Tom MacWright

I read Nightflyers by George RR Martin on


I rarely read fiction, and even less so science fiction. Faced with a long flight and an empty Kindle, I bought this paperback in an airport shop. My inexperience with the genre means that I probably don’t have much to say that would be useful to someone who reads a lot of science fiction.

Nightflyers was a very quick read. It’s barely over 170 pages, and even the book itself looks like it was produced in a hurry. I started reading it waiting for my flight to board, and was finished less than halfway through the six-hour flight. Nothing impressive about that relative to the folks I know who read at a pace 2x my own, but having narrowed in on reading almost exclusively long non-fiction, it was shockingly fast. If I were to switch to reading this sort of book, reading five or ten a month would be easily achievable, and the limit would be my appetite for reading - rather than time, as it is currently.

So, it’s fast, and plot-driven. Despite being based in space, the environment isn’t really richly developed, or any of the guiding philosophy: it could just as well be set in another time period. The gore - one of the genres is ‘horror fiction’ - is over the top, and probably has much more effect in the film format (the book was adapted into a television series).

The main thread that connected this to George RR Martin’s hit, Game of Thrones, is the focus on sexuality. Sex pervades the story, in a way that doesn’t seem to serve the plot in any particular way. There’s also a much larger universe that alluded to, and plenty of sci-fi names and details that seem kind of silly considered in isolation. For example, the most common drink of the main characters is chocolate.

This was a perfectly fine book, fast-paced and interesting enough. Maybe for fans of the form it’s a standout, but to me it felt like reading a TV series. I enjoyed it, and it made this flight seem a bit shorter, but it ultimately didn’t convert me into a repeat reader of science fiction.