pulling himself to his feet. “She said the ship was infested, and the longer we took to reach home the worse the vermin would get.”

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I'm excited for this book to come out so everyone else can enjoy this as well. The story was interesting and the stakes were pretty high. I would definitely recommend this book.

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What a great read! The Scoutge Between Stars is a claustrophobic thrill ride that takes place in a failed colony ship that had to leave the Centauri system and return home. Conditions are deteriorating, and supplies seem to be dwindling for unknown reasons. Unbeknownst to all on board, there is an unwanted stowaway, identity unknown.

This is one of the best SF books I’ve read in a good while. While there are elements from the first Alien film, the author makes the story all her own. The plotting is superb, the tension well ratcheted, the characters well drawn, all making this a book that just kept me riveted to the page.

Highly recommended.

My thanks to Tor Nightfire and to Netgalley for providing an ARC of this remarkable debut novel.

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Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for a copy of this ARC. All thoughts are my own.

Jacklyn Albright is acting captain of a generation ship heading back to Earth. The ship has been travelling for years, beset by attacks at unpredictable interviews that have slowed the ships journey, adding decades to their journey. With all the pressure of a tired crew, dwindling supplies, and constant repairs - it may all become too much when a threat is discovered within...

This novel from Ness Brown was a dark, fast-paced horror in space. It included well-established SF concepts, like generation ships to reach distant destinations, as a launching point for the story. However, the beginning concept was new to me - colonists attempting to return to Earth after abandoning a failed colony. I found the story compelling and tense - needing to read it as quickly as I could. I would have enjoyed more length after the nature of their problems was discovered - but they may have just been because I was enjoying the experience.

If you enjoy SF/horror - pick this one up. I will be keep my eyes peeled for any more stories from Ness Brown.

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For those looking for new nightmare ideas for your brain, Ness Brown’s The Scourge Between Stars will certainly do the trick! And as a bonus it will probably do some phycological damage as well! This short sci-fi thriller is perfect for those who enjoy reading chilling stories told in dark and unique places. Not to mention, the novel is set in space on a spaceship with a crew that is attempting to return to humanity’s long past home world, which makes it a perfect read for sci-fi lovers as well!
There are many things to love about The Scourge Between Stars. What really pushed me over the fence to read this book was when I saw that not only was it a sci-fi thriller but that it was a short one at that! It seems hard to find bite sized sci-fi in today’s world with all the space operas coming out. (Not that I don’t enjoy a good space opera!) However, having a manageable story for all types of readers was certainly a plus.
The characters in The Scourge have their ups and downs. However, the downs felt intentional which I feel 50/50 about. While the main character, Jacklyn Albright, is strong, well written, and full of life, I found that I did not feel a connection to any other person except one that we didn’t actually get to meet until the very end! So if you are looking for a lot of great secondary characters I don’t think you’ll find them. However, there is a really interesting AI that brings a lot to the story instead. Thinking back to Jacklyn, I really enjoyed getting to know her character and was genuinely worried for her throughout the book and found myself yelling, “DONT DO IT!” several times in my head!
The World Building is minimal in the story. While much world building is usually based on the physical world, this world building focused on the history of the ship and mankind in general. This sets the stage for a grim mood that helped play to the story’s horror theme. All-in-all the story is definitely a character driven story with well enough build world that can be found believable for the reader.
Was the plot interesting? Yes! Is that just because I am a nerd and am a big fan of the Alien movies? Quite possibly! This entire book screamed Alien to me. I won’t give anything away except what’s in the synopsis above but there is an intruder on the ship and Jacklyn and the ship police try catch the intruder but finding themselves in above their heads. I will give the plot credit for catching me off guard at the end, so bravo for that!
I’ll keep the themes of this novel fairly short. Main ones being: how far is to far when it comes to saving humanity from extinction? Is technological advancement enough to save humanity? Are the decisions of a leader greater than those of their followers because they have the whole picture? Other smaller themes include love, LGBTQ+, diversity, sacrifice, bravery, fear, depression, and more.
Overall, even though I found this story familiar and somewhat predictable it was very enjoyable to read and a great edition to sci-fi thriller collection! You will find yourself turning every page with your heart thumping and wondering when the next hammer will fall. Pick this one up as soon as you can!

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The Scourge Between Stars
By Ness Brown
A Review by Jamilla @LandsAwayBooks

I’ve got to say what drew me to this book immediately was the cover! Black girls in space are just my favorite thing!

But what absolutely hooked me was the fast pace, high stakes and thrills at every turn!

The FMC was a wonder! Brave and decisive under pressure, swallowing her fear and doing what needs to be done!

