Member Reviews

I keep dipping into dystopia every once in a while to keep my reads different. This was one such book. I wanted to like it; I even liked the underlying theory, but given the amount of time I spent with the story, I felt like I should have had more of a positive reaction.
There is one concept in this story that is not explained enough to get the foundation for the rest of the story. The concept of 'bliss' is something that everyone experiences. Each human has a type of robot that works with them, carries their memories for them, and essentially is physically present at all times nearby to assist. There are other levels of robots for other jobs, like security, etc.
The book is written from two points of view. They merge towards the end, and therefore, the story is divided into three parts. One is Dr. Icho, who is brilliant and also inquisitive, which is not the best combination where the government is actually hatching additional plans behind their backs. The other is Jane Ward, a completely unlikeable character who Icho admires and reveres. If I had started with Jane's part, I may not have actually finished the book. At every point that she reaches a redeemable stage, she says something that completely sets her character back. It is a very realistic portrayal, but I do not enjoy spending time with such lead characters.
HellSans is a typeface that is used everywhere. It is also something that causes people to have an allergic reaction - the reasons behind this are not dwelt on as much as I would have liked.
Dr. Icho and Jane come from differing sides, but they end up on the run together, and they struggle through the days as they plot an end game.
By the time I set the book aside, I liked the overall story arc and would recommend it to bigger fans of dystopian fiction, but I did not enjoy the process of getting to the end as much as I would have wanted.
If I was a more hardened reader of the genre and not prone to basing my reactions on my reactions to individuals I encounter in the book and more on the plot itself, I would have definitely rated it higher.
I received an ARC thanks to NetGalley and the publishers, but the review is entirely based on my own reading experience.

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HellSans by Ever Dundas is unlike any book about disability I’ve ever read, and make no mistake, this is a book about disability. Dundas dedicates HellSans to “all queer crips and people with M.E. who have endured decades of cruelty and neglect with love and rage” which made me feel so seen before I had even started the actual book. HellSans offers the reader the choice of starting either narrative first. One narrative is from the perspective of Dr Ichoriel ‘Icho’ Smith, a doctor working on a cure for the allergy to HellSans and the other is from Jane Ward, the CEO of The Company. Jane is the creator of several cyborg robots that became a staple for society. Everyone now uses an Inex, a cyborg that connects to them and monitors them emotionally and physically, tracking and maintaining every single part of their life. They also use one called an Ino which takes care of all chores, and housekeeping duties including making food. Both can administer some first aid and some basic medical care.

The other way the HellSans universe differs from ours is that a form of typography has been utilised by the Government as a drug. It’s referred to by its narrators as ‘HellSans’, for reasons that become obvious throughout the book. This drug creates a sensation that is known as “bliss” in most of the population – but not all. Some people have a natural resistance to it and are “unblissed”, they get no high from the font. Others have an allergic reaction to it, and they are immediately outcast from society, forced to live in slums outside the city.

At first, it seemed strange to think of a font as being able to give people a high, and then I realised how clever such an idea would be. Fonts are everywhere. I’m using one right now as I write this review, just as you’re reading one. By creating a font that is a drug, a group of people can mass control everyone and that is exactly what has happened in HellSans. The HSAs, the HellSans allergic, are unblissed. They see the world the way it really is, the control and oppression, and that terrifies those in control. They react with the only tool they know; more oppression and create the narrative that HSAs are deviants.

I read the narratives in the order that they are presented because I can’t read things out of order, and find it difficult to switch back and forth. Icho and Jane’s narratives are very different from each other. Icho is trying to help HSAs, although her motives for doing so does not become clear until later in the book. As a result of her work directly with HSAs she is more aware of how they are treated, the abuse that they suffer in the city and in the slums. In comparison, Jane is one of society’s elite who looks down on HSA’s with complete disgust as is expected of her as one of the “blissed”. When a traumatic event triggers HSA in her Jane is in complete denial. Denial that she has HSA and that she, the CEO of the most powerful company, is being stripped of her power and position. She is Jane Ward, this shouldn’t be happening to her!

