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BOOK REVIEW: Hellhole by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

REVIEW SUMMARY: Space Opera for fans of Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert’s Dune prequels, introducing a new universe with creatively inventive worlds, aliens, intergalactic travel, and an epic war to come.

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A failed revolution against the tyrannical Constellation government places exiled leader, General Adolphus on a planet at the outer reaches of a new frontier, where geological instability has earned it the name, Hellhole.  General Adolphus proves more resilient than the Constellation’s Diadem presupposed, and with the help of a new alien species, prepares to free the galaxy from its tyrannical government.


PROS: Symbiotic nature of alien life creates interesting relationship with humans; sympathetic characters invest readers in epic war to come.
CONS: Telegraphed plot lacks surprises needed to exhilarate reader, including cliffhanger ending.
BOTTOM LINE: Nostalgic readers of Dune prequels will enjoy similar story telling style in Hellhole, but will be disappointed by a cliffhanger ending predicted hundreds of pages before.

Hellhole begins with an emotional conclusion to the revolution against the tyrannical Constellation government, which serves to create strong empathy for the main character, General Adolphus, and a starting point for the moral dilemma of sacrificing innocents as a means to an end.  What follows sets General Adolphus up as a leader on an outcast planet, Hellhole, and his discovery of ways to free a cast of sympathetic characters from various forms of oppression. The chaotic environment on Hellhole entertains while developing characters like his love interest, her daughter, and a heroic love interest for her.

The character setup in Hellhole is reminiscent of the Dune prequels. The bad guys draw your interest through their vile acts in layered plots to unseat bad guys who did the same and are not hesitant to up the ante to stay in control. The good guys are endearing in their against-the-odds pursuit of freedom, adventure, and love.  While the experience of bad guys committing vile acts and good guys falling in love is enjoyable, the realization that only minor events will take place in this book slowed the read. This left the ending flat because you knew for hundreds of pages that Hellhole was just an introduction to the war. Given the build up, the sequel should be an awesome display of spaceships versus telemantic aliens, but readers may want to wait for the sequel for a one-two punch.

The discovery of alien life opens up a new dynamic that parallels the struggle friends and family have when someone close chooses a different religion.  This doesn’t come off as preachy because the new lifestyle isn’t a recognizable Earth religion, it’s a symbiotic relationship with aliens. The further development of this parallel is one of the more appealing aspects to this series.  Another appealing aspect to the aliens Hellhole introduces is their telemantic powers, and goal of spiritual ascension. Their powers present an excitingly viable defense for General Adolphus and his goal of separating from the Constellation government. The most entertaining parts of this novel were experiencing displays of their powers, and knowing that they were just the tip of the iceberg for the battle to come. Their unified goal of ascension, and what will happen to the humans who have joined them, creates one of the few mysteries about what direction this series will take.

While Hellhole introduces empathetic characters and sets up an epic war, the lack of surprises and telegraphed promises that nothing major would happen until the sequel, Hellhole: Awakening, made this easy to put down, and felt like an uncomfortably long introduction.

About Timothy C. Ward (29 Articles)
Timothy C. Ward grew up on DragonLance, Stephen King, and Dune. Read how he blends these influences in his serialized epic, Scavenger: Evolution, where sand divers uncover death and evolution within America's buried fortresses. His books are available in ebook and signed paperback at

7 Comments on BOOK REVIEW: Hellhole by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

  1. It is a lot of set up. When I read this, I was in the mood for worldbuilding, and so was kinder to it than you were. Reflecting back, I see value in the points you’ve made.

  2. I am sure if I looked back over the books I claim affection for that there are some that have an easily predictable outcome but I enjoy them just the same. But I don’t believe I’ve ever picked up a book when I’ve been told this is what to expect. Its one thing if you get sucked in but another if you know that not only are you getting this but that you are getting a cliffhanger too. I realize series are not going to tie up all loose ends but I believe any book in a series should at least feel like a complete book and not just where the authors decided to stop so that they could get a second (or more) book out of it.

    • Good point, Carl. I did read a review that said it ended with a cliffhanger, but by that point it was pretty obvious what the point of this book was. I agree in also wanting a book to feel complete.

  3. It was tough to judge because I really enjoy what they’re setting up–not as much as the Dune prequels, but still enjoyable. In the end I couldn’t ignore how I read it with little motivation over the course of a year, having let it sit unfinished for most of that. They could have really blown me away with a greater surprise at the end, but a faster reader knowing the second book is readily available might enjoy themselves more.

  4. It may also be worth noting that Amazon is selling the hardcover right now for $2.81 (free super saving shipping).

  5. Steve Oerkfitz // February 7, 2013 at 5:03 pm //

    Terribly written book. The first couple pages will make most lovers of good writing wince.

  6. Is Kevin Anderson capable of writing a book one his own that is not based on someone else’s IP? He seems like a writer that piggybacks on to the ideas of someone else by writing in their world, or by “collaborating” with them. I’ve never been impressed with any of his books I’ve read. And it’s been awhile since I’ve read one because he’s on my Hacklist.

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