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Hella

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A master of science fiction introduces a world where everything is large and the problems of survival even larger in this exciting new novel. Hella is a planet where everything is oversized—especially the ambitions of the colonists. The trees are mile-high, the dinosaur herds are huge, and the weather is extreme—so extreme, the colonists have to migrate twice a year to escap A master of science fiction introduces a world where everything is large and the problems of survival even larger in this exciting new novel. Hella is a planet where everything is oversized—especially the ambitions of the colonists. The trees are mile-high, the dinosaur herds are huge, and the weather is extreme—so extreme, the colonists have to migrate twice a year to escape the blistering heat of summer and the atmosphere-freezing cold of winter. Kyle is a neuro-atypical young man, emotionally challenged, but with an implant that gives him real-time access to the colony’s computer network, making him a very misunderstood savant. When an overburdened starship arrives, he becomes the link between the established colonists and the refugees from a ravaged Earth. The Hella colony is barely self-sufficient. Can it stand the strain of a thousand new arrivals, bringing with them the same kinds of problems they thought they were fleeing? Despite the dangers to himself and his family, Kyle is in the middle of everything—in possession of the most dangerous secret of all. Will he be caught in a growing political conspiracy? Will his reawakened emotions overwhelm his rationality? Or will he be able to use his unique ability to prevent disaster?


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A master of science fiction introduces a world where everything is large and the problems of survival even larger in this exciting new novel. Hella is a planet where everything is oversized—especially the ambitions of the colonists. The trees are mile-high, the dinosaur herds are huge, and the weather is extreme—so extreme, the colonists have to migrate twice a year to escap A master of science fiction introduces a world where everything is large and the problems of survival even larger in this exciting new novel. Hella is a planet where everything is oversized—especially the ambitions of the colonists. The trees are mile-high, the dinosaur herds are huge, and the weather is extreme—so extreme, the colonists have to migrate twice a year to escape the blistering heat of summer and the atmosphere-freezing cold of winter. Kyle is a neuro-atypical young man, emotionally challenged, but with an implant that gives him real-time access to the colony’s computer network, making him a very misunderstood savant. When an overburdened starship arrives, he becomes the link between the established colonists and the refugees from a ravaged Earth. The Hella colony is barely self-sufficient. Can it stand the strain of a thousand new arrivals, bringing with them the same kinds of problems they thought they were fleeing? Despite the dangers to himself and his family, Kyle is in the middle of everything—in possession of the most dangerous secret of all. Will he be caught in a growing political conspiracy? Will his reawakened emotions overwhelm his rationality? Or will he be able to use his unique ability to prevent disaster?

30 review for Hella

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nenia ✨️ The Trash Empress ✨️ Campbell

    There's a Hella Planet? That's hella... dope.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Justine

    There are lots of interesting elements here, like the exciting colony world of Hella, and the social structure that has evolved past where we are now in terms of gender and sexuality, but still feels a pull toward old ways of thinking about hierarchy and individualism. The main conflict in the story arises essentially because of tension between those who want to maintain a system of collectivism within the still growing colony, and those who want to move towards an individualised market economy. There are lots of interesting elements here, like the exciting colony world of Hella, and the social structure that has evolved past where we are now in terms of gender and sexuality, but still feels a pull toward old ways of thinking about hierarchy and individualism. The main conflict in the story arises essentially because of tension between those who want to maintain a system of collectivism within the still growing colony, and those who want to move towards an individualised market economy. Although I enjoyed the book as a whole, it was a little slow to get to the actual storyline. That said, I would love to read another book in this same world as it definitely seems there is more to explore.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Wolf

    3.5 stars. Hella is a hella big place. It’s a large planet where, due to lower gravity as compared to Earth, living things grow to crazy huge size. And there are dinosaurs. And they’re HELLA gigantic. Herbivorous leviathans migrate across the plains, slowly stomping over everything in their path, and hungry carnosaurs attack them in groups, feasting for days on the huge carcasses that they manage to bring down. Hella is not the most hospitable environment for humans, but these few thousand colonis 3.5 stars. Hella is a hella big place. It’s a large planet where, due to lower gravity as compared to Earth, living things grow to crazy huge size. And there are dinosaurs. And they’re HELLA gigantic. Herbivorous leviathans migrate across the plains, slowly stomping over everything in their path, and hungry carnosaurs attack them in groups, feasting for days on the huge carcasses that they manage to bring down. Hella is not the most hospitable environment for humans, but these few thousand colonists are there to make it home. It’s already been a hundred years since the First Hundred made landfall, and since then, additional migrations of humans have helped the colony to grow and expand. Caution is the highest priority. Everything is studied and planned for, because it’s crucial that the human population avoid cross-contamination with the Hella natural world. All food is grown within the enclosed colonies, and care is taken never to allow human-produced microbes or plants out into the planet’s own natural environment. We get to know the world of Hella through main character Kyle, a neuro-atypical teen (roughly 13 years old in Earth years, or 5 years old in Hella years). Kyle is smart and detail-oriented, devoted to his family, but has challenges understanding nuance and reading other people’s emotions, doesn’t like to be touched, and is unable to leave a topic until he’s shared everything (and I do mean EVERYTHING) he knows about it. He’s gifted and his talents can benefit the colony, but there are some who view Kyle as a freak and treat him that way. While the colony seems to function on the principle of communal service toward the greater good, there are those who thirst for power, just like in any human society. When the chief power-hungry representative gets an opportunity to seize control, he takes it. Hella is an interesting book, although I have some issues with it. At the beginning, the focus is on getting to know the planet and the colony. Kyle goes out on an expedition for the first time, and through his experiences, we get to see the plants, trees, strange creatures, and huge dinosaurs that roam the land. We’re also introduced to the daily routines, the concept of work that’s at the foundation of this human society, and the myriad factors that go into maintaining safety and self-sufficiency. We learn more about how human society has changed and evolved over the years since our own time as well. For example, gender is fluid and easily changeable. Kyle’s mother was born biologically male, but changed to female so she could experience pregnancy (which is in itself a fairly unusually choice, as many people prefer to have their babies bottle-grown rather than womb-grown). Kyle himself was born biologically female, but decided to change when his older brother did, largely because he too wanted to be able to pee standing up. Changing doesn’t have to be permanent; later in the book, Kyle has cause to rethink his decision and considers changing again in order to please his boyfriend (which is a frustrating reason to change, but fortunately, his boyfriend sees it that way too.) By the second half of the book, the emphasis is less on the natural world outside the human habitats and much more on the political maneuvering within the human colony. There’s a conspiracy afoot, and Kyle and his friends may be in the best position to try to stop it. There’s plenty of danger and excitement as they chase through tunnels, hack networks, and try to avoid or defeat the bad guys. My feelings about Hella are mixed. First off — cool planet! I really liked learning about this world, its dangers and its beauty, and what it takes for humans to adapt and survive there. But, there’s just so much time spent with Kyle on the details! Granted, this is a piece of who Kyle is, but his need to go down the rabbit hole chasing every detail doesn’t always make for great reading, and I felt that the plot tended to bog down in detours. At almost 450 pