Title: Alien: Enemy of My Enemy
Authors: Mary Sangiovanni
Publisher: Titan Books, 20th Century Studios
Release Date: March 2023 (USA) / February 2023 (UK)
Price: US $16.95 / CA $22.95 / UK £9.99
The following review contains mild spoilers.
The latest Alien novel from Titan Books and 20th Century Studios is the third novel in a loosely connected trilogy. Alien: Enemy of My Enemy comes after Alien: Inferno’s Fall and the events of Alien: Colony War.
It’s unclear how many additional novels from Titan Books will directly tie into this trilogy; however the way these books have masterfully expanded the Alien storytelling universe, it’s likely further entries will come, making Alien: Enemy of My Enemy and the other two novels must-read books for hardcore fans of the franchise.
HYGIEIA—AN OUTER RIM COLONY—IS DOOMED. The moon on which it was built hurtles toward an inevitable collision with the dead planet Hephaestus. The clock is ticking, yet when a distress signal arrives from a Weyland-Yutani biowarfare outpost, a desperate plan is launched to evacuate the trapped scientists. Meanwhile, across the galaxy a mysterious black substance rains down on Earth settlements, creating hideous monsters from indigenous creatures . . . and from human beings.
Alien: Enemy of My Enemy checks all the boxes fans will love, from classic Weyland-Yutani greed to expanding the narrative universe via exploration of competitor corporations like Seegson and via pushing forward the meta-story of the colony wars and terrorist bombings.
The novel is divided into three main acts: Part I: Serpent Moon; Part II: Exit Plan; and Part III: Into the Fire. The narrative arc winds around the fate of Seegson researcher Dr. Siobhan McCormick and Colonial Marine Sargent Alec Brand, the latter of whom fans will recognize from the Dark Horse Comics publications Aliens: Resistance and Aliens: Rescue. Brand had previous dealings with Amanda Ripley, Zula Hendricks, and the synthetic Davis, thus making his inclusion in this trilogy yet another connection to previously established lore and the storytelling of the comics.
What the Novel Does Well
From the moment readers begin Alien: Enemy of My Enemy, it is clear that they are in good hands. Sangiovanni is without a doubt one of the more talented writers to craft a story for the beloved science-fiction / horror franchise. Her writing is smooth and engaging, successfully avoiding the mistakes of less experienced writers in the series, who at times fall into the navel-gazing and poor pacing that unfortunately pull readers out of the story and break the magic. In contrast, Sangiovanni presents a master class in storytelling.
Enemy of My Enemy is a page-turning drama from the start, and each act of the story builds on the intensity and gravitas of the last. While there is so much to love about this novel, the following three factors made this book a personal favorite.
A Royal Treatment for the Xenomorphs
If you’ve read any of my previous reviews, you know that respecting the Xenomorph is paramount for me. I’m happy to report that Sangiovanni’s depiction of the aliens is right there with the work of the best authors in the franchise.
Readers will feel the terror of the Xenomorph. This isn’t a story where the monsters are dispatched with ease, cut down by rifles shot from the hip, reducing the perfect organism to a mere bug. Sangiovanni’s Xenos are “enhanced” by an experimental drug from Dr. Fowler, a Weyland-Yutani scientist trying to prolong the gestation period of the chestbursters; as such, when the creatures emerge, they grow rapidly and have heightened aggression.
As a result, the Xenos are nearly unfazed by pulse rifle fire. Marines blow off an arm or punch a hole through the alien’s torso, but the creatures keep coming. The resiliency and tenacity of Sangiovanni’s Xenomorphs is refreshing and makes them truly terrifying because readers never quite feel at ease that their heavily armed Colonial Marines will be able to defend themselves against the hive or even live to the end of the chapter.
Beyond the physical nature of the creatures, the manner in which they attack marks a return to the terror of the first two films. These Xenos surprise soldiers, dragging them away in air ducts; they tail whip and use the impaled victims as projectiles against would-be attackers; they are intelligent and cunning. The way Sangiovanni writes the combat sequences leaves the reader with a clear message: these are the most dangerous organisms in the universe.
Finally, Alien: Enemy of My Enemy gives readers unique variations of the Xenomorph and uses them for some thrilling encounters. I won’t give spoilers here, but the tension created by the variants reaches its peak in the third act of the story and absolutely delivers the goods.
