|4.4 Stars||17 Reviews|
5 Star Reviews
Official Review: Hell Holes 2 by Donald Firesmith (4 out of 4 Stars – Excellent*)
By Lane Vespertine on October 27, 2016 (Original Online Book Club Review)
* Because the Online Book Club rating system only goes up to 4 stars (described as either “Excellent” or “Amazing!”), I have lumped this review in with the standard 5 star reviews.
Hell Holes 2 is the action horror sequel to Hell Holes, written by Donald Firesmith. It is the continuation of an event first described in Hell Holes, namely that holes have opened in Northern Alaska and demons are coming out of them. In the first book, the perspective is of Dr. Jack Oswald. But in Hell Holes 2, we now follow the words and reactions of his wife and fellow scientist, Dr. Angela Menendez. The format with which these narratives are presented is via the “I Remember Project,” which details the first-hand experiences of those involved with the demon invasion through their own words long after the events have concluded.
If you are interested in going back to the first Hell Holes and starting from the beginning, please skip ahead past the next two paragraphs because they will give a general summary of the plot of the second in the series and include spoilers of the first. Still here? Good. Dr. Menendez begins by giving an account of how she, her husband, a photojournalist named Aileen O’Shannon, and four others made a trek to a mysterious hole that opened on the North Slope. She continues to say that demons came out of the hole and killed four of her party, leaving just her, her husband, and O’Shannon.
After many close calls, the story now picks up with the three of them driving south to keep ahead of the demon invasion. O’Shannon, far from being a photojournalist, is actually a “guardian,” part of a secretive group called the Tutores Contra Infernum who have tasked themselves with fighting demons throughout history whenever they appear. These demons are classed into two groups, lower and higher. The lower demons are venomous animals and include hellhounds (much bigger than a wolf) and gargoyles. The higher demons are more anthropomorphic and intelligent and include imps (small and moderately intelligent) and devils (adult human sized and devilishly clever.) The two academics and the guardian, who can use what many would call magic, encounter problems and roadblocks because of these demons along their way south on the Dalton Highway.
I did not read the first book, Hell Holes, before reading its sequel. Although I had no problems figuring out who the characters were and what had happened before, I would still recommend that any reader interested should begin at the beginning. If I had known how much fun I was going to have reading Hell Holes 2, I would have started with the first one. Unfortunately, since I know what happened in the second, and I doubt it would be as thrilling as it should be.
The only detail of the book that simply didn’t work for me was the structure of the “I Remember Project.” It is very reminiscent of the book World War Z, where it did work. Here, however, since the whole of the novel is the perspective of one woman, it seems superfluous. I do not feel there is a need to explain why the perspective from the first book changed, let alone attaching that shift to a larger “Project.” In short, it is unnecessary and unmemorable. I had forgotten its existence entirely until reviewing my notes for this review.
I was genuinely surprised how engaged I was with this story. I expected it to be a bit of fun and maybe an easy way to kill and afternoon. It was both, but also had a professionalism and maturity that, for me, took it to the next level.
A small detail in Hell Holes 2 endeared me to it. Two of the main characters are married academic doctors (as in, Ph.D.) There is no point in this novel where the male character is referred to as “Dr.” and the female character is called anything other than “Dr.” It is pet peeve of mine in books and television (and life) that women who have earned a title are usually called by their first name when their title is relevant. This detail should not, on its own, be reason for applause. But by avoiding an example of common and subtle gender related discrimination, Hell Holes 2 gives full professional respect to the women in the story, and that is awesome.
Hell Holes 2 has a lot of silly elements; magic and demons mostly. But that fact doesn’t stop Firesmith from both having a great name and writing this story very well. The characters are relatable, the pace is driving, and the editing is almost perfect. Crazy events happen non-stop throughout Hell Holes 2, but I never felt confused or unclear about exactly where everyone was or what they were doing. For this feat, I congratulate the author and rate this book 4 out of 4 stars.
Another Great Book in the Series (5 Stars)
By Amazon Customer on October 9, 2016 (Original Amazon Review)
Another great book in the series. Extremely action packed but still feels very real. I enjoyed getting to know a little more about the characters. I also very much enjoyed the military aspect of the book; it added a realness to the book I quite enjoyed. Can’t wait for book three.
