Cover Image: Hella


Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

I am a member of the American Library Association Reading List Award Committee. This title was suggested for the 2021 list. It was not nominated for the award. The complete list of winners and shortlisted titles is at <a href="">
Was this review helpful?
DNF @ page 150

I'm just not very interested in Kyle's story so far. :(
I understand why the narrative is SO DETAILED but it makes for tough reading.
If you can hang in there, I bet this really gets going when he meets the people from the starship. I tried to make it, but I feel like I'd rather move on to something else at this point.
Was this review helpful?
***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you DAW and NetGalley!***

I went into this book with a mixture of expectations and unfortunately it didn’t really meet any of them. On the one hand, I would have been happy if this was a B-movie style Creature Feature. But it wasn’t. And on the other hand it comes to me from David Gerrold. I have not read Gerrold before but I know him from being the writer of the “Trouble with Tribbles” episode of Star Trek and writing The Man who Folded Himself. A highly acclaimed writer in the sci-fi landscape and so I would have been happy with a wonderful sci-fi adventure from a practiced hand. Unfortunately it wasn’t that either.

The world was built in a convincing way, even if the descriptions were not that great. I liked hearing about the trees that weren’t really trees, and the creatures so large that they have their own small ecosystem. The settlers on this planet seem to have a structure similar to that of the show Stargate. Half military, half scientific exploration. You have the head of the expedition who is called Captain and there is largely a military like structure to a lot of the colonists activities. And they are there for the express purpose of conducting scientific exploration of their new home to figure out how to exist there with minimal impact on the natural environment. Why then are we naming things “bug-things” or “bat-things.” Our narrator, Kyle, is highly scientifically minded and he tells us that all of these things have scientific names… why are we calling them stupid things? They even have a giant salt flat that is called, no joke, “Oh my God!” because that’s all anyone could think of saying when they discovered it. It was really lame and annoying. I mean, they named the planet Hella because everything is “hella big”. Eye roll.

Kyle was a great character. He has some kind of “syndrome” that they never actually name but many have speculated is supposed to be somewhere on the autism spectrum. He was volatile and aggressive as a young child and so got a chip implanted in his brain to help him suppress his emotions. I loved how Kyle transitioned and changed throughout this book. He starts as a boy who feels that he doesn’t fit in and the only person he can talk to is his brother, Jaime. He relies on Jaime for just about everything. Throughout the events of the book Kyle decides to explore his emotions and build himself a more expansive support system. It was really great character development.

The author also introduced us to some really intriguing concepts in this society that I really wanted to learn more about, the government structure of the colony and the evolution of how society understands sexuality and gender. The government seemed to be a ruling committee that is guided by their Charters in making decisions for the good of the whole colony. I wanted to know what the ramifications would be when one of the committee decided to put themselves over the needs of the colony. Unfortunately we never really spend much time on that.

This is also a society that can change gender at will. Kyle’s brother, Jaime, was born a girl and decided to change. Kyle was also born a girl and decided to change because Jaime did. Later Kyle and his boyfriend have a discussion about whether the boyfriend would prefer Kyle to be a girl and he’d change back. It seemed that most people had changed genders at least once and technology has evolved to a point that the change can fully make you the other gender. Kyle’s mom was a girl, switched to be a boy for awhile, then went back to being a girl so she could experience pregnancy and childbirth. But it just seemed so casual. People are changing out of curiosity, just because, pressure from romantic interests, etc. But we never actually met someone who wanted to change their gender because they wanted to be their authentic self. It was more like choosing a new hair color. I wanted to see some depth to that discussion, but that never comes either.

This book was also way too long. At 448 pages I didn’t expect to be bored. But literally nothing happens for about 260 of those pages. The last half is very action packed. But literally NOTHING happens before then. Nothing. So overall, the whole thing left me feeling underwhelmed.
Was this review helpful?
This book was not for me at this time. I got bogged down in all the descriptions in the beginning and wasn't able to fully engage with the story. Likely, I would have been able to get past that normally, but as the pandemic progresses, I find myself less able to focus on a story that doesn't immediately grab my attention. I do want to try to read this one again at a later time when stress levels have calmed down and my focus is back on track. For now, I will say that if you like luscious descriptive passages in your reading, give this one a try!
Was this review helpful?
Wow. This was definitly out there.

David Gerrold is known for being a science fiction writer. He has been writing for years. He was actually invoked with the Star Trek universe for quite a bit. He wrote in that world. I'm not exactly sure how he was involved but he definitly had a part. He also wrote a novelization of The Planet of the Apes which is super neat! So a big scifi writer and Hella is my first stop.

Hella takes place on a planet where humans have gone to colonize because on Earth, things went horrible so now they they have colonized on Hella and they have been on this planet for a little over 100 years now and they've been learning the ins and outs on how to survive where you have all of this different life that humans have never been in contact with. Everything on Hella is huge. The planet is huge in and of itself. The animals are huge. They're very dinosaur-like. The plants are giant. Even the cycle on the planet is really long as well. A year on Hella is around 800 days so 1 earth year is just a third of a Hella year. It's very interesting. This book is incredibly detailed and you learn so much about this environment.

