Book Review: Night and the Enemy by Harlan Ellison

Published by Comico in 1987, Night and the Enemy is a graphic anthology consisting of five military SF tales written by Harlan Ellison and illustrated by Ken Steacy. Each story takes place during the two hundred-year-long interstellar war between Earth and golden-skinned aliens known as the Kyben.

“Run for the Stars” – Petty criminal and drug addict Benno Tallant is abducted by Earth resistance forces and implanted with a bomb to destroy the Kyben, but Tallant finds a way to gain the upper hand against both the Kyben forces and ultimately, Earth.

“Life Hutch” – After crash landing on a small planet during a space battle, a pilot named Terrance locates a life hutch—one of many small survival facilities constructed on planets across the galaxy in the event of an emergency. However, the robot programmed to maintain the life hutch malfunctions and attacks Terrance, leaving him severely wounded. Terrance soon realizes that he must remain immobile lest he trigger the robot again… but for how long?

“The Untouchable Adolescents” – Captain Luther Shreve offers assistance to the juvenile inhabitants of the planet Diamore, which will soon suffer a devastating natural catastrophe unless machines can be deployed to direct the shockwave to the planet’s oceans. However, the telepathic inhabitants do not trust the humans after their world was already plundered by the Kyben months before. They warn the humans to leave, yet Shreve insists on helping them—resulting in the deaths of six crew members. Finally, Shreve relents, but what price will the Diamore pay for their decision?

“Trojan Hearse” – The Kyba construct a metal ring called the Orifice through which vessels can travel at the speed of light to another ring elsewhere across the galaxy. In this case, to a ring hidden on Earth. Shortly after a human spy escapes Kyba with schematics to the Orifice, the Kyben decide to invade, confident that Earth could not have developed a defense in such a short time…

“Sleeping Dogs” – On Epsilon Indy IV, ambassador LynnFerraro attempts to stop warmongering Commander Drabix from destroying a series of what he believes are Kyben strongholds scattered across the planet. However, it is soon discovered that their weapons are incapable of penetrating these featureless black cubes. Finally, Drabix orders his ship in orbit to open fire on one of them— which he soon regrets.

All told, Night and the Enemy is a quick and engrossing read by one of the masters of the short story and beautifully illustrated by Steacy.