Can’t Wait for the Next Volume!! (5 Stars)
By Amazon Customer on August 11, 2016 (Original Amazon Review)
I really enjoyed reading this book on the heals of the first volume. This one takes the story further and develops characters more fully as they move through even greater challenges. Both were great fun and this volume improves upon the first. One thing I really enjoy is how easy it is to imagine the scenes the book describes. One can almost watch the movie in their heads as they read. Really super job!
Great 2nd Book of Hell Holes (5 Stars)
By Gina and Patrick Costin on July 22, 2016 (Original Amazon Review)
Dr. Jack Oswald tells of the first four days of their expedition to The North Slope, Alaska. Sent there to research the strange sink holes cropping up all over Alaska Dr. Jack Oswald tells of the events leading up to the expedition and once there the things that he and his team witnessed and endured at the location and continues until the team barely escapes from the Trans-Alaska Pipeline’s Pump Station 2. You will find this horrifyingly emotional tale in Book 1, Hell Holes: What Lurks Below.
This is book 2 of Hell Holes and is given the title Demons on the Dalton, by Dr. Jack Oswald’s wife, Dr. Angela Menendez. She continues from where Jack left off. The moment they escaped Pump Station 2 and started out on their harrowing 350 mile trek along the Dalton Highway heading to Fairbanks.
This book is full of fast-paced action, as well as emotional turmoil and a few times I found myself clutching my computer desk, unable to stop reading because I was so anxious about what would happen next.
There were definitely some surprises I didn’t expect, that the book would have been fine without, but added another layer of amped up adrenaline, which made it even more realistic.
I myself have never been a fan of sci-fi but after reading these two books by Donald Firesmith I am looking forward to checking out some more sci-fi books, and hopefully he will continue on with a third book of this series.
Hell Holes – Demons on the Dalton (5 Stars)
By R. P. Smith on April 29, 2016 (Original Amazon Review)
This novel follows on from the first novel, Hell Holes – What Lurks Below and is, again, written in journal form but this time by Dr. Angela Menendez, the wife of the author of the first journal. She follows on more-or-less where the last account ended, and it’s amazing that a book written by the same author (Donald Firesmith) can fool one into thinking that it’s written by a completely different person. Such is the strength of the writing that the new “author” (Dr. Menendez) shines through and her personality & writing style is quite different to that of the other journal’s surrogate author, her fictional husband.
Again, the novel is rapid-fire action, all the way and I really can’t wait for the next instalment.
Demons on the Dalton: A Fast-Paced, Will-They-Make-It Thriller (5 Stars)
By Heidi A. Price on May 7, 2016 (Original Amazon Review)
I have to admit that this isn’t my usual genre, but I was captivated from pretty much the first page. Demons on the Dalton is a fast-paced, will-they-make-it triller that also takes small detours into details that give you an even stronger relationship with the characters that Firesmith introduced us to in Hell Holes: What Lurks Below. Firesmith knows his Alaskan terrain, and that reflects in his writing, which leaves his readers with a sense of the majesty and desolation of northern Alaska.
This book is about demons and fantastical creatures to be sure, but it is also explores themes of beauty, kindness, protecting our ecosystem, and the strength of long-time love.
More Excitement in Alaska (5 Stars)
By firstname.lastname@example.org on May 24, 2016 (Original Amazon Review)
The second book of Donald Firesmith’s Hell Hole series, Demons on the Dalton, is just as riveting if not more so than the first one.
The continuing saga of the plight and flight of the scientists and their Curatrix will keep you totally enthralled. The mix of fantasy and science is perfect to make the story believable. If you like fantasy, science, and a good thriller, this is the book for you.
I can’t wait to see the continuation of the story.
Great Pace (5 Stars)
By MerriSki on May 31, 2016 (Original Amazon Review)
Great follow on to the first book. The story moves at a fast pace and definitely holds your interest. It is suspenseful, and I find myself caring more and more about the characters and rooting for them to win. I can’t wait for the third book to find out what is inside a hell hole!
Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire (5 Stars)
By Brian’s Book Blog on May 4, 2016 (Original Amazon Review)
Join the team after they have survived the attacks that the “hell holes” have brought upon the oil fields of Alaska. Follow along as they try to escape with their lives, but they will soon find out that they are out of the frying pan and into the fire.