Now moving onto our main character whose name is Kyle. We follow him throughout the entire story and he's described as Nero. A typical. He's basically on the spectrum and when Kyle was younger, they implanted this chip in his brain so that he can better communicate with his family/friends and people of the colony so that he can be apart of the society. His perspective is interesting because he is so detailed oriented. He's very too the point but struggles with empathy. An exploration scifi with a relateble character made this story easy to love.

If you love scifi and love a good book about colonizing on a new planet, I highly recommend this one.
Was this review helpful?
I was excited given the description, but I couldn't get into it enough to really connect with the material. The narrative had a different approach that was very impactful. The world building is spot on and gave me a vivid picture of the world, but that's where my interest stopped. As far as the story, I had trouble with the slower pacing and couldn't connect with the supporting characters. Thank you for the chance to review!
Was this review helpful?
An exciting space adventure that perhaps would have benefited from being a little shorter and tighter. The world of Hella is fascinating and scary, with giant dinosaurs roaming the alien landscape and human sheltering behind layers of protection from the outside world. The internal politics of the human colony drive the 2nd half of the book and lead to an action-packed finale. All in all, a terrific and engaging sci-fi read.
Was this review helpful?
The author and family of Kyle do not actually specify Kyle's condition but from the descriptions it sounds very similar to at least some aspects of Autism. Some people may have a hard time with Kyle as the narrator of the story because he doesn't "get" people and therefore doesn't connect with them very well. What he does connect with is nearly everything else - and I found myself enjoying Kyle's narration even if he does get bogged down with over information. Like many kids who are different than "ordinary", Kyle suffers from the comments and behaviors of others. Below are three quotes that really hit me regarding Kyle, one from his mother and two from his own thoughts. Marley is one of the people in the colony that is constantly harassing Kyle and his brother.

"'There is something I tell my children. I'm sure you have probably heard it yourself many times, but it's worth repeating here. "Sorry" is not an eraser. It does not magically make everything all right.'"

"I know I'm not normal. Normal is a delusion. There's no such thing as normal, there's only ordinary. And I'm not ordinary either. I am what I am and it's fine with me, so why can't it be fine with everybody else?"

"Why give Marley a room rent-free in my head? Hating someone is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies. That all sounds very good, but it's a lot easier to say than do it."

Kyle's character is very unique and interesting - the way he thinks and what he thinks about and the book's characters also see this (at least some of them). Hella is littered with puns, jokes and nuances that Kyle doesn't understand but the other characters and the reader most likely would. I feel a very close connection to the truth of Kyle's "conversation" - the truth in himself that HARLIE and his friends help him discover. I too wish that I could live in a world that doesn't pillage the planet for everything valuable and is at peace with becoming a part of the symphony of life that exists upon it's surface. Hella is haunting and sad in the sense that the issues the colonists face in the book are the beginnings of what destroyed the Earth. We are seeing portions of this now - and I can only imagine all of the things that we've missed out on because of human nature. What I wouldn't give to be able to see the Earth as it once was and wonder what it could've been had we not taken the courses of action that we did. It always seems that the people like Layton and those that agree with his ideology vastly outnumber those that think like Kyle, his family and friends.

I've never had to resist the urge to not highlight and share swaths of text before and I have so, so many quotes that mean quite a lot to me that I would love to share with you. Hella covers a vast variety of societal, moral and political issues (and many more) that will be very similar to our own daily lives. Kyle really got me with the politics and people quote below, it's how I feel most of the time. Actually all three of the political quotes that I picked really highlight how I feel most of the time and my thoughts being so similar to Kyle's really helped cement how I felt about his character and this book.

"Politics is people -- and people aren't logical. I prefer logic. It's simpler."

"There's a book about politics we studied in school. It's all about how to run a government. It says that the most important question to ask before you introduce any new law is this: What problem will this law solve? Who does it make life better for? If it doesn't help everyone, it's a bad law."

"'But the lesson I learned is that a representative government only works when a well-educated population is accurately and honestly informed. When the people have all the options laid out before them fairly, when they're clear about the goals and understand the choices and the consequences, they usually choose well. I have faith in that.'"

The world building is top notch - I can imagine what the environment and beasties could look like. The description of Hella's flora and fauna remind me of some of the card artwork that I've seen for Magic the Gathering. I highly suggest looking at these if you don't know what I'm referencing, quite a large portion of the artwork seen on the cards is nothing short of stunning and if I were to pick a group of artists to draw what was described in Hella, it would be them.