On the run with a working cure, Icho recognises the symptoms of HSA in Jane and realises that Jane is her best chance of surviving. Jane has the resources and she needs Icho. Each of their narratives tell their stories up to the point where they find each other, and after that it becomes a combined narrative. The way Dundas has experimented with narrative in HellSans is brilliantly innovative and is something to explore all on its own. My focus, however, is on how she has captured the way that society and especially the medical profession has treated people with ME/CFS for decades. People with other chronic health conditions will be able to draw comparisons with this too, I mention ME/CFS especially because of the dedication at the start of the book.

Jane’s denial in particular was familiar, especially in a post-COVID world because there are so many people who were “healthy” that fell in with Long Covid and ME/CFS who previously would have looked down on disabled people for being “unhealthy”. We were ill due to our own actions. It was all because we didn’t look after ourselves, or we were overweight. There are many reasons we’ve all heard. Then COVID came along and didn’t discriminate. Likewise, HSA in HellSans can affect anyone at any time in their life if the circumstances are right. ME/CFS is the same; if the body undergoes enough physical trauma it can trigger ME/CFS. I know because that is exactly what happened to me.

Dundas doesn’t skim on detail when it comes to how messy having a chronic illness is, and looking at reviews I can see how much that went way over non-disabled readers heads. There is a lot of “body horror” in HellSans because guess what? Being disabled, especially being chronically ill, involves a lot of bodily fluids and not the fun ones. There is no difference between showing revulsion for fictional ill characters and real disabled people. You’re still showing revulsion about the same thing happening. Even by referring to symptoms as “body horror” there is a suggestion that what we go through is something from a horror story, that in some way it’s not real or that being disabled is so bad that it is “horrific”. Dundas could have written a neat story where Jane’s symptoms are perfectly timed, and aren’t as severe. But HellSans isn’t that type of story.

I also appreciated that Dundas showed the ugly side of her characters. Being disabled is rough, and Jane and Icho were in a very difficult situation. Suddenly becoming ill doesn’t suddenly make someone a saint. Jane was a nasty person before she developed HSA, and she’s still a bitch afterwards. Likewise, being a medical professional or scientist doesn’t mean you’re a good person. Both characters are very complicated and that is as it should be. If you’re heading into this book expecting to find likeable characters just because it’s about disability then this isn’t the book for you, and you need to check your ableism.

HellSans is a dark book that feels like Dundas was watching over my shoulder while I struggled every step of the way to get a diagnosis for ME/CFS, and has listened to every scream of frustration I’ve ever made as a chronically ill person. HellSans is unlike anything I have ever read. When I say this is a must-read for disabled readers I mean it. I was going to say it is a must-read for everyone, but having seen reviews from non-disabled readers I honestly don’t feel that many are able to understand what HellSans is saying. This is very much a love letter to the disabled community and written in our language for us. If non-disabled readers gain some understanding of our every day fight then that’s great, but if they don’t then that is their loss.

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HellSans is the enforced typeface used in this dystopian future. Although it produces a bliss-like state in most, a minority of the population suffer a severe allergic reaction when they see it's physical form. This minority is persecuted and forced to love in ghettos outside the cities. Dr Icho Smith is trying to find a cure for this allergy but finds her work disrupted after she hears something she shouldn't at a party.

This is part dystopian Sci-fi and part political thriller and the idea of the controlling typeface is fascinating. I did enjoy the story for the first half. I loved the idea of the Inex, doll-like creatures that are both personal assistants and memory storage in one. However, I felt this story was mainly let down the characters. While the 2 main characters are fully fleshed, they have major faults. Icho will seemingly do anything for Jane Ward, even when running for her life. Jane Ward is a *terrible* person, whose selfishness and sexual harassment of employees is swept under the carpet. The final third of the book involves a "how much would you do for love?" type storyline but the relationship comes across as abusive and toxic.