If you share my frustration over the taming of the Xenomorph or the way the creature has drifted from the terror of the “Big Chap,” then rest assured, Alien: Enemy of My Enemy is the book for you.
While respecting the Perfect Organism is priority one for any Alien story, priority two is certainly delivering characters that readers and audiences care deeply for. Sigourney Weaver’s performance of Ellen Ripley played a huge role in the success of the films and the many creative offspring generated from the films. When Ripley charges heroically into the hive to save Newt, her own motivations as a grieving mother trying to save an orphaned girl elevated the story from an exciting action adventure to a moving work of art. (I still believe the deleted scene of Ripley getting the news about her daughter Amanda’s death should have made the theatrical cut.)
It is in this sense that Sangiovanni’s Enemy of My Enemy is a huge success. She masters the artistic balance of pushing the plot forward at a steady pace that maintains tension while working in moments of character building that bond readers with the protagonists and avoid disruption of the narrative.
Dr. Siobhan McCormick, who prefers to go by her first name, is carved from the mold of an Ellen Ripley, yet maintains her own personality and motivations. Siobhan is courageous, adaptive, and protective of the innocent. Her training as a scientist allows her to analyze danger and make calculated decisions that are founded in her moral center.
Similarly, readers unfamiliar with Sargent Alec Brand will immediately take a liking to his character. Alec has a tenderness that underlies his lethal efficiency as a Colonial Marine; as readers learn about his past and why he won’t back down from the Xenomorphs, they will feel the weight and terror of his journey.
The bottom line is that when Sangiovanni’s characters face danger, readers will care what happens to them; she also establishes very early on that she isn’t afraid to kill her darlings. It is because of this that Alien: Enemy of My Enemy presents readers with an authentic world where very real dangers await beloved characters.
An Expanded Universe
Titan Books commissioned David Barnett; Philippa Balantine and Člara Carija; and Mary Sangiovanni to each take a faction within the Alien universe and develop new storylines. While some of the entries are more successful than others, each of these writers wrote novels that breathe fresh air into the franchise.
Barnett’s work develops the Three World Empire (3WE) and the Independent Core System Colonies (ICSC), raising the narrative stakes through the political tensions between colonies and the terrorist acts of the pathogen bombs.
Balantine and Carija develop the Union of Progressive Peoples (UPP), giving readers an up-close experience of the pathogen bombs via the terrifying events on the planet Shānmén, a mining colony run by the Jùtóu Combine.
Bringing these disparate storylines together is Sangiovanni’s Enemy of My Enemy, which follows the experiences of those closely connected to the United Americas, the political power broker wielding the Colonial Marines, the one most closely tied with Weyland-Yutani and the one readers are most familiar with.
Bonus Content: Tabletop RPG One Shot
Like Alien: Colony War and Alien: Inferno’s Fall before it, Alien: Enemy of My Enemy also contains a bonus scenario for the ALIEN tabletop role-playing game from Free League Publishing. The one shot allows players to experience a key moment from the novel, granting deeper insight into the lore of the story, as well as a chance to save certain characters from tragedy; the one shot is well written and is best led by someone who has finished the novel, while being enjoyed by other players who haven’t yet read the story and know the outcome.
As you likely know if you’ve read my other reviews and gaming content, I’m extremely passionate about the Alien franchise. I consume as many comics, novels, games, and fan content that I can get my hands on. I’ll be honest, there are times when I worry that the material has run dry or that the franchise has hit a rut it might not climb out from.
For those reasons, I even put off reading and reviewing this novel, electing to explore other franchises, so I could get a fresh perspective. I can honestly say that I was caught off guard by how much I enjoyed Alien: Enemy of My Enemy. I mean from page one, I was hooked. The novel is a refreshing reminder that in the right hands, there is PLENTY of content left to be explored in my favorite franchise.
It is my sincere hope that Titan Books gives Mary Sangiovanni additional opportunities to tell stories in the Alien universe and that the publisher continues to recruit top-level talent such as her.
Boss Rush Network is proud to give Alien: Enemy of My Enemy a perfect five-star rating.
Featured Image: Titan Books
David Lasby is the Editor-in-Chief for Boss Rush Network. His favorite video games are The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, and the Aliens franchise. You can find him on Twitter to talk all things Nintendo, sci-fi / fantasy, and creative writing.