SciFi Book Review: Hellhole: Awakening

Hellhole: Awakening by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

After declaring his independence from the corrupt Constellation, rebel General Adolphus knows the crackdown is coming. Now he needs to pull together the struggling Hellhole colony, the ever-expanding shadow-Xayan settlement, and his connections with the other Deep Zone worlds. Even then, he doubts his desperate measures will be enough.

Diadem Michella Duchenet has collected a huge space fleet led by Commodore Escobar Hallholme, son of the hero who originally defeated Adolphus. They expect resistance from the General’s rebels, but who could possibly stand up to such a mighty fleet?

Adolphus knows he’s running out of time, but he still has some hope—the shadow-Xayans have banded together to defend their sacred planet with “telemancy,” but can they discover new powers to protect all the stored alien lives on the already devastated world? And when all hope seems lost, the awakened Xayans reveal information hidden even from their own followers—the existence of a bigger threat that makes even the Constellation fleet seem insignificant.

Once again, the narrative jumps around each chapter to a different character and plotline. Thankfully, there’s a handy glossary of characters in the back of the book that I referred to more than once. And after a while, I didn’t need it, as each character has a distinct voice and separate situation or goal. General Adolphus confronted with problems off world and on Hellhole, pulled in separate directions. And each complication is more urgent and life-threatening than the last. Meanwhile, Diadem Michella focuses her attention on taking out Adolphus, while her trusted advisor plots her downfall.

While the novel is lengthy, the chapters are short. And the subplots that I thought would drag eventually became the most suspenseful and exciting. Though, I did have trouble following some of the stories, especially the one following the Xayans off world. And I kept expecting the big reveal about the “bigger threat” mentioned in the synopsis, which never happened until the very end of the book. And even then it’s only briefly touched upon as a cliffhanger.

The real suspense and adventure picks up pretty quickly and made for surprisingly fast reading for the length of the book. The switching around between characters each chapter actually helped the feel of being fast-paced and engaging. I was pleasantly surprised by the direction each subplot took. Unpredictable, with complexity on an epic scale, Hellhole: Awakening is an impressive sequel that I enjoyed immensely.

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