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on 13 May 2016
I’ll admit it, I’m a creature of habit, especially when it comes to choosing books, if I read an Author and I generally like what they’ve written, I’ll pretty much just keep buying their books… loyal? yes… possibly stupid? maybe, but it works for me.

The result is that I usually end up with a library of my favourite Author’s works, and I really do get to know their writing style and for better or worse I can tell when they are on good form or not, let’s face it we can’t be great all the time!

So, when Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson released Hellhole, book one of a new sci-fi trilogy, it was out with the wallet and without much thought I had a new addition to my library.

Having read their previous collaborations, both the Dune Preludeand Legends of Dune trilogies, I had high expectations of the same kind of fast paced, multiple story line, galaxy spanning space opera, albeit in a different setting. Something along the lines of Kevin J Anderson’s excellent stand alone Saga of the Seven Sons series.

Hellhole is set in the “Constellation”, an empire of some sixty-four colonised planets where humanity can travel at faster than light speed between planets, however only along so-called “String Lines”, a set of physical deep space marker buoys that guide the ships along a path at faster than light speed, lose a String Line and you’re off into space who knows where…

The original and richest planets, the Crown Jewels, jockey for money, power and position, whilst the Deep Zone planets, the frontier of human colonisation, struggle just for survival far away from the safety of the core planets.

Hellhole, the unofficial Deep Zone capital, which seems as a planet to actively want to kill everyone living on it, is also home to the Xayan, an almost extinct enigmatic Alien race with an ambivalent attitude to the growing.

When the whole of the Deep Zone wants to strike out alone, the establishment is hell bent on stopping them and bringing them back under their control, however politics, power plays and a strong case of Alien xenophobia make this less than simple task.

So, overall I got what I expected, the story does moves along at a pretty cracking pace, it does have a big cast of Heroes, Villains and Aliens and it does span the galaxy (well, not exactly the galaxy, but certainly a good section of it).

So why did I feel a bit let down when I’d finished?

Actually, all the points I just ticked off were also the reasons it fell short of a good book in my opinion. They were all there, but they weren’t done particularly well. After reading over a dozen books from this team, can I see the formula being put into place one to many times?

As much as I like and am fascinated by the “trade craft” of writing, I don’t want to actually see it on the page. The story, the characters and the connection I make with them should make the structure kind of invisible, so it’s odd to see it show so clearly, especially from such a seasoned team.

The very short chapters and quick transitions between story lines never really gave me a chance to get to grips with the story or connect with the characters. It felt like I was constantly being kicked out of the room each time I got switched from one storyline to the other, I’m all for fast paced but do we really need 98 chapters in 500 pages of writing?

I got the impression the Authors were using the fast pace to disguise a weakish story. I just didn’t feel this book just was built upon the rich and fully imagined backdrops that I had come to expect. The characters and the universe they inhabit all felt a bit light really.

Don’t misunderstand me, this is a new and unique universe they’ve created, with some interesting elements, the setting is certainly worthy enough to underpin a good space opera. It’s just that we never get time to really come to grips with it and it all feels a bit one dimensional and shallow.

The result? Not a bad book as such, it is well written and fast paced, but it just doesn’t stand up to previous works by this writing team.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 20 September 2011
I do share some of the comments made by others. Some of the caracters just don't seem to come to life and feel like they have been caricatured. A few of the themes are rather conventional. Some elements don't seem very realistic either. Here is the Diadem, essentially the Empress of over 70 planets bujt, part from her favorite henchman, she doesn't seem to have any other real supporters. No armed forces of her own apart from a few guards? No Imperial Guard? How about security services or Intelligence Services? I also agree that it is a bit of a dirty trick to start a new series without mentioning this. And I go on, and on, and on...

Having said all this, I must also confess that I could hardly put the book down and I spent a couple of late nights (or rather early mornings!) to finish it. I wanted to know what exactly was the plot, how the Diadem would react to it (although that one was somewhat predictable: with maximum force!) and what would happen next. Another reason to rant after this: the ending of volume I is abrupt, with the story being somewhat cut off. Worth 3 stars for me nevertheless, because it was a page turner, despite everything else.
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on 31 August 2011
...With na little help from his friend Brian... Or is it the opposite ?
The plot and characters remind me of the saga of seven suns : maybe a bit less technical about the spaceships, stardrive, and wonders of that human civilisation (with no mention of earth !?) and more accurate details about personnalities, feelings and human lives (better female characters too).I am greedily awaiting the sequel...
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on 30 November 2011
I was pleased with the prospect of reading a Herbert / Anderson collaboration never suspecting that it was the start of a trilogy. As mentioned by another reviewer this is actually book 1. Ok so not necessarily a bad thing except I was expecting an ending rather than a cliffhanger. Within the first couple of pages my interest was hooked and it became compulsive reading for a while. The various characters are given some entertaining back stories although I found some chapters repeating information and descriptions. Either these were handover chapters with each author wanting to re-iterate facts we already knew, or it is a foretaste of the Saga of the Seven Suns where KA felt the need to repeat great swathes of back story with every book. Believe me by the end of Book 1 I know who all the characters are and where they came from. The introduction of the live Xayan extra-terrestrials just seemed to trite and convenient and I presume the mysterious spacecraft are the other Xayan faction returning to their homeworld having felt the telemancering in the ether , or was it through the thism ? Still the story continues with the expected 'good guys' versus 'bad guys'. It's a sci-fi space opera romp , not too challenging, but ideal for the long winter nights. Will read the next installment to see where it leads.
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on 24 December 2012
Hellhole

