Friday Review: Hellhole: Awakening by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

Hellhole Awakening (Hellhole, #2)Hellhole Awakening by Brian Herbert

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I did not read the first book in the series. I got this one in a contest, and decided to give it a try and if I needed to read the first, I could always shelve this until I did. As it turned out, I don’t think it is necessary to read the first before this one. Sure, some of the nuance may have been lost, but most of what I needed to know was recapped as the story went along.

As this second book opens, Tiber Adolphus is gathering his Deep Zone allies and preparing for the coming assault from the Constellation. Adolphus and his rebels broke from the Constellation and have established their own Deep Zone alliance. The Constellation is sending a huge fleet, commanded by Escobar Hallholme, the son of the man who defeated Adolphus in the first book. The Deep Zone rebels have their own fleet, and the help of the native aliens on Hellhole, most of whom are preserved as consciousnesses in the slickwater pools on the planet. If a human chooses to enter the pools, a Xayan consciousness will meld with the human in a symbiotic relationship. There are also a few of the original Xayans still alive. The Xayans possess telemancy, which is a bit like telekinesis blended with telepathy. Sort of. The plan is to use the telemancy to assist in the defeat of the Constellation armada. But as things come to the final confrontation, a new, separate threat arrives which changes the plans of both the rebels on Hellhole, and the Xayan natives. And sets up book three.

Overall, it was not a bad story. It dragged a bit in spots, and seemed a bit wordy and long-winded through the middle. The space-faring worlds are typical for the most part. The stringlines which link the planets and proved the “highways” for the ships to travel are an interesting twist on space travel. Characters are a bit typical. Adolphus is the honorable Robin Hood, leading his followers against the oppressive Constellation government. His second and lover, Sophie, is strong and competent, but still has an emotional side. The Diadem, leader of the Constellation, is scheming and politically savvy, despite her age. And her underlords are scheming and ambitious. There isn’t one that stands out as really different, but all are interesting in their own way. The plot is full of intrigue, political maneuvering, and a fair bit of action.

The story is part space opera, part political thriller, and part alien contact story. It’s not terrible, if a bit slow in spots. I haven’t read a straight science fiction story in a while, and this was a decent re-entry to that part of the genre.

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