Also this is not a story that holds back on gore! But what I truly loved was that it still made room to include some of that ‘mystery of space’ je ne sais quoi that always draws me back to this genre!

An easy five star debut! I’m looking forward to seeing what other horrors this author dreams up!

Absolutely perfect for fans of space operas and also horror fans who love the Alien & Star Trek Discovery franchise!

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for giving me this eARC in exchange for an honest review!

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Jacklyn "Jack" Albright is first mate of the colony ship Calypso, en route back to earth after a failed attempt to permanently colonize another planet called Proxima b. Jack is in this position somewhat against her will - her father is the actual captain, but he retreated to his private quarters and sealed himself in weeks ago. he won't speak to anyone; nonetheless Jack insists on covering for him and giving him time.

unfortunately, this is arguably one of the worst periods to be captain of this ship. their communications array has been down for years so they can't speak to their sister ships, and any long-range scanning equipment quit working forever ago. there's windows that human eyes can peek out of but they can't see what's around them with any technological detail. is the flotilla still with them? are any of their silent sister ships nearby? nobody knows.

if all that wasn't enough, tons of other things are breaking down around the ship. the lights keep flickering and the lifts are acting weird and there's a strange banging coming from behind the walls. any time there's even the smallest moment to take a breath, the ship experiences what they call "engagements". basically, something they cannot see or any in way detect smacks their ship around like a cat toy. people frequently die during these, as sections of the ship are crushed or sheared off.

Jack barely has time for any of that though because she's trying to solve the ship's largest crisis - food. they are dangerously low on stores and way too far away to survive until earth. the on-board farms have exhausted the soil and the yields feed fewer people with every passing season. there's silos of food stored on the ship but Jack is reluctant to open them, especially without her dad's advice.

she waffles between some of these decisions, cornered into making difficult calls when a munity breaks out in the wards in the belly of the ship. this is what kicks off everything else.

the pacing in this novella is awesome. the ship is subtly built up around you while you follow Jack on her desperate missions; the different sections, the bridge crew, the ward representatives, Watson and the other droids, the crumbling tech. things really start jumping a little before the halfway point of the book but there's been an insidious dread growing since page four. space horror is hands-down one of my favorite subgenres and it's largely because it lends itself automatically to some of the most frightening tropes. the complete isolation, the crippling fear of the unknown, the self-doubt when you see things that realistically cannot be there. just delicious !!!

Jack is such an interesting character and imo made a fascinating protagonist. she's quick on her feet and reads as widely well-loved, though she seems ignorant of the latter. she's bright but definitely not perfect and is never afraid to ask for help. the supporting cast is all a delight and I ended up extremely partial to Wang, the ship's CMO. frankly I just really enjoyed the hell out of this story and I cannot wait for the publication date.

my thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an arc 🚀

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I absolutely loved The Scourge Between Stars!! It’s a mix between sci-fi and horror and I definitely got creeped out when I was reading this at night. I truly rooted for all the characters (save a couple) and loved how the characters made sound decisions. Sometimes in books you get frustrated with decisions the main character makes but Jack was sound in all of her decisions. I would absolutely love to read a full size novel from this author with these characters. The ending could definitely be a setup for that so I’ll keep my fingers crossed! I can’t wait to but this when it comes out next year!
Thank you so much to NetGalley and TOR Publishing Group/Forge for an advanced readers copy of this book.

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Thank you to NetGalley and Tor Nightfire for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

They sell The Scourge Between Stars as a mix between Aliens and Event Horizon. But given that I've never watched Event Horizon, I can only say that this is a combination of Aliens and a bit of the book Mass Effect Andromeda: Nexus Uprising's plot happening in the background. All mixed together to bring you a fast-paced, claustrophobic thrill ride of a novella from the mind of Ness Brown.

This book takes place in the starship Calypso, a failed colony ship that had to leave their previous colonized planet and instead take the risk on a journey back to Earth. The condition of the ship is deteriorating, supplies seem to be dwindling for reasons unknown to the crew, and they keep suffering strange space storms. Sadly the problems just keep piling up as soon as the novella begins, and at points it seems like it can only end one way. There was a point in this book where I personally would have broken down and that would have been it for me and the crew. I can only congratulate Ness Brown on doing such an amazing job in making sure that the hopelessness of the situation was properly portrayed.

