Hell Holes 2: “Demons on the Dalton” by Donald Firesmith

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.

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

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