This book was difficult to read because it was just so boring to read. There are no direct confrontations, except in the prologue and even in that the confrontation isn’t that flash. None of the antagonists face each other directly and while I can understand that this is the first novel in a trilogy there is nothing compelling enough to pull readers through to the second or third novel.
There are several problems with the novel, which I’ll go through below…
The planet was a hellhole? Really? It just didn’t come across that way in the text. A couple of “killer” storms blew through doing absolutely no damage and even when they were inbound, there wasn’t any sense of danger to the main characters or to anyone. The planet’s ecosystem is supposed to be resilient and resist foreign plants, etc. but there is no follow through on this. No one ever mentions how hungry they are or wonders where their next meal is going to come from. General Adolphus (a horrible name for a protagonist) and his merry men may as well have been exiled to Planet Bland.
Characters were weakly drawn clones of each other. One character, Antonia Anqui arrives on the planet fleeing from an abusive relationship using an alias and her new “boyfriend’s” mother doesn’t question her past or where she is from. In fact, the galaxy’s worst criminals are supposed to be sent to the planet as punishment but none of the characters on the planet come across as being a hardened criminal and no one is worried about their safety or concerned about the nature of their neighbours. “There are just so many gosh-darn good people here”. Again, Planet Bland.
I honestly couldn’t have cared less about any of the characters and if the Diadem (head baddy) were to have thrown any of them into a blender I wouldn’t have been worried, there was another clone on the next page.
The writing was horrible and felt amateurish with many things told and not shown and didn’t engage me at all. I carried on reading just because I wanted to finish the novel and not because I cared about what was going to happen.
Then there are the plotholes. One guy dies after he falls into the Slickwaer Lake and yet no one else who jumped in suffered the same fate, they were all allowed to get out and are levitated out by the powerful aliens in the soup. As to the Slickwater… where is Agent Mulder when you need him? Again, with a planet filled with murderers and rapists (other than just the rebels exiled to Planet Bland) one would think the general populace would be a little more concerned with their safety and yet NO ONE is paranoid that the aliens might be lying to them about the motives. Really fast travel between planets requires stringliner terminals in the planet orbits. Adolphus has someone connect a new stringline to another planet toward the end of the novel to Hellhole (these stringlines are only allowed to come from Coruscant, I mean Sonjeera) and the opposition (the baddies) deliver a shipment of military ships to the planet after the terminal has been installed and the military commander doesn’t wonder “Gee, I wonder where that other terminal comes from?”
Loved ones die and people get raped (not that you’re made to care for anyone) but the only follow through is “oh well, shit happens” and they move on. The rape victim throws herself into the slickwater, gets possessed and comes out five minutes after the rape just fine.
A person is murdered and there’s whole speech about how Adolphus must be better than the corrupt Diadem and that there needs to be a proper investigation… an investigation which lasted a whole 50 words more with the perpetrator not being worried at all that the ruling might not go his way. Hell, I suppose he is on Hellhole, where else can they send him?
None of the characters act like real people and can forgive some things in a blink. Oh I think you manipulated my dad into killing himself and ruining my family but hey you threw yourself into the slickwater so you must feel really bad about it. Let me come back and read all of your love letters and forgive you. Completely unrealistic.
I used to really enjoy Kevin J Anderson but it seems as though his writing has only gone one way. I won’t be back. Hellhole, Hellhole 2 and Hellhole 3 can go to hell.