Exiled to Hallholme after he led a rebellion against the Constellation Empire, General Tiber Adolphus was expected to die from the planet’s barely habitable environment. Much to Diadem Michella Duchanet’s annoyance, he refused to give in and instead managed to establish a small community that quickly expanded as convicts, malcontents, and people with nowhere else to go were dumped and left to the mercies of Hellhole. Struck by a meteor centuries earlier that wiped out all indiginous life, it’s a mostly barren wasteland with unpredictable and often deadly weather patterns.
Back in the Crown Jewel planets, the Lords and Ladies of the Parliamentary government enjoyed the fruits of the Deep Zone labours, requiring tributes from their already taxed economies, forcing them to give up valuable assets that would help their own colonists. Determined not to let another rebellion take hold, the Diadem keeps her government on their toes, encouraging them to plot against each other if it suited her interest or simply have her spies and military personnel step in if it didn’t. Diadem Michella Duchanet was the ruler of the Constellation and she would not have anyone get in her way.
For someone who read a lot of science-fiction when I was younger, I don’t seem to be able to get into it much these days. It has been a while since I found anything that held my interest, that wasn’t also linked to the romance genre.
Hellhole has completely changed that for me and I am very happy it did so. It’s an engaging story of hazardous frontier worlds and brave pioneers yet also of intrigue, plotting and maneuvering among the nobles of the vast Constellation Empire. The despot ruler, Diadem Michella Duchanet, is a real piece of work, as are some of the myriad nobles that rule the individual worlds of the Crown Jewels planets.
When the book starts, General Tiber Adolphus is at the final battle of his victorious five year rebellion against the Diadem and her armies, and right from that first chapter I was drawn in. And it didn’t really let up from there.
It’s a book that has so many different facets and layers; it isn’t just a book about a rebellion against an unfit ruler, nor just about the people who were imprisoned or volunteered as colonists on the Deep Zone worlds. It’s not even just about the possibility of alien life. It’s about everything that makes up a wondrous vision into a possible distant future.
The protagonists were really well written and I came to care about some of them very quickly. I also didn’t just dislike the antagonists, I hated them.
Hellhole itself was described with vivid imagery and I could see it in my mind’s eye. The other Deep Zone worlds too, but to a lesser extent.
The pace was excellent, going from almost a normal pace of life after the first few chapters to an almost frenzied state as different threads were coming together. I even growled as I turned the last page and realised I would have to wait to find out what happens until the next book. It caught me out, even though I should have realised that with everything that still needed to happen, it wouldn’t fit into the number of pages left.
The plot was so intricate and layered, I have no idea how the authors kept it straight, but it wasn’t confusing. I knew where I was and what was happening, it just ramped up the tension as each layer was added.
There are a few shocks and surprises but I won’t spoil them here. Suffice to say some of them were very sad but there is also joy to balance it out.
If you like great science fiction on an epic scale, you have to read Hellhole.. really!