First things first, take a look at that awesome cover. Really gives the reader a feeling that they are going to be going for a ride when they pick this book out.
In “crossover” books like this (it’s fantasy and real-world), it’s easy to get caught up in the details. Trying to explain why someone has magical powers or where a character came from can really bog down a good story. Firesmith is able to skip these mundane details but still write a story that feels full and detail oriented. I love the fact that I don’t normally like books with fantasy elements in them, but the Hell Holes series has allowed me to enjoy a sprinkle of fantasy with my thrillers.
The fantasy elements (in case you’re curious) involve different demons: gargoyles, imps, and hell hounds. Along with a witch or curatrix as she is called in these books. There is also a secret society of people who have been keeping these demons at bay for centuries. Now, sprinkle these elements in with an extremely well thought out thriller and I’m intrigued.
Overall, Hell Holes: Demons on the Dalton was a wonderfully written book that had my heart pounding from beginning to end. A thriller through and through.
The length was really nice for me too. Sometimes I enjoy reading a novella or a shorter novel. Especially when you pack as much into them as Firesmith has with Demons on the Dalton.
I was given an early copy of this novel in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion.
Hell Day Plus One (5 Stars)
By Pavel H. on May 4, 2016 (Original Amazon Review)
The book describes Hell Day Plus One, an escape from the Alaska North Slope and continuing south on the Dalton Highway. You will probably read this book in one breath, once you started the previous Hell Holes: What Lurks Below. Especially, if you like books with solid scientific underpinnings in Michael Crichton’s style with a touch of J.K. Rowling’s magic.
4 Star Reviews
A nice continuation (4 Stars)
By Amanda Kaye on January 20, 2017 (Original Amazon Review)
First off let me say this is the second in a series and that you will want to read book one first. That being said don’t read any farther unless you want to see spoilers. In book one a team went to discover why hundreds of holes opened in the ground near an Alaskan pipeline. What they found was terrifying, demons from a version of “hell”. And we found out that Aileen, the photographer that was brought along, was not a normal person. Only 3 survived that encounter, 2 scientists (the married couple of Angela and Jack) and Aileen. Aileen is from an ancient order that is protecting humans. In this book the 3 are trying to run from the demon army and Aileen is doing her best to keep them alive, but how long will she be successful? Not to give too much away but in this book we see the US military flex its muscles as well as some other things happening.
This was an interesting continuation to the series and I enjoyed it just as much as the first one. Although in my opinion there could have been some fighting between Angela and Jack because they seem too nice to each other. Adding in the children seems to add in a newer sense of urgency than before. You can actually picture the demons in your head from the descriptions.
There was enough nail biting and plenty of surprises to keep me wholly satisfied as I read (4 Stars)
By Angela Kay on January 18, 2017 (Original Amazon Review)
Hell Holes: Demons on the Dalton is volume two of What Lurks Below. It’s another action/adventure written by Donald Firesmith. This time, we’re in Dr. Angela Menendez’s (Dr. Jack Oswald’s wife) point of view. She picks up where we left off in volume one. Oswald and his team are desperately trying to escape the demons that are set on pursuing them.
The character development was a bit lacking. There were not a whole lot of conflict as I’d imagined there would be. After all, stress and fear make even the nicest person a tiny bit snippy, and I saw none of that in the story. However, I was eager enough to see what would happen next to not worry about the lack of character conflicts. There was enough nail biting and plenty of surprises to keep me wholly satisfied as I read. The ending was left as though a continuation could come into play. Or possibly it’s left for our imagination to work out. We’ll see what Firesmith has in store for us next.
Another Winner in the Hell Holes Series (4 Stars)
By Dave Robertson on August 31, 2016 (Original Amazon Review)
Hell Holes: Demons on the Dalton is another action-packed battle/race with demons that were introduced in the first book. Like the first book, the story moves pretty steadily with liberal amounts of action and suspense. In this second installment, the US military gets involved and we’re put right into the middle of a war. There are some other new elements in book 2, but I won’t spoil it for those who have yet to read it. If you like action/adventure, this book will not disappoint you. I’m looking forward to book 3.
