At first I thought “Hell Holes” was going to be a science fiction novella given the cast of main characters are all scientists or researches in the natural sciences. And, admittedly, the first half of the book feels like a true science fiction as the characters explain the science and their reasoning for what the mysterious holes popping up all over Alaska could be or what may be causing them. Then it takes a pretty hard left into pure horror/paranormal action. “Hell Holes” starts off as a quest for answers about these holes and what can be done to keep them from interrupting a lucrative Alaskan oil line, then ends on a high speed chase across the tundra as the scientists are hunted down by all manner of hell-spawn and demons. Was I disappointed by this turn? Not really. But I was taken by surprise.
Given that the first half of the book was rather slow with a lot of telling the reader how alluring the photo-journalist is and how odd the holes are on a scientific level, the action that comes later is a welcome turn of events. You get a lot of tension, a lot of detailed descriptions of how horrific and gross the demons are, and a lot of unapologetic violence as the original cast of characters gets whittled down in rather horrific ways. It’s such a stark contrast from where the book started that, while I enjoyed the suddenly fast paced nature the story took, it could have used a little ramp up. The characters go from hardcore scientists to believers of the supernatural really fast because, well, they have to, and not because of the terrifying creatures hunting them, but because this is a really short novella. This reads like a quick serial more than anything else which is fine because it makes it an easy page turner and something you can knock out pretty easily in a weekend, but it didn’t necessarily HAVE to be this short, either. I’d have loved for the scientists to be a bit more skeptical of the sudden sorceress in their midst and the secret organization that’s been aware/prepping for this invasion for some time. It just needed a slight ramp up so we didn’t go from 0 to 100 in just a few pages.
This is going to be a pretty short review because I don’t want to spoil who survives, or who plays what role in the things that lead the scientists to where the book ends. It does end on a massive cliff-hanger, one that I wasn’t a huge fan of because it was so abrupt and ended before I felt like enough got accomplished or answered. The remaining characters are so far from safety by the time the end comes that I found myself saying: “What? That’s it? We’re ending it there?!” Which definitely makes me 1. Want to read the next book and 2. A tad annoyed that I feel like I HAVE to read it in order to get the full story. The first book in the “Hell Holes” series is more of a teaser book, one to wet your appetite, to explain the situation, and prep you for the ride to come more than anything else, I feel. Which is ok, it means the next book will probably be 100% action and danger rather than the slow, rather info-dumpy sections of science we got in the first installment. Still, I think I would have liked a bit more so this felt like a complete first story, even though it is a novella, which is why I am giving it 3 stars. However, if you like some hard science and then a lot of supernatural horror in a quick, serial format, I say give this book a read! I’m definitely going to be reading the second book very soon as well. And thanks to the author for providing me with a copy for an honest review.
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