The second half of the story is a bit more contrary; it goes in some unusual directions and has at least (for me) two plot points that come off as a bit "deus ex machina", allowing the plot to continue. This, combined with some awful characters, left me disappointed, as I felt the plot had some real promise. I should also mention that this is a lot of vomiting, bleeding and general injury involved, perhaps to an excessive level. Although it it didn't affect me, I did start to wonder where it was all coming from and how the characters could continue on!

This would probably suit fans of dystopian fiction but, due to some shortcomings, wasn't for me.

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HellSans is set in a fictional UK, where HellSans is a ubiquitous typeface, enforced by the government in all communications and in all public spaces. It is the ultimate control device. The majority of the population experience bliss when they see the typeface, but there’s a minority who are allergic to it. The HellSans Allergic (HSAs) are persecuted, and live on the streets or in a ghetto on the outskirts of the capital city.
Terrified at times!!! Grab a copy!

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I really enjoyed this very clever, imaginative, and atmospheric tale.

HellSans is a typeface imposed by the government as the ultimate form of control. The majority 'bliss' when they see the typeface, but there are those unfortunate people who have HellSans Allergy. The HSAs - as those with the allergy are known - live in the ghetto mostly or on the streets. They have nothing and live a violent and dangerous life.

The story involves two main characters, Dr Icho Smith, a scientist who has developed a cure for the allergy, and Jane Ward, a very intelligent high-flyer and CEO of The Company behind HellSans. Jane has everything she could ask for, respect in her line of work, prestige, and money, but then becomes ill with the allergy and loses it all.

You can choose to read either part one and/or part two before reading part three. This way the reader gets to choose an insight into the 'blissers' and/or the HSAs, and the lives they are - or are not - able to lead.

It's a fabulous concept, a riveting story, brilliant characterisations, and the twists and turns as the secrets unfold are just flawless. To be honest, this blew my mind! The fact that this author has both M.E. and Fibromyalgia and created this work of art is amazing. I have M.E. myself, so I can vividly imagine all the energy, persistence, and pain that went into writing this work. Thank you, I was completely engrossed and look forward to the next book. I feel this would make a fabulous graphic novel.

I chose this ARC from a selection. I voluntarily and honestly read and reviewed this book. All opinions are my own. My thanks to the publisher, NetGalley, and the author.

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I approached the book with great enthusiasm and unfortunately I'm left with a bad taste in my mouth. I like the sci-fi way of dropping me in the middle of the story, I enjoyed figuring out technology and society, and I found the world building quite interesting. That's my one star.
Unfortunately the author is trying to make so many points they all get tangled up and lost. Plot points are dropped in and not developed or abandoned in favour of a different idea. I think there is enough good ideas here for a couple of books or short stories and I wish they weren't all packed in like this. The novel tries to be a love story but the move from a hookup to I love yous is fast and pointless. I can only understand it if I interpret it as trauma bonding.
The book also tries to answer such pointless questions as "what if Hitler was queer and chronically ill" which to me is absolutely absurd. You cannot just make a holocaust comparison and then try to make your readers root for the leader of it. It's inappropriate and insensitive. There is no situation in which I can enjoy a protagonist like this. It's not about her being annoying or morally grey- her company is focused on eradicating people considered inhuman. She's referred to as Führer. Her slogan is "works makes you free". Absolutely not.

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Hellsans is a font used in government propaganda. A proportion of the population become allergic to it and are forced to live in ghettos where they are abused at will. Icho is a scientist working towards a cure or vaccine for the allergy and is just about to find out that her boss may not wish her well. Also in this strange world, everyone is accompanied by their personal miniature robot assistant. Jane Ward, the head of the company that makes them may be involved in some darkly off the radar experiments. Jane meets Icho at a party and there is an immediate frisson. What develops is a pacey action thriller, fast paced and exciting Ever Dundas has the power of imagination to write top flight science fiction.

