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3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
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I'm a little old fashioned when it comes to my Science Fiction, telling me that the thing works is good for me, I don't need to either know the mechanics of why it works, only that its believable and whilst the trend these days is to get quite in depth with the science part of the genre, Philip is an author who believes more in the aspect of storytelling with the science taking a supporting role.

Whilst to some this may seem a little old fashioned, for me it's the perfect combo, great storytelling with a little science and a arc that is character driven, especially this offering with three lead principles against a war faring alien nation. It's beautifully constructed, the characters, whilst in some cases quite alien, work wonderfully well together with each playing off the others strengths as they seek to complete their common goal.

All in a satisfactory tale and one that really was a joy to great. Great stuff from Philip which proves why he's fast becoming my favourite science fiction author.
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on 21 February 2015
Some time ago, I read Philip Palmer's debut novel ''Debatable Space''. Whilst there were aspects of that novel I didn't feel entirely worked, it was a well paced read for the most part and I marked Palmer as a writer to watch. His subsequent novels, ''Red Claw'' and ''Version 43'', have been well received and his fourth, ''Hell Ship'', isn't bad either.

As is Palmer's style, the story is told from the differing points of view of various characters. There is the warrior Sharrock, who returns from a missing to find his home destroyed and his friends and family dead, only to be captured by the Hell Ship and see his planet destroyed. There is Sai-ias, a monstrous alien who has been on the Hell Ship for long enough to have become accustomed to her situation and helps Sharrock acclimatise. There is also Jak, an Olaran explorer who finds various planets the Olarans hoped to trade with destroyed and then loses his own crew in a battle against the Hell Ship and vows revenge.

The first person story telling doesn't seem to work as well in science fiction as it does in other genres, but Palmer has been writing this way since his debut, so it no longer feels as out of place as it did. This being the second of his novels I've read, I've become more familiar with his style and, after four novels, so has Palmer. In a world so different from our own, the differing perspectives help the read come to terms with the vast array of creatures that make up the cast list, varying from humanoid forms to monsters I found it impossible to imagine.

It is this which has long been Palmer's strength, in that he has some weird and wonderful ideas. The vast array of alien creatures on display here is staggering. He has populated an entire world with unique characters, from tree dwelling animals that use compressed balls of their own faeces as weapons to a large being whose urine has healing properties thanks to drinking the water on the ship. Add in sentient trees, a tower protected by storms and air that can translate languages as well as be breathable to creatures from all kinds of atmospheres and you sense Palmer's imagination knows no bounds.

If there is an aspect that lets the book down it is in the execution. There is a segment late on where Jak chronicles the civilisations he finds destroyed, which slows the pace down quite significantly. Thanks to the pace of the story being so high generally, this is quite noticeable and a bit of a distraction. Palmer's imagination may have free rein, but he's not always adept at bringing these characters to life. Many of the characters here are difficult to picture, as we only get aspects of their physiology, rather than a clear picture.

I also felt that the ending disappointed. The build up was so exciting and detailed that the end felt a little rushed by comparison, as if Palmer had reached the limit of what he could do with his ideas and had to conclude. It was an effective ending, but it felt a little weak by comparison. But these minor things aside, it's still a decent read. But whilst Palmer's imagination sustains him in the way it has thus far, he'll remain readable and enjoyable.

This review may also appear, in whole or in part, under my name at any or all of www.ciao.co.uk, www.thebookbag.co.uk, www.goodreads.com, www.amazon.co.uk and www.dooyoo.co.uk
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on 21 July 2014
This is the second of Mr Palmer's novels that I've read and I loved it even more than Version 43. I was rooting for the slaves on the Hellship all through, they are all well-written and deftly created characters you care about. I love the creativeness and imagination and inventiveness that's gone into this novel. Can't wait to read more of his books now.
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on 24 August 2012
This book was fantastic. Some of the ideas and events in this book really made me stop and think. I have never encountered science-fiction on this scale before.

This book is a mix of enjoyable pulp sci-fi and epic space opera.

I sympathized with all the protagonists and even a little with the antagonists by the end.

I have read some great books this year, but this one ranks alongside Ready Player One for the way it engaged me.

Very good.
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on 19 July 2011
Philip Palmer is new to me but he comes highly recommended so I had high expectations. Hell ship lived up to my expectations for the most part.

A mysterious vessel travels the universes and destroys all life in them. One survivor from each race is taken to the observation deck to watch their world destroyed before being made a slave forever. The slaves live in an artificial world inside the ship. This is the story of Sharrock who just saw his home world explode. He swears vengeance like all the survivors. Trouble is that Sai-Sai the ruler among the slaves is all for happiness and live the day. So she tries to convert him to acceptance and her way of life. Their struggles are the heart in the story. This is where Palmer does a good job of characterization.

The third point of view character is Jak an Explorer and former trader. He sees the ship from outside as he strives to destroy it. The social life of Jak and his fellow aliens are amusing and might hold a few pointers for real life.

You know characters are important to me so another part that I liked was the flashbacks into the pasts of the main characters which made them make sense. Sai-Sai's makes one of those inner journeys that are at the center of good tales. Jak does too but to a lesser extent. For him it is more about equality.

The hard sciences are not important here. Palmer writes about the characters and the story they create. He does a great job at it. This makes it so sad in the end when he jumps over major resolutions in bylines and implications. The whole book was well written up until the ending and would have been five out of five if it wasn't for a rushed ending.

Bottom line I liked Hell Ship. It was an engaging read about aliens, clashing cultures, secrets revealed and the fight for freedom. But it has, in my opinion, a weak ending, though not a catastrophic one. Hell Ship has a lot of things going for it so I would recommend you to read it but don't expect too much.
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on 6 July 2012
I read this because I had enjoyed Debatable Space, but I didn't like Hell Ship at all.

The writing style is bombastic and reminds me of the sort of trashy swords & sorcery books that went on to star Arnold Schwarzenegger in the film versions. I'm prepared to believe this is deliberate and was meant to be fun and retro, but I found it too offputting and I didn't enjoy it.
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