Title: Hell Holes: What Lurks Below
Author: Donald Firesmith
Genre: Apocalyptic Scifi / Horror
It’s August in Alaska, and geology professor Jack Oswald prepares for the new school year. But when hundreds of huge holes mysteriously appear overnight in the frozen tundra north of the Arctic Circle, Jack receives an unexpected phone call. An oil company exec hires Jack to investigate, and he picks his climatologist wife and two of their graduate students as his team. Uncharacteristically, Jack also lets Aileen O’Shannon, a bewitchingly beautiful young photojournalist, talk him into coming along as their photographer. When they arrive in the remote oil town of Deadhorse, the exec and a biologist to protect them from wild animals join the team. Their task: to assess the risk of more holes opening under the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and the wells and pipelines that feed it. But they discover a far worse danger lurks below. When it emerges, it threatens to shatter Jack’s unshakable faith in science. And destroy us all…
Dr. Jack Oswald is a geologist at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. Just before classes are ready to begin for the semester, Jack receives an urgent call from Kevin Kowalski who works for ExxonMobil drilling oil. There have been a series of mysterious holes opening up around the drilling fields that are affecting operations. The holes are deep and perfectly cylindrical and just plain strange. Jack has been hired to investigate; he assembles his team consisting of his wife, Dr. Angela Menendez, a climatologist, two of his grad students Mark and Jill Starr, a wildlife biologist Bill Henderson and is cajoled into taking along AIleen O'Shannon, a photojournalist. When the team arrives in Deadhorse, they immediately get to work exploring the holes. However, upon closer examination of the holes, no explanation for the holes can be found. Then, disaster strikes and all hell is literally unleashed. Now, the research team turns instead to survival and perhaps sending the demons back to where they belong.
This was a fast-paced and short read that managed to combine climate science and supernatural horror in an effective way. The book is written from Jack's point of view as a memoir of a survivor the attacks. The first part of the story is a bit of an info dump as Jack's explains what he does, describes the fieldwork and his team's hypotheses about the holes. As a scientist myself, I enjoyed reading about permafrost and pingos and liked that climate science is featured in a book. The story quickly picks up as hell breaks out on Earth. One character has a large surprise up their sleeve that may help the team out of the mess if they can accept their new reality. The different demons were all very interesting and I wish Bill could have continued his post mortem of the Hellhound. Since this is a memoir of events, there is not much characterization, but more focus on events. The story ends on quite a cliffhanger and with a sneak peek of book two at the end, I will definitely want to read on.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
A computer geek by day, Donald Firesmith works as a system and software engineer helping the US Government acquire large, complex software-intensive systems. In this guise, he has authored seven technical books, written numerous software- and system-related articles and papers, and spoken at more conferences than he can possibly remember. He is also proud to have been named a Distinguished Engineer by the Association of Computing Machinery, although his pride is tempered somewhat worrying whether the term “distinguished” makes him sound more like a graybeard academic rather than an active engineer whose beard is still more red than gray.
By night and on weekends, his alter ego writes modern paranormal fantasy, apocalyptic science fiction, action and adventure novels and relaxes by handcrafting magic wands from various magical woods and mystical gemstones. His first foray into fiction is the book Magical Wands: A Cornucopia of Wand Lore written under the pen name Wolfrick Ignatius Feuerschmied. He lives in Crafton, Pennsylvania with his wife Becky and his youngest son Dane.