Hellhole by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson is good old-fashioned science fiction. It has many of the familiar sci-fi tropes: FTL, an evil empire, a spoiled and out of touch nobility, wild frontier planets with disgruntled colonists, weird, serene aliens with impressive mental powers, and a secret plan to win independence. If you are into cutting edge “SF” you might consider this book “predictable” but it’s the writing and the details that make it worth reading.
A defeated General Adolphus is exiled to a “Deep Zone” planet with environmental conditions so bad it has been nicknamed “Hellhole”. The interstellar government, called The Constellation, controls the “stringline” system, an even faster FTL, which depends on a natural substance called iperion, of which there is only one known source. But another source is discovered on one of the Deep Zone worlds and about a dozen Deep Zone leaders, led by General Adolphus secretly plan to build their own stringline system and declare independence from the Constellation. Meanwhile, a few survivors of Hellhole’s original civilization are discovered and re-awakened. Complicating matters even more, there are political plots, murders, betrayals, and an illicit romance.
I wish I was better at writing reviews because Hellhole is much better than I’m making it sound. It’s a fast moving story that’s more about people, politics and adventure than it is about science. If that’s your sort of thing, as it is mine, I’m sure you’ll love it.
Hellhole is the first in a trilogy and the story does not conclude in this book so you might as well go ahead and buy all three. I highly recommend it.