Sunday, May 7

Alien: Enemy of my Enemy Review

Written by Mary Sangiovanni
Published by Titan Books, London (2023)
ISBN: 9781803360980

Enemy of my enemy follows a standard blueprint for any story in the Alien universe. A mad scientist, this time Dr Fowler, creates a new strain of the Xenomorph XX121. This killing machine breaks free from its confinement and begins to decimate the Wayland-Yuntani lab that created it. This novel stands out because all this destruction occurs in the first chapter. 

After that, we move perspective to a Seegson lab on the same moon. BG-791 is a small moon orbiting the gas giant Hephaestus. Unfortunately for those still stranded on the moon, its orbit has decayed, leaving it to fall into Hephaestus slowly. We begin our story with only a few days left before the doomed moon is ripped apart by the planet it orbits. The Marines, Scientists and colonists now need to survive not just the genetically engineered Xenos but also the moon’s destruction.

A political backdrop to the drama on BG-791 involves terrorists dropping pathogen bombs on colonies across the galaxy. These are not limited to territories from a single government as both United Americas (UA) and Union of Progressive Peoples (UPP) colonies have been attacked. Government tensions are high, and the galaxy is on the brink of its first Galactic war.  Fans of the wider Alien universe or just fans of the Alien RPG will recognise these as the events that lead into the Frontier Wars. This is one of the most exciting points in the Alien timeline, in my opinion, and it’s fantastic to see it represented in a story like this. Sadly, due to the flexible nature of the Alien RPG storytelling, we’ve got very little canon information on the Frontier Wars. While the events of this book barely related to the war itself, I enjoyed reading a story taking part during the lead-up. The ending is the part of the story that directly ties itself into the Frontier Wars. There is room for a sequel, but I'm unsure if we will ever get one with the Frontier Wars being an Alien RPG campaign. If we don’t, my major complaint about Enemy of My Enemy is the frustratingly unanswered sequel bait. Although only time will tell if this is a problem or not.

"It seemed from the files that Vaughn's primary objective had been to take out the Joint Chiefs and assume control of the United American Allied Command."

Mary Sangiovanni has a natural talent for writing two things very well, characterisation and action. The characters are what kept me roped in during this story. We follow many characters, but our primary protagonists are Dr Siobhan McCormick and First Sargeant Alac Brand. I love how Sangiovanni has given these two characters such deep, rich personalities that complement each other perfectly. Siobhan is a botanist who has taken responsibility for the safety and evacuation of the other scientists and their families. At first, this is a routine but stressful endeavour that only relates to the incoming evacuation of the facility before the moon is torn apart. This becomes more personal and heart-wrenching as the Xenomorph threat emerges and poses a much more aggressive danger. Alac is a career soldier in the USC Marine Corps who joined to protect people from the Xenomorph threat he witnessed as a young man. Interestingly enough, Alac has appeared in the extended Alien universe before in the Dark Horse comics “Aliens: Resistance” and “Aliens: Rescue”. This past has left him pushed to the sidelines, stationed on a remote, dying moon, by the Marine Command. This past trauma has not left Alac, and he is a man struggling to cope with his past but doing his best to push it to the back of his mind for the sake of his men and the civilians relying on him for protection.

“Her eyes grew wide with horror as she watched her arm dangling from the claws of the creature above her.”

As you can tell from the outbreak in the first chapter, the action is frequent and well-written. This keeps the story moving quickly and, as such, very rarely feels dull or uninteresting. While I’m not the fastest reader in the world, I could blaze through all 370 pages in just two days. The characters are also rarely safe from danger, with characters I felt confident would live past the end, failing to survive. This keeps you on edge whenever the action starts because you’re generally unsure who will be left standing when the dust settles. Due to Sangiovanni’s previously mentioned well-written characters, I was left rather emotional during several chapters. I would have loved to have seen these characters return in a future story from this author, but now never will. I don’t mean this as a fault; I love it when I honestly can’t tell who will live and who will not. It keeps the story feeling fresh and engaging.

Overall I loved this story. This is author Mary Sangiovanni’s first entry in the Alien series, and after this fantastic first showing, I’m hoping it’s not her last! Fantastic characters that never feel safe during the brilliantly written action. All taking part in one of the most underutilised events in the timeline. Fantastic, simply fantastic.


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