The portion near the end of the book at the trial really really got me - that's all I can say without a spoiler but... damn. Going into this book I was not expecting to love it this much - even though it would be fraught with danger and exceedingly hard I kinda wish I could join Kyle and the others on Hella. Even just the trip through words is worth it - I am very glad that I requested this book to read through this quarantine. A Hella-sized thank you to David Gerrold for writing this book, DAW Books and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a digital ARC of Hella.
Was this review helpful?
Meticulous world-building in a properly pace sci-fi adventure encompassing coming-of-age themes entwined with the machinations of politics, religion and lore. Nothing quite like this on the market at this moment.
Was this review helpful?
A quick fun blend of suspense and science fiction. At times funny while thrilling this will be a fast fun read. Great for fans of Orson Scott Card.
Was this review helpful?
A fantastic ride through space. I loved this book. It's been a while since I've read a scifi that kept my attention from cover to cover. I think what really made this story was the main characters undefined autism traits. He was different, but familiar. I think we all struggle to fit in, and this story really brought out how society struggles to be perfect, but what we really need is to embrace difference. 

The thrilling mystery of the unknown and the who done it, was intriguing. I also enjoyed the world building. A good scifi relies on the world around it since the familiar is somewhat unknown. This world was new and exciting, a wonderful but scary place that sucked me in and spit me back out.

I can't say enough about how much I loved this story.

My review will go live on the Book Confessions blog on 6-9-2020.
Was this review helpful?
Ever wondered how an ant perceives the world? Is it constantly afraid to get trampled or is it constantly plagued by earthquakes caused by humans? Hella tries to give you a glimpse of how such a world could look like. Humans are tiny and constantly have to be on the lookout for animals many times their own size.

The general idea of the book is quite fascinating. Humans are fleeing earth and looking for a new start on a faraway planet. They try their best not to repeat the mistakes made back home. At times the book reminds me of how the older Star Trek shows were meant to be perceived. 

The story itself is written from the perspective of Kyle, which is reflected in the way the sentences are structured. They are deliberately kept short and comparatively simple. It’s something that you will notice at the beginning, but after a while, it does fit the character and overall story. So it’s a nice touch that brings you closer to his perspective.

Overall a good book that I can recommend to anyone interested in reading science fiction.
Was this review helpful?
Kyle is about to come into his legal adulthood on a colony world where everything is supersized, from the local plants and animals to his difficulties fitting in. That's tough enough for anyone, but he's "neuro-atypical", unable to read people's emotions or figure the subtext to their context. To help him cope, he's got a chip implanted that links him to the colony's archives, though it's not clear how that helps, except for making him more nerd than he already is. Fortunately, he's got a mother and older brother that love and accept him, as well as Captain Skyler, legendary leader, explorer, and father figure to both boys.

It's a classically Heinleinian setup and the first person narrative has much the tone of a Heinlein Juvenile, updated by one of the masters of the genre. Gerrold has put a ton of work into the ecosystem of Hella, a lighter than Earth planet with massive, no, really massive, plants and animals, and Kyle is the perfect fact obsessed reporter to tell us about it.

For the first half of the story, that's what we get, along with some friction from members of the colony that may have crawled out from under a rock. Funny thing is that it works. Just being along for the ride as Kyle goes on his first recon ride into is worth the trip, gradually political intrigue rears it's head and Kyle finds himself at the center of a fight to save the colony from abandoning it's cooperative spirit and aping the have and have not a dilemma that's about to cause Earth's society to collapse. The arrival of the last colony ship out brings things to a head and forces, Kyle, to face his demons head-on.

This looks to be a stand-alone, but I enjoyed it.
Was this review helpful?
David Gerrold is one of my favorite authors, and he doesn't disappoint this time either. A YA title that tackles some heady themes, ask some hard questions, and quite possibly answers most of them. There are parts that I suspect others might say are boring, but the meticulous descriptions of the planet Hella by the first-person narrator gave the author a perfect avenue for examining his autistic psychology.
Was this review helpful?
ARC review for Netgalley. 

So this book has me all over the place. It is lost world meets coming of age kid with robot side kick.  It is nothing like what I was expecting. The cover art is pretty misleading. I know I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I was expecting a more tongue-in-cheek snarky humor piece. What I got instead was too many things to ponder.

What I liked- World building...wowza. Nailed it. Everything is hella big—the people, the plants, the dinosaurs! Whaaat?There was no issue with imagining Hella. Everything is described to minutiae. This is largely an intentional affect of Kyle’s syndrome and while the worldly details are mostly interesting, it made reading a bit tedious and boring. Luckily, the second half is a decent page turner and more typical SCI-fi. 

The Characterization, ok. I found Kyle to be very wooden, as he is supposed to be.  But I didn’t find the other characters to be developed. He was unable to relate to them, neither was I. Actually that was the overarching theme. Kyle’s inability to connect with others, his desire for that connection and how connections makes us human. ‘“Now ask me how I feel. Ask me what I think.’ He said I should learn to do that, because that would help me learn about other people.” There is a lot of Exploring the connections between individuals, genders and relationships (LGBTQ).

So as if human relationships aren’t enough, societal issues heavily feature in the book too. There are many good criticisms to ponder. One quote that sticks out as imminently relevant,
“Government is the tool that people create to provide the necessary services of society. It is an instrument of service. It is the apparatus by which we manage our resources for the common good.”

This was my first David Gerrod book so maybe all his books are like this. I just don’t really like to think when reading fantasy/SCI-fi.
Was this review helpful?