HELLHOLE By Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson [Review]

Epic science fiction has always been a favorite genre for me. I love diving into a series, knowing that I have a whole world to delve into and enough books to thoroughly satisfy my cravings for adventure in the author’s universe. Of course, one of the prime examples of epic science fiction is the Dune series begun by Frank Herbert and continued by Brian Herbert. Why do I mention that? HELLHOLE is the first in a new series from Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson.

Hellhole is epic in scale, and dives right into the fray of battle as General Tiber Adolphus, the leader of a rebel force attempting to overthrow the Diadem Michella Duchenet leader of the Crown Jewel worlds. Sadly, Adolphus is bound by a moral code and ends up losing the battle and exiled to the Deep Zone. In the best traditions of science fiction, he sets out to foment revolution and unrest while trapped on Hellhole.

Of course, there is a lot more to it than that. There is, in fact, an almost labyrinthine plot that needs a score card to keep track of the who does what to why and when for where. That isn’t always a problem if the prose keeps the reader interested. Ah, therein lies the rub. The battle sequences are exciting, however, some of the rest is less so, and then there is the matter of names. Science fiction and fantasy tend to non-familiar sounding names, but sometimes I think writers go too far and I found that while reading Hellhole I was shortening names or giving people and places nicknames to keep track of them. It was a little irritating.

Hellhole is a novel with promise; like so many books these days it is part of a series, and the ending makes that abundantly clear. I have to admit I am getting a little weary of books that just don’t end, they are to be continued in the next book. I understand the need to continue one or two threads of a story into the next book or books in the series, but an abrupt cliffhanger in book after book is becoming the norm and it is not attractive. In fact, if I know going in that the book has that kind of ending, I am far less likely to pick it up. And yes, Hellhole does have an ending that could be viewed that way.

Herbert and Anderson write well together, and the worlds they have crafted are interesting. Their characters are a little uneven. Some are very well drawn and have a great deal of depth and that sense of being real, but some are very one-dimensional, and it really doesn’t depend on the character’s role in the book. Some lead characters are flat, some bit players have depth. Now and then the language becomes oddly stilted, and really for no reason that I can find. The conversation will be running along fine, then out of the blue it sounds…odd.

All in all, if you are a fan of the genre, Hellhole is worth a read. It’s nice to have writers comfortable with the epic scope of this kind of fiction. On the other hand, be aware that this is epic and it intends to be epic. There will be more, probably many more, even though it is being billed as a trilogy. I liked our hero enough to look forward to finding out what happens next. This is one I will make no guarantees on, just be prepared to hunker down for a bit of old-fashioned science fiction on an epic scale.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars | Publisher: Tor Books |Pages: 544 | Source: Publisher | Buy on Amazon

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