“Hell Holes: What Lurks Below” by Donald Firesmith

This will be a short review, because this is a short book. Just longer than novella length, at about 100 pages in the dead-tree edition. In my opinion, Amazon doesn’t give you enough information in this respect. eBook buyers beware.

This book is a bit of a surprise in other ways. It starts out like any other action-adventure in which the scientific community is confronted by a could-be-real danger. In this case huge, symmetrical holes appear in the Arctic permafrost, threatening oil production and more. A team of scientists is assembled, their equipment is loaded, and off they go to face the unknown.

Except in this case (too early in the book to make this a spoiler) “What Lurks Below” is soon revealed to be paranormal, and from that point the weirdy stuff takes off in full howl. Our heroes find themselves belting it across the tundra, chased by all sorts of demons from Hell. Will they make it in time to Fairbanks and safety? Well, that would be a real spoiler, but I will give you a hint; this is a very short book, and obviously part of a series.

Literus interuptus aside, this novel compares favourably with others of its type. It is well edited and tightly written for the most part, with highly detailed action sequences, great suspense, and the mildly stereotyped characters expected of the genre.

However, there are certain flaws that keep this book off the top of the list. Writing style in this genre tends to be terse rather than verbose. Lines like, “Unfortunately, as much as I hate to admit it, I’m beginning to think that it would be best if she came along,” could use some tidying up. In spite of careful adhesion to scientific accuracy, a tendency to lean on coincidence to drive the plot also weakens the appeal of the story. Oh, yes, and a mathematical inaccuracy that leaves us unsure of whether one character’s age should be measured in centuries or millennia.

Still and all, a decent beginning to a story. Recommended for fans of action/adventure of the paranormal variety who are willing to invest in a series.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)


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