Nightflyers by George R.R. Martin has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.
Karoly d’Branin is fascinated by an ancient alien race called the volcryn. Many myths surround the mysterious group. Some think they are refugees from a distant galactic war. Others believe they are messengers of God or shadows from hell, warning of impending terror and destruction.
D’Branin assembles a small team, including linguists, telepaths and other specialists for a scientific expedition to study them. The only ship available belongs to a man named Capt. Royd Eris, who is almost as mysterious as the volcryn themselves.
Eris is the sole crewmember on the Nightflyer. He lives in a locked-off section of the vessel, projecting his voice via speaker and only showing himself to d’Branin’s team in the form of a hologram. Eris’ strange behavior alarms the team. The captain secretly watches them through cameras in every corner of the ship.
The team’s telepath begins to crack and reveals he’s feeling a sinister alien presence on the ship. The already-uneasy team members wonder whether it’s just the telepath’s imagination or something more.
D’Branin and a genetically enhanced woman named Melantha Jhirl converse with Eris more than the others do. Eris enjoys d’Branin’s company and likes hearing about the volcryn. Jhirl is as curious about Eris as he is fascinated by her. Jhirl and d’Branin learn before the others that Eris is watching the team’s every move. Jhirl urges him to turn off some of his cameras, and he complies.
D’Branin and the team’s mental health professional decide the ranting telepath needs to be sedated. They opt for a mild drug at the outset. When the other team members find out, a heated discussion ensues. Some say the telepath shouldn’t be sedated at all because he’s trying to warn them of a legitimate threat. Jhirl suggests they administer a powerful, more dangerous drug that may give the telepath greater clarity and help them determine what he is actually seeing. They administer the drug, and the telepath’s skull explodes.
The team members now feel angry, terrified and traumatized. They take the telepath’s headless body to one of the holds and try to clean up the carnage in the lounge. Two female team members decide to override the ship’s computer system and take control. Both are killed and do extensive damage to the ship in the process. Eris makes the rest of the team suit up and leave the ship on space sleds so he can do the necessary repairs.
They see their aging captain for the first time from space. As Eris tries to fix the ship, a half-drunk, angry team member who has lost trust in the others sneaks into the cargo holds. He hopes to take charge of the ship himself, but a mysterious force turns his own laser against him. The others hear his cries. Despite Eris’ warnings, two more teammates go in after him and die.
Eris finally admits his dead mother’s spirit controls the Nightflyer. He can overpower her at times, like when he activates the ship’s gravity. But most often, he can do little to stop her from behaving as she pleases. Eris explains his mother had telekinetic abilities as a child, which others saw as a threat. She was forced to undergo hypnotraining, electroshock and drug therapies in an effort to cure her, and she was institutionalized for five years. She grew to hate, fear and react violently toward people.
Still outside of the ship, d’Branin and the last remaining team member see the volcryn and marvel at the bright, pulsating entity. D’Branin tries to describe it for posterity. The teammate dies and readers hear d’Branin speaking in awe of the light. Eris and Jhirl don’t see or hear from d’Branin again.
Inside, Eris and Jhirl fight off the animated corpses of team members and try to alter the ship’s gravity to lessen Eris’ mother’s power. Eris dies in the process, but his spirit lives on in the ship. Jhirl stays with him to protect him from his mother’s spirit, play chess with his hologram and keep him company. They continue to follow the volcryn, researching and trying to communicate with the mysterious race.
None, but the first line of the book says: “When Jesus of Nazareth hung dying on his cross, the volcryn passed within a year of his agony, headed outward.” A scientist who once studied the volcryn was now said to be “as distant and dead as Jesus of Nazareth.”
Some believe an ancient alien race called the volcryn is a messenger of God or shadow from hell, warning of impending terror and destruction.
On D’Branin’s team, there are telepaths. The team’s telepath begins to crack and reveals he’s feeling a sinister alien presence on the ship. The already-uneasy team members wonder whether it’s just the telepath’s imagination or something more.
Eris admits his dead mother’s spirit controls the Nightflyer. He can overpower her at times, like when he activates the ship’s gravity. But most often, he can do little to stop her from behaving as she pleases. Eris explains his mother had telekinetic abilities as a child, which others saw as a threat.
Eris and Jhirl fight off the animated corpses of team members and try to alter the ship’s gravity to lessen Eris’ mother’s power. Eris dies in the process, but his spirit lives on in the ship. Jhirl stays with him to protect him from his mother’s spirit, plays chess with his hologram and keeps him company.
Eris’ mother was forced to undergo treatments and institutionalization to cure her of her power. As a result, her spirit remains angry, skeptical and violent toward people. Eris’ secretiveness as the ship’s captain unnerves the team. He is trying to protect them from his mother’s spirit and regrets having put them in this position.
The words b–ch, crap, d–n and h— appear several times. Crewmembers die in gruesome ways: Heads explode. Limbs and organs shoot through the air, blood splatters over whole rooms and bone shards stab people nearby. Dead, limbless, broken bodies reanimate and chase the living. Several illustrations depict bloody faces and dismembered bodies.
Eris watches his passengers have sex with each other through his cameras. The team members pair up often with different people, sometimes people of the same sex. Jhirl is particularly sexually active and proud of her sexual prowess.
Eris is fascinated as he watches her sleep with all four men and two women on board, within the first three weeks of the trip. Jhirl owns a whisperjewel, which contains the sensation of one of her past sexual encounters. When she has sex or exercises vigorously, she can feel and experience the memory locked in the whisperjewel. Eris and Jhirl talk about sex a number of times, and she says she will sleep with him if they ever resolve their mess. Eris’ physical body dies before this happens.
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