I will definitely recommend this novella to my friends, and I can't wait to see what else Ness Brown has in store for the future.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

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The Scourge Between Stars is a sci-fi horror action novella that was an incredible fun ride! This action novella is a blend of the Alien franchise vibes and Sunshine movie with a dash of The Relic. The characters are fantastic and beautiful in their relatability, and you genuinely wish everyone on the ship/s to pull through. Unlike other horror films, every decision made by the entire cast of characters was logical and heart wrenching at times. 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 back but supplies and moral is dangerously low. When strange knocks on the walls and a sense of uneasiness plague our characters, their darkest fears are brought to the present. A body is found, and it is ruled that the murderer is from an impossible source. Jack becomes thrust in the seat of captain after the previous one locks themselves away and every decision is not just life or death for her but for the entire flotilla. There is also several robots and androids of various degrees exist in this story which is refreshing in sci-fi horror that seems to like to leave them out. My only wish for this is that the horror tone and atmosphere was more of a focus. I came into reading this expecting deep horror but it came off as more action adventure with horror themes. Which, I still love but I wish I got more time to feel what the characters must have been feeling. I would also love to see this expanded upon into a longer format. I can’t get enough of everyone and their stories!

Thank you to Netgalley and Tor Nightfire for the eARC of this novella. I cannot wait for its release!

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4.5 rounded up

This was a fast-paced and eerie read that was exactly what I wanted it to be. The author did a good job building suspense and maintaining the tension. I also was rooting for the main character and was invested in her survival. I read this at night and actually felt creeped out!

A fantastic, quick novella for anyone looking for a horror/sci-fi read!

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Here's my review for The Scourge Between Stars. 5 stars two thumbs up!

Acting captain who's kind of a hot mess? Check.
Strong BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ protagonists? Check.
Creepy android antics? Check.
Time to get out the big guns? Hell yes.

Speaking as someone who is already deep in Alien/Salvation Day territory, this book was everything I hoped it would be. I appreciated the no-nonsense pacing that didn't drag out for no reason what would be an immediate, crisis situation. The writing style was mostly matter-of-fact, but not without lyrical shine at times. It managed to be gritty and dark without crossing the line into exploiting the grief and depression felt by its characters.

As a layperson, I can't really comment on the science behind the Sci-Fi, but there was one scene in particular that made me chuckle like a middle-schooler in spite of the direness due to...physics and gaseous states, shall we say. As for the Horror aspect, there were only a couple parts that elicited a "Don't go in the basement, dummy!" response from me, and those were half-hearted at best.

You could say The Scourge Between Stars doesn't break any molds in either the Sci-Fi or Horror genres, but that's not what it's for. What it is for is just this: a highly engaging burst of entertainment with a side of gore, minus the macho idiot heroics.

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First off, thank you so much to #Netgalley, the publisher and especially the author for this ARC!

Oh my gosh this book was SO GOOD!! I had no idea it was more like a novella when I requested it but let me tell you, it didn’t need to be any longer because this packed a punch! I loved the female lead, it’s hard to find strong female lead characters in books but I loved how the author wrote her; not to mention the creepy atmosphere that outer space offers in this book.
I am actually planning on picking this book up when it comes out to add to my collection it was so good; please do yourself a favor and make sure to buy it when it comes out and devour it in one sitting like I did!

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Stars: 5 out of 5

This was a surprise winner for me. I picked it up on whim and because the cover was so cool. I didn't expect much of the story apart from space horror. I got that alright, but I also got surprisingly a lot of heart.

Imagine for a moment that you are on board of a generation ship that is running out of resources and no matter how many times you do the math, it all points to the same thing: we won't reach Earth before our air and food runs out. Add to that that the ship is traveling through a literal minefield deployed by two unknown alien species at war with each other. The humans are just collateral damage in this battle, but it hurts the ship and their chances of survival all the same, because we don't have the technology to detect and avoid the mines. Then add to that the fact that they unknowingly picked up a hitchhiker or two when they left the colony. And those hitchhikers are fond of human flesh. Yes, the sum total is one terrifying ride.

What I didn't expect, is that this short novel, more a novella, would be populated by fleshed out characters I would sympathize and root for.  Jacklyn "Jack" Albright is an amazing character. She feels real. She has her flaws and insecurities and moments of pettiness or self-doubt, but she is also courageous and willing to do the right thing even if doing so means facing off with a terrifying monster that tears people apart like they were paper cutouts. She is trying her best to keep her crew together and prevent her ship from falling apart after each space mine, or "engagement" they encounter. She is overwhelmed and terrified, but she still tries everything she can to face the new treat when it arises. That's what a true captain is, unlike her father who chose to abandon them in this trying time. 

As I had mentioned, the book is very short, and I devoured it in a lazy afternoon reading session. And I ended up loving the story and all the characters and wanting to know more. Like why had the colonists decided to attempt a doomed voyage back to Earth? What had gone wrong in the new colony? Especially since the existence of the native species was just speculation, from what I could understand. Who are those spacefaring aliens waging war across the stars? They seem to have technology eons above what humanity can master.  I really hope that the author will revisit this universe in her future books. 