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I was drawn to this book because of the interesting idea of using a typeface as a mind control method, plus I love a dystopian. Unfortunately, this book reads as a thriller instead. The story is presented in three parts; parts one and two are Jane and Icho’s story, which happened concurrently and can be read in either order, then part three is them together. There is no world building or explanations that occur at the beginning of the book, you’re just thrown in to figure it out. Which led to a lot of confusion for me, because three of the characters have very similar names (Icho, Ino which are household helper bots, and Inex which are personal helper bots).

My biggest issue with reading this, however, were the two main characters. Icho is not a bad character but I wouldn’t say she’s good either, she kind of fades into the background. But Jane is a straight up sociopath. She isn’t really portrayed in the story as a villain or as a hero, so I don’t know what the author was intending with this character. But she is deeply unlikable, and a sexual predator to boot (trigger warning for dub con and non con). I should also give a warning for body horror (blood, open wounds, skin peeling off, vomiting, dead bodies).

Thank you to NetGalley & Angry Robot for this advanced reader copy. All opinions are my own.

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I enjoyed the overall premise of the story. The plot moved at a good pace until the very end, which seemed a bit rushed. I kept thinking as I neared the end of the novel that there must be a sequel coming because there was no way the author could wrap everything up with the time left. I do think a follow up story would be great, with more details on how the ending came about and the fall out (trying to stay spoiler free in this review!)

The relationship between Jane and Icho felt a bit insta-love to me, and it was difficult to get invested in as I did not find Jane a likeable character (not sure if that was the author's intention).

I really liked Icho's character and her part of the story was probably my favourite. Caddick was also a great character.

The dependence of people on their Inex presented in this story provided some sobering thoughts about the way technology and AI could go in reality, as well as reflecting on what inherently makes us who we are.


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The book seems well-written and well-thought-out. Unfortunately, I can't connect it and started to feel like forcing myself to finish it. I decided to DNF it for now, but I want to emphasize it's the case of "It's me, not you" DNF :)

Thanks to the publisher for giving me the possibility to try it. I may give it another try soon.

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HellSans is certainly unique, that is for sure! I mean, a font that can create bliss, but also pain for those allergic? That is a new one for me! And while I did have a wee bit of trouble with comprehending the font bit, I did love the rest! So let's break it down!

What I Liked:

►The characters and their relationships were wonderfully developed. I really enjoyed Icho and Jane, and their personal journeys with HellSans. They were each invested but for very different reasons. I also loved their relationship that grew as they were dealing with the ramifications of HellSans on their lives. Oh, and for fun, their stories are told separately at first- and you can read them in any old order, that is clever! (And don't worry- the stories are not repetitive, which was my concern heading in!)

►There is a lot of great social commentary. There are a lot of people who are treated poorly in this society. And not just because of allergies to HellSans, though that is a big one. So not only does it tackle abelism, but a whole host of other societal issues that we face. I won't go into too much detail, because I feel like I'd have to get into spoiler territory, but I enjoyed it.

►There is a good amount of excitement and high stakes in the plot. There are a ton of great twists and turns, and plenty of adventure to keep the reader guessing.

►Cyborgs. Everyone who's anyone has a cyborg. Need I say more?

What I Had Trouble With:

►I just don't understand how a font has any of these properties? I mean, there are plenty of fonts that are not easy on the eyes, I get it. But... just how? I wish this had been explained a bit more, because it was hard for me to suspend my disbelief that a font can have that much power over folks. Just... how can one be allergic to a font even?

Bottom Line: The story and the characters were awesome enough to overcome any issues I had with Fonts With Powers™.