Dave Robertson, Author of Strange Hunting, Strange Hunting II, and The Brave and The Dead
I Certainly Enjoyed the Ride (4 Stars)
By Caitlin Halvorson on May 15, 2016 (Original Amazon Review)
I am a coworker at Coldfoot Camp and we received copies of both Hell Holes books for our review. Many thanks to the author for this considerate gesture. Though I can’t speak for the rest of camp (I’m not sure who else here has had time to read it) I will say that, after reading both books today, I certainly enjoyed the ride. The pace was fast, the action near constant, and the descriptions of the demons and their invasion appropriately grotesque. Despite occasional inaccuracies, the setting was researched well and the descriptions of the far north do well to convey the vast, beautiful, and bleak nature of the area. There are some aspects of the characters I would have enjoyed seeing developed more, and some more editing work would have been useful; still, this was an fun read and I am looking forward to the next installment.
[Author’s note: The book has gone through a second round of editing since this review was written.]
3 Star Reviews
Packed with action and written very lively so the reader can get involved in the story easily (3 Stars)
By Kerstin Vollbrecht on March 17, 2017 (Original Amazon Review)
This is the second book of the series Hell Holes, but as it starts with a resume of the previous events, it could perfectly stand on it’s own.
In this story, the author describes the adventure of Dr. Oswald and his wife, Dr. Menéndez, a geologist and a climatologist, that were investigating the mysterious appearance of holes along the Alaskan Oil Pipeline, having to flee and to fight against devils and demons. They are joined by Aileen O’Shannon, a curatrix of an ancient order dedicated to that purpose, who occupies her magic against those demons and devils they encounter during their journey to the military headquarters where she is joined by the rest of the order.
The story is entertaining, packed with action and written very lively so the reader can get involved in the story easily. There are many repetitions of the geological facts and of the happenings since the demons emerged from the hell holes, that could be shorter. All in all, it’s an entertaining read that is hard to put away.
Sequel (3 Stars)
By Richard Lang on November 5, 2016 (Original Amazon Review)
In this sequel to Hell Holes, What Lurks Below, Firesmith writes about the continuing war against the demons. Oswald, Martinez and Aileen O’Shannon drive out on the Dalton Highway in an effort to escape the pursuing demons. Along the way, they pick up two small children whose father was killed. They narrowly escape a forest fire and are rescued by the Army and flown to Eielson Air Force Base. At a high-level meeting at the base, a plan to attack the demons is formulated. The plan is to go into the hell holes and find the demons portal and attack them in hell. The ending seems to indicate there may be a third book in this series.
Realistic Action, Unrealistic Relationships
By Gordon A. Long on June 12, 2016 (Original Amazon Review)
In Episode 2 of the “Hell Holes” serial, Angela Mendez and Jack Oswald continue their mad flight up the North Slope of Alaska, a horde of demonic creatures at their backs. As they trundle their increasingly beat-up 4 X 4 through a carefully researched and realistically portrayed landscape, they are subjected to a never-ending series of attacks. But physical danger is only a part of the conflict of a book.
The problem with serials is often character conflict, or the lack of it. One key element to good writing that keeps us connected is the development of relationships (and conflicts) between characters. It is difficult to keep this sort of thing going over long periods of time, such as over several excerpts in a serial.
This is the problem with the Dalton story. The husband-and-wife team of Dr. Angela Mendez and Jack Oswald are very together in all respects. Rarely even a cross word passes between them, no matter how tight the situation.
So in spite of the horrendous enemy and the non-stop action, this book has an action-comic feel to it. Stripped to basic characters, a terrible enemy, and a chase to safety, it roars through the tundra and over the Brooks Range, mace-carrying imps on the backs of flying gargoyles dogging every move our heroes make. The women can’t even stop for a bathroom break without risking a clawing. The description of their drive through the demon-laced forest fire is true genius.
So it’s all sorts of frightening fun, but it doesn’t go much farther than that. The only new sympathy we gain is due to the insertion of two small children who must be protected by our heroes. This works in a limited way because it raises the stakes. But the best suspense in the whole story is the teaser for the next issue, which promises an even more dangerous and horrifying task. Hopefully Mr. Firesmith will see fit to add some interpersonal conflict as well to his next offering.
Recommended for fans of paranormal action/adventure, with emphasis on the action.
[Author’s note: The ending has been updated with one such conflict. In addition, a surprise on the demon home world will lead to a major interpersonal conflict in Hell Holes 3: To Hell and Back.]
2 Star Reviews
1 Star Reviews
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