HELLHOLE: AWAKENING, Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, Tor, $27.99, reviewed by Jim Brock.
HELLHOLE: AWAKENING is volume two in Herbert and Anderson’s Hellhole series and I have been anxiously awaiting it since reading the first volume. That book was one of the most imaginative, entertaining and enthralling science fiction books I have read in years. It absolutely left me with a hunger for more. The grand scope of the universe of Hellhole overrode my general distain for science fiction series. A lot of series fiction of any genre consists of rehashing what might have been a great story the first time around. It is the rare series where the author or authors have the scope, the skill and the imagination to justify the continuation of the story.
The Hellhole series is one of those rarities. There are two groups of planets: the Crown Jewels being the establishment plants ruled by a noble class under the control of a tyrannical empress-type called the Diadem and the Deep Zone planets under the influence of the exiled General Tiber Adolphus. The DeeZees once paid tribute and were submissive to the Diadem until they rebelled under the leadership of Adolphus. In HELLHOLE: AWAKENING, the Diadem has sent a new expedition to regain control of the DeeZees and capture Adolphus. The word Awakening in the title adds a new element in that major changes are beginning in the flora and fauna of the planet, Hellhole, itself as long-lost species are reappearing. And the use of telemancy powers by the native Xayan and the human host/Xayan duos has also awakened an ancient danger that more than doubles the perils Adolphus, Hellhole and the DeeZees face.
The plots are excellent, characterization is excellent, and the expansion of new elements freshens and builds the excitement and the intensity of the saga. Not a complaint by any means, the character of Adolphus is not the all-knowing, super competent leader that his reputation would suggest. He seems to me to assume and overlook and frankly, get his butt saved by the Xayan backed telemancy powers. Adolphus is the type of leader whose sense of honor and position allows him to feel good about himself while getting a lot of ordinary Joes killed because he can’t bring himself to believe in or match the win at all costs philosophy of his enemy. At least, that’s my read of Adolphus and that just makes him and the course of Hellhole all the more interesting.
SO get HELLHOLE, read it and develop your hunger for HELLHOLE: AWAKENING. Then get HELLHOLE: AWAKENING, read it, and then join me. I’m hungry as heel for even more Hellhole.