Monday, November 10, 2014


Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson
Tor, 2011 (my hardcover copy is a first edition)
Size: Long (my hardcover copy has 532 pages)
Theme: Space Opera
Narrative: third-person
Main character: General Tiber Adolphus
Recommended minimum age: Teenager
Would purchase as a gift to any sci-fi reader: YES

Hellhole is an epic space opera taking place in a universe where humans travel between many colonized planets, using technology that exceeds faster-than-light travel. In this Constellation society, the government is centralized around a cluster of planets, the Crown Jewels, which dominate over a larger group of distant planets on the outskirts of the galaxy, the Deep Zone. For years, the Deep Zone planets have been paying tribute to the ruler of the Constellation, currently Diadem Michella Duchenet.

On one of the Deep Zone planets we find General Adolphus, exiled after his failed attempt at overthrowing the corrupt government of the Constellation and deposing the Diadem. We find Adolphus confined to the blasted planet Hallholme, where the ruined remains of an alien civilization spark only some curiosity, and where convicts, loners and misfits travel in order to disappear or to start a brand new life. However, Adolphus has not given up on his goal of saving the Constellation, and spectacular events unfolding at Hallholme might play a huge role in the future of the human race. And significant changes are at hand, as the Deep Zone planets reconsider their role in the Constellation…

This novel has a nice plot and the story unfolds in a fast yet comfortable pace, through multiple interweaving storylines. There are several concepts reminiscent of Dune, with an apparently worthless and desolated planet becoming a pivotal point in the universe. The characters are a little bit stereotyped but the major ones are still adequately explored. I felt that the interstellar travelling technology, being so exceptional, merited some attempt at an explanation or at least a better description. However, I know that getting into details is a gamble, and in fact Frank Herbert has shown us the power of leaving some mystery behind such aspects.

In my opinion, this novel is not at the same level as Hamilton’s Confederation or Commonwealth storylines, and is far from the complexity and layered narrative of Frank Herbert’s Dune, but it is still rather interesting and intriguing for space opera fans. It follows the style that Brian and Anderson already employed in their Dune “midquels” and “prequels”. Overall, I much enjoyed reading the book, which left me craving for the sequel. Luckily, since I already had books 2 and 3 when reading the first one, this is not an issue!

Related work:
Hellhole is the first novel in a trilogy; the story continues in Hellhole Awakening and concludes in Hellhole Inferno.

*** Spoiler Alert ***
(Warning: the following text contains information that may hamper/ruin how much you enjoy the book):

Since his exile, General Adolphus has continued his plans to overthrow the Diadem. He has setup a new stringline network to allow travel between Deep Zone planets, which will certainly lead to war with the Constellation, since this would break up the power monopoly currently held by the centralized government. At Hallholme, the alien civilization is revived, and both original aliens and human-alien hybrids join forces with the rebels after the Diadem murders an envoy that had been sent to negotiate peace. The Diadem’s own daughter becomes a hybrid with an alien conscience. The book ends with the army of the Constellation been prepped for attacking Hallholme within days.

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