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I loved the premise of this book, the name of the author and the dystopianworld they create.
However, I tried starting the story from both Icho and Jane's point of view and have to admit I struggled. I think it was as much with the dialogue as the plot. A shame, but I hope for further books by the author
thank you to netgalley and angry robot for an advance copy of this book.

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'HellSans', written by Ever Dundas, is a unique dystopian novel, set in a fictional version of the UK.
In this version of the UK, the government imposes a typeface called HellSans as the ultimate form of control. Everything is written in HellSans. HellSans has the ability to create a state of bliss and ecstasy in most people who read it, but others develop a severe allergy to the font. People with the HellSans allergy (HSAs) are cast aside, stripped of their rights, and segregated from the rest of the society.

At the centre of the story, we have two women; Icho and Jane.
Dr. Icho Smith is a scientist, secretly working on developing a permanent cure for the HellSans allergy. She is on the run from the government and a 'terrorist' group, who have their own plans for the cure.
Jane Ward is a successful and well-known CEO of a tech company that makes Inexes, people's personal cyborgs.
Jane has a lot of contempt for HSAs, until she develops an allergy to the font, loses everything in her life, and is sent to live in the ghetto with the rest of HSAs.
Jane and Icho's paths cross when they're both on the run from their respective lives. They decide to team up, try to expose the government’s corruption, and deliver the cure for the HellSans allergy.

The book is written in three parts. Parts one and two run parallel to one another, and the reader gets to decide which part they want to read first. In the third, and final part, the two story lines are neatly pulled together.
HellSans has an intriguing premise, interesting characters, it covers a lot of philosophical questions, and there's also a queer aspect to the plot. It's suspenseful, thought provoking and gory.
It took me a while to get into HellSans at the start, but once I wrapped my head around who the characters were, what their motives were and what kind of world they lived in, I was fully immersed.

Huge thanks to NetGalley and the publisher, Angry Robot, for the digital ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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Very disappointed. This book had such an intriguing premise and I was hoping for great things. Sadly it all fell a bit flat and was very confusing at times. The idea was superb it just didn't connect with me

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I absolutely loved the concept but felt that the split narrative and the twists just made for confusion. I really struggled with it, which was frustrating as it sounded so good.
I was hoping for a great speculative read, the idea of a font being used to control people is really interesting. It also sounds almost feasible, and therefore, terrifying.

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A story in three parts, HellSans is the typeface of choice in this fictional version of the UK. For most, HellSans brings about a sense of bliss, but for some, they have a severe allergic reaction to it, compounded by how easy it is to internalise the font. These HSAs are cast aside by society, where their property and finances are heavily monitored and they are not afforded the same rights or opportunities as everyone else (I’m sure fellow chronically ill people can see what this is inspired by). Jane Ward, CEO of a major tech company, looks down on HSAs… that is, until she develops HS allergies herself. Sent to the ghetto she was once all for HSAs being sent to, she is rescued by Dr Icho Smith, a researcher determined to find a permanent cure for HSA (but who is prevented from doing so at every turn by red tape and the fundamental belief that if HSAs wanted to get better, they would). Together, Jane and Icho need to expose the government’s corruption and deliver the cure.

The format of this book is interesting – you can read part one or part two first, before proceeding to part three. I started with part one, from Icho’s perspective, learning much of the POV of those who want things to change for HSAs, before reading Jane’s part and seeing her disdain for HSAs and how much she refused to accept she had become something she once thought everyone simply needed to schedule and micromanage their way out of. A lot of it rang very true to reality, and the real-life metaphor was very neatly carved out in how Jane was treated before and after she became ill.

HellSans is hard sci-fi, with a lot of torture, blood, guts, vomit and violence (and did I mention vomit), but with a hopeful conclusion. It’s very easy to see the parallels with reality for a lot of chronically ill people, particularly illnesses like M.E. where if CBT or other ‘cures’ don’t work, no help is given. I found HellSans a very compelling read and tore through it in an afternoon. It’s also gay af, and gets a little meta about two thirds of the way in, which added so many layers to the story. Really enjoyed this one!