HELLHOLE is a part-book

Hellhole is an exceptionally well-written book, as might be expected from the authors, Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson. The novel scenario is set up well & explored in a comprehensible, gripping fashion. I'd give it 5/5 if it had an ending but it doesn't. Following the lamentable, money grubbing, publishing practices of late, only part of the book exists here. Every string of the narrative is left hanging, precipitously, & without conclusion. There is no point in buying this book unless you have its successor, which isn't yet quite due for publication. As that advertises part 2 as the 2nd in a trilogy, it might have a similarly ridiculous termination. 3 years between parts that don't stand alone is too much. Perhaps you should all just wait until 2016 when the book is finally finished. Trilogies are fine but the books should stand alone, not simply be cut-off in mid-paragraph.
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Readers of Kevin and Brian's joint projects will be aware of a number of things, firstly that they play for keeps and are not adverse to killing off characters, secondly that the cultures are on a turning point and above all else there are some single minded individuals determined to do their best to change things for the better.

Back that up with some descent prose alongside a reasonable pace and it's a Science Fiction book by the numbers that will please readers of the genre. Whilst it's not exactly ground breaking it does do what these two authors do well and presents the reader with a story that will entertain to while away the hours. All in a good bit of fun although I'm expecting a few twists along the way in further titles with the Saturday Matinee endings that will leave the reader clamouring for the next title in the series.
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on 7 June 2012
When General Tiber Adolphus fails in his rebellion against the corrupt Constellation, the interplanetary empire run by a select band of scheming nobles, he believes his days are numbered. But his opponent Diadem Michella Duschenet fears the creation of a martyr and instead seeks a subtler form of execution.

Exiling the General and his supporters to colonize the most desolate and inhospitable of the Deep Zone worlds is a certain death sentence: the planet is named Hallholme after the man who defeated Adolphus and is perfectly suited to finishing the job; the colonists are not expected to last a year. This is all covered in the short prologue, the rest centres on events ten years later.

The planet Hallholme has survived, much to the Diadem's displeasure, nicknamed Hellhole it is the Constellation's dumping ground for the unwanted, exiled and outcast. Survival is difficult, all Deep Zone worlds are expected to pay an exhaustive tribute to the Diadem to benefit the more prestigious 'Crown Jewel worlds' of the Constellation and Hellhole's climate throws constant deadly challenges at the settlers. Despite this, General Adolphus retains hope and as he slowly builds his world he also hatches other plans to permanently free his people from the Constellation.

With political intrigue, environmental hazards and the constant threat of discovery threatening his plans Adolphus is unprepared for an additional complication to come from the ground beneath his feet. Hellhole is the only known planet to have once supported alien life and when a chance discovery uncovers the planet's incredible secret the results threaten to change everything.

The narrative changes perspective throughout with different chapters presenting different perspectives. The reader is given an extensive tour of the various relevant worlds and characters from all walks of life. This allows for the effective telling on numerous interconnected plots which weave together as the story progresses.

If Hellhole has one weakness it is that it does not provide a conclusive ending, clearly written with a sequel in mind it allows several plot threads to just stop when it reaches the end. That said, I could not put it down and the appendices and glossary provided a comprehensive summary of the occasionally complex universe.
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on 5 March 2011
I enjoyed reading the book though it is very similar to various other I have read recently and seemed a bit formulaic. The dialogue between characters sometimes was unrealistic. The main baddie in the book is the Diadem who seems a cartoonish type villain with no finesse and not very clever bearing in mind she hold be a devious conniving woman who has to stay sharp to remain in power. The idea of the major planets in the series being called the crown jewels and the throne being called the star throne didn't feel right either.

In saying this is worthy of a read.
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on 3 March 2013
Not up to the "Dune" standards but still a very good read as SF and Fantasy. Am looking forward to follow-ups..
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on 28 April 2014
A different style of book which took my interest from the start. Hope the remaining books keep up the standard.
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