Nightflyers, by George R. R. Martin

Nightflyers – currently streaming on Netflix – is a horror-Sci Fi novella from Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin.

Cyberpunk girl's face
Credit: Yoal Desurmont

Martin wrote Nightflyers in 1978, which puts it ahead of Ridley Scott’s Alien by one year. Keep that in mind if you’ve seen the latter, as there are some parts of Martin’s novella which which may seem familiar (or even clichéd) if you’re coming to Nightflyers for the first time.

The Nightflyer, like the Nostromo, is a spaceship venturing far into deep space. Here, at least, the crew (a mix of telepaths, xenotechs and linguists) are intentionally searching for a mythical alien race, the Volcryn.

As the ship journeys into the furthest reaches of the universe, the ‘Nightflyers’ become increasingly suspicious of their pilot, Royd Eris, who only interacts with them as a hologram). Paranoia reaches a peak when, one by one, the crew is targeted by a malevolent force.

“I know everything that occurs on the Nightflyer,” Royd said.
“You have been watching us,” d’Branin said gravely, accusation in his tone. “Then it is so, what Thale says, about us being watched. Royd, how could you? Spying is beneath you.”
The ghost’s transparent eyes had no life in them, did not see. “Do not tell the others,” Royd warned.

Nightflyers is a ‘popcorn’ read: it’s cinematic, with a plot driven by intrigue, suspense and action rather than significant themes. The pace picks up in the second half of the book, becoming quite a compulsive read towards the end (essentially as the characters are bumped off, one by one).

As a consequence, however, it sacrifices dialogue (which is overly theatrical) and a sense of the believable. The characters are enjoyable, if a little stock – particularly the descriptions of the women. The names are imaginative, though it’s helpful that Martin often references them by their characteristics or crew role.


George R. R. Martin, Nightflyers (1978)

Other books like Nightflyers
  • The Martian, by Andy Weir.
  • Books by Dean Koontz and Matthew Riley (thriller, action, adventure) or Stephen King (horror)
  • Sci-fi books and short stories by Ray Bradbury, Issac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke.