In the distant future, a scientist obsessed with the Volcryn, an ancient and mysterious alien race, charters the Nightflyer to embark on a scientific expedition among the stars. Royd Eris, the Nightflyers mysterious and reclusive captain, spies on his passengers at all times and only communicates with them via hologram. The passengers on the Nightflyer are a budget team of specialists in their fields of study including enhanced human beings, technology experts, and telepaths.
While the journey to meet with the Volcryn begins without a hitch, the expedition’s telepath soon senses a strange presence aboard the Nightflyer. It is something he cannot identify, and it terrifies him to the point of needing to be medicated. Soon, the passengers begin to perish at the hands of this mysterious presence and call into question Captain Royd’s role and knowledge in them.
The Nightflyers is a George R.R. Martin novella built around maintaining an oppressive atmosphere similar to the Alien movie franchise or Event Horizon. Much like those movies, the cast of characters starts off wide and gets smaller and smaller as characters are killed off in unique and exciting ways. This is where the novella suffers. The character development for the majority of the cast was minimal except for Captain Royd and Melantha Jhirl, which are the primary focus of the story. The rest of the cast was pretty much cannon fodder with names and roles. Otherwise, the novella moves along quickly and doesn’t waste too many words on unnecessary details.
Usually, illustrations don’t enhance my reading experience, but David Palumbo’s illustrations deserve mention because they are absolutely gorgeous and embody the eeriness and atmosphere of the scenes which took place in the novel.
Overall, Nightflyers was a decent mixture of horror and science fiction. It was a bit creepy at times, and there are some memorable scenes accompanied by beautiful illustrations. The Captain and Nightflyer end up being the more interesting mystery than the Volcryn, which ultimately ends up feeling a bit disappointing. If you are a fan of Martin’s work and do not want to get stuck reading a book 1000+ pages, or if you are looking forward to the SyFy channel adaptation, I suggest reading this novella.