PS: I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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The Scourge Between Stars is quite simply fantastic. A creepy atmospheric science fiction horror thriller that fully delivers on its premise. It was short but packed a serious punch and I found it impossible to put down. I stayed up all night reading it even with work the next day in a single sitting. It was just that good.

The story follows acting captain Jack leading one of many ships fleeing Proxima Centauri b, a failed colony hundreds of years after the ecological destruction of Earth. I enjoyed the selection of Proxima b as it is an exoplanet currently being studied by today’s scientists, but the habitability of the planet is still not well understood. Ness Brown’s background as an astrophysicist is clear in the structure of the story.

Each of the ships in the fleet is named after goddesses and I liked the references. The characters also had distinct personalities and were fleshed out nicely, even for ones with limited appearances. The real spotlight however is in the story and intense atmosphere throughout the book. It perfectly captured the claustrophobia of being trapped in a hostile environment with nowhere to go.

The Scourge Between Stars was everything that I had hoped for and more, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the book since I finished! I always hesitate when a book description compares a book to classics, but the comparisons to Alien and Event Horizon honestly fit perfectly. I would scream if this book ever got picked up for a film or tv adaptation and I very much hope that it does. The Scourge Between Stars was easily one of my absolute favorite books that I have read for the year and honestly is also one of my all-time favorite science fiction books.

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Ellen Ripley, who??

My most favorite thriller/horror book of the year. Absolutely breathtaking and atmospheric! I loved Jack and Watson so incredibly much.

I really hope to read more about this crew and their next adventures! I also want to listen to the audio version asap.

Thank you so much to the incredibly imaginative and brilliant Ness Brown, Tor Nightfire, and NetGalley for this beautiful and scary as hell advanced readers copy!

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When aliens invade the Calypso, Jacklyn must take charge as the crew's numbers dwindle.

This was definitely one of the better novellas I've read recently because it felt like a full story. Sometimes I'll pick up a novella where the concept was interesting but the execution is shaky.

The crew members of the Calypso are the remaining people from a failed colonization attempt of another planet called Proxima B. They are on a journey back to Earth to see if it can be salvaged. Tensions have been high on the ship for months with various rebellions breaking out due to the scarcity of food and uncertainly of survival.

I had a very clear visual of what the ship was like and how it function and Ness Brown weaves their astrophysics background into the story while also keeping it relatively easy to read. As someone who sometimes struggles with the language in sci-fi books I appreciated that this didn't feel overly complicated.

For readers worried about it being too dark and gruesome, you get just enough detail to know what's going down but the body horror isn't too graphic

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The Scourge Between Stars is a tense, wild ride packed into a compact story. It felt like a slightly more gory episode of a sci-fi tv episode- a world you could just drop into and pretty easily get the gist of what was going on, but you could also catch glimpses of a much wider world this author had created.
We follow a young woman named Jacklyn on a spaceship who has had to take over Captain duties, as the current captain, her father, has locked himself in his quarters with no response. The spaceship is full of the members of a failed planet colony, who are on a multi-generational trip back to Earth, not knowing if, by the time they get there, Earth will even be habitable.
During their return journey, the ship has been attacked several times by a mysterious and untraceable cosmic force, causing catastrophic damage to the ship and their meager resources. And on top of all that, something in the ship is picking off the crew one by one.
This story was exciting and tense and kept me engaged, fretful, and hopeful the whole time. I wish I had had the time to devour it in one sitting, but as it was I was always excited to get back to the story. I hope this author has more stories to come, I will watch their future author career with great interest.

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"Just thinking about Otto going through the ship’s salvaged metal and choosing a face for his pet droid that Jacklyn had known and loved made her stomach clench"

There were literally times when I gasped out loud, and wished I could read it with my hands over my eyes.

I absolutely loved this little novella. It's the perfect amount of suspenseful and horrifying. I'm definitely going to be purchasing a physical copy when it comes out in April.

Ness Brown has created some really great characters that are both captivating and relatable. Jack was a really well rounded and thought out character, especially considering the size of the novella. I loved Watson and Jack's evolving relationship, as well as everything happening between Jack and Jolie.

Brown writes just enough about Jolie and Jack to where it makes you long for the rest of their story, but not so much that it overpowers the plot. I thoroughly appreciated this, however I would also love a book that delves into their relationship more.

If Ness Brown ever writes a sequel or an additional book in this universe, I will definitely be buying it. I cannot say enough positive things about The Scourge Between Stars! I had such a good time reading it. 🙂

Thanks to NetGalley and Torn Nightfire for providing me with an ARC, in exhange for an honest review.

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