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I loved the idea of this story, the blurb sounded very intriguing. I read the three parts in order - Icho's story was action-packed, fast-moving, and set up the scene for this new world with a divided society, and it was a quick, interesting read. The part from Jane's POV had less impact - I didn't like Jane as a character, and there was a lot more blood, gore, and vomiting. (There is a LOT of vomiting, sloughing of skin, and blood oozing everywhere in this book, which became off-putting after a while.
Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy the story as much as I hoped. Thank you to the publisher and the author for the chance to read it.

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I know I really enjoyed a book when I can't stop thinking about it after I'm done reading it. I finished this book a few hours ago and the two main characters, Icho and Jane won't leave my thoughts. I feel like they'll be taking up residence there for a while to come.

HellSans is a book about a futuristic world where a country decides to only use a font called HellSans. It has the ability to create a state of bliss in anyone who reads it. In this world everyone also has their own personal little robot called an Inex. I was so enchanted by the thought of having an Inex, I even dreamed about them! The Inex can connect with their human to have internal conversations with them, read their biometrics and give them advice about how to live their best life! Sounds like a promising world, right? What could possibly go wrong?

Besides being a great dystopian sci-fi adventure, HellSans also raises some ethical questions about where society is today and how we want to go into the future. And on a technical note, do we really know who has access to all of the personal information we put out there on our phones, online, and other places where we connect with technology? No matter how innocent the information, could it fall into the wrong hands and be used against us? These are big questions to ponder. While your wheels are spinning on those, let's get back to the story!

The book itself is written in a style I haven't seen before. There are three sections. The first two run parallel to one another and can be read in any order. They tell the stories of the two main characters, Icho and Jane, from when they first meet to another shared pivotal point in the story (the start of the third section). You get to know each character quite well in these sections while they're going through their own trials. Then the story lines are pulled together quite nicely in the third section. Some additional interesting perspective work is done in the third section that I can't go into detail about because of spoilers. But I really enjoy how the perspective jumps from character to character to the third person perspective. It sounds like it should be confusing, but it isn't at all! This is why I love it!

So to wrap this up, this book had solid characters, a very realistic world, something deeper to think about - or not. You can ignore the societal and ethical questions altogether and just enjoy the story if you like.

The only thing that kept me from giving the book five stars was that it was a little hard to get into. It starts right out with action and it was hard to wrap my head around who the characters were, what was going on and why. But it didn't take me long to figure it out and I was fully invested in the story. I'm happy to give HellSans four solid stars.

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher, Angry Robot, for the book in exchange for my honest review.

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I wanted to enjoy this one more than I did.

The concept is interesting- slightly biopunk setting, there's a government mandated font that induces mild euphoria in most people, but a horribly violent allergic reaction in a small minority. That minority is oppressed, stripped of their rights, and forced to live in ghettos.

One of the protagonists is the founder of the lead biotech company in this setting. She suddenly develops this allergy, and watches her world crumble around her before trying to put things back together again.

Ordinarily, I'd eat this sort of story up, but jumping from a scene in which she's having a violent allergic reaction, with teeth falling out, vomiting, and her skin splitting open and bleeding all over the place to a scene in which she's immediately having sex with her partner was jarring once. That it happened twice was enough to pull me out of the story and feel grossed out, something that doesn't happen often to me.

I finished the book, and I'm glad I did, but... yuck.

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I tried so hard with Ever's new book because I admire her in both her professional and private life but Hell Sans, which I had found so intriguing from the title and blurb just didn't stay the course. The characters are very well drawn and quirky but I found the dialogue over-powering. I just prefer a sparser style and there was also an abundance of exposition which lost me. I prefer to fill in the gaps myself.

it is a given that this book will be very well-received by many readers. Ever writes bravely and with great strength and imagination. Her imagination is extraordinary. Just this time - not for me.

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