Nightmare Planet Review (Sci-Fi Adventure)

Title: Nightmare Planet | Author: Donald S. Rowland | Publisher: Venture Press | Pub. Date: 2017-4-10 | Pages: 191 | ASIN: B06Y685KTR | Genre: Science Fiction | Language: English | Triggers: None | Rating: 3 out of 5 | Source: Received a copy from Netgalley for review consideration

Nightmare Planet

“We are intruders into this system, and I have a sneaking feeling that one of these planets is inhabited by hostile aliens…”

Kyle Barlor is captain aboard the spaceship Voyager on its exploration of the farther reaches of the Universe in a ceaseless hunt for minerals and chemicals badly needed by Earth and its space colonies in the solar system. With these resources dwindling not just on Earth, but her surrounding colonies, there is little choice but to explore further into deep space.

Voyager is nine hundred light years from Earth’s solar system…Kyle’s mission was to find the Brontus Major Constellation and search it for any metals that may be used. The spearhead through space, carried out by men such as those aboard Voyager, never saw the fruits of their work. They would merely locate the planets containing sufficient metals and then push on to leave the transport freighters to strip them. A seemingly endless mission…That is, until, an uncharted planetary system appears between them and the Brontus Major Constellation.

Why does it not show up on their scanners? And what are the strange missile silos doing around the planetary system?

Kyle decides their only course of action is to send out a search party to try to find out what forms of life are there. However, when they lose contact with the search party they realise something must be wrong. So far from Earth, Kyle Barlor is the only hope of ever returning home for the crew aboard the Voyager, but even he is beginning to feel out of his depth.

Book cover for Nightmare Planet

Small Sci-Fi and Scary Divider

Nightmare Planet Review

I rarely do this, but I have to start with saying I love the cover for Nightmare Planet. It took me about two seconds to decide to get this book after I laid eyes on the cover. Fantastic job. (Though it doesn’t hurt that after reading Deathworld by Harry Harrison I’m looking for more books where its man versus planet.)

Nightmare Planet was originally published in 1976, and you can tell. The language is just a bit off. Not enough that it drags you out of the story, but you’re conscious of the fact that this is an older work. None of the technology mentioned really dates the book (as happens in Man Plus with the massive IBMs), it’s really just wording that screws it.

One of the problems that Nightmare Planet has is that it feels a bit amateur in the writing. Rowland definitely knew what he wanted to do with the book, but his writing just doesn’t feel very polished. Sometimes it’s also a bit stilted and formal. For example:

“The Chief Engineer seems to think we are travelling faster than indicated. He has a hunch. On what do you base your misgivings?”

I think if the author had paused to even just read the dialogue out loud, he would have discovered the problem.  It also seems that the author had a bit of a prejudice against women. Every time one appears in the story, she’s mentioned as being beautiful but annoying/irritating/helpless.  Ugh.

The premise of Nightmare Planet is fascinating, and the first few chapters definitely grab your attention. The aliens are a bit laughable but yet I still applaud him for his imagination. You have monstrous tailless meat-eating kangaroos and creatures that resemble Thing from the Addams Family (plus more) inhabiting this utterly strange Nightmare Planet. The action never stops, with the author skipping time ahead as need be to keep things going.

With some tweaking of the dialogue and smoothing out of story flow, Nightmare Planet could be a fun read. Well, that and the Captain needs to be given a modicum of common sense.  It’s space adventure, man against aliens, and doesn’t require any thinking to enjoy. However, I just can’t recommend it in it’s current form. It’s not bad, it’s just not good enough.