Alien: Inferno’s Falls by Philippa Ballantine and Clara Carija – Audiobook Review

In the Alien universe, there is a clear break that runs across all movies, books, and games. It’s a distinct break like a crack in a pane of glass. One side is called pre-Prometheus and the other side is post-Prometheus.

For those not in “the know”, Prometheus was Ridley Scott’s film about the creation of the Xenomorph. It’s a beautiful film with thought-provoking visuals and heavy introspection. What it isn’t though… is a good Alien movie. This makes sense as Prometheus wasn’t officially licensed. It was Scott’s origin story for the creation of the Xenomorph made without the consent of the license holder. So, the movie is purposely vague.

When Prometheus made big numbers at the box office, Alien: Covenant was given the green light. Alien: Covenant was the “missing link”, connecting Prometheus with the rest of the Alien canon. And it was bad.

Alas, most Alien fans consider Covenant to be the worst of the franchise. It simply destroys the mysterious origin of the Xenomorph. It’s a story about really stupid people making really stupid choices and an android who plays god.

It’s hard to believe this man unleashed the Xenomorph on humanity.

Fun fact: do you know who is fundamentally responsible for the Xenomorphs being unleashed on humanity? It’s John Denver. Had John Denver not written the song, “Country Roads”, the Covenant colony ship wouldn’t have visited the homeworld of the Engineers, and thus, the Xenomorph wouldn’t have been set loose upon humanity.

Thanks John!

Needless to say, most Alien fiction runs pre-Prometheus, but Alien: Inferno’s Falls by Philippa Ballantine and Clara Carija ties itself hard to the post-Prometheus universe. In fact, the Xenomorph isn’t the main antagonist. It’s only mentioned in passing. Rather it’s the Neomorph that was introduced in Alien: Covenant.

The Neomorph is a new type of alien creature that grows inside of the host in a matter of hours after coming into contact with a bioweapon. Like the Xenomorph, it bursts out of its host, but then immediately goes on the attack.

The Neomorph essentially kneecaps the Xenomorph in terms of lethality. It’s smaller and faster, and once birthed, it is absolutely devastating. While not as smart as the Xenomorph, it makes up for its lack of intelligence by sheer numbers.

So right away, the Alien fan is set with a choice when the book is started. If you don’t like the Prometheus / Covenant stuff, you probably won’t like this book.

This sounds like a bad review, but it’s not. I actually love the Alien universe (if you can’t tell already). As someone who hates what Prometheus did to the Alien canon, this book is still pretty awesome.

Alien: Inferno’s Falls focuses on a mining colony on the planet Shanmen. A cooperative of miners known as The Knot work together to survive the oppressive company policies.

In short, while the Alien franchise has a sci-fi setting, the setting for this book is a western. It’s low-tech with androids. The town is like a railroad town back in the nineteenth century where the “company’ charges for everything.

The book is a slow burn. It starts with the difficult life on this mining planet. We learn about this small family and the conditions they are forced to endure. We learn about the company and the complete lack of empathy. The book focuses on Toru, the sixty-year-old matriarch who struggles to lead the Knot out of debt.

When she and her pleasure synthetic Carter accidentally discover an underground temple from a lost civilization, she thinks she made the discovery that will save her family. Unfortunately, a large horseshoe-shaped ship arrives in the sky, dropping a black goo over the landscape.

Neomorph art by Chris LeBlanc

At once, Neomorphs erupt from the surrounding people and animals, making the world a literal death trap. Toru and her family flee to the mine for safety, not knowing these Neomorphs are far more dangerous than she imagined.

Thankfully, a dark spec-ops group called the Jackals receives their distress call and tries to make a rescue. In the crew is an AI who struggles to learn about humanity and joins the marines on the planet to fight the Neomorphs.

I listened to the audiobook that was narrated by Julienne Irons. Irons has a very soothing voice that actually relaxed me to the point that my thoughts would wander. Combined with the slow burn of the narrative, I have to admit, the book was initially difficult to get through. The first three hours are all set up, but it’s so well written and researched, I kept pressing forward. That said, I don’t think Irons was a good fit for this book.

Yet, once things go to hell in the book, the narrative gets intense. It does not pull any punches at all. Let’s just say that there is a high body count, and no one has any plot armor to keep them safe.

One thing I admired about the book is how well the lore was woven into it. Not to mention, the book knows where it is going. The authors take the Prometheus lore and build upon it so that by the end of the book, you realize that there is far more at stake than originally presumed.

For those who love the Alien universe pre-Prometheus, this book may be a hard sell. This isn’t an Alien book, after all. But if you let that go and just ride the narrative. You’ll find a well-written and engaging story here.

Verdict:

4 out of 5 upset Neomorphs

A fun high-octane read that starts slow, but once it reaches “speed”, it does not let up.

Alien: Inferno Falls at Amazon / Audible (affiliate link)

Alien - Inferno's Fall Book Cover
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Published: July 26, 2022

By Brian Moakley

Brian Moakley is a writer and technologist who lives amongst the quiet hills in New England. When not reading tales of high adventure, he is often telling such stories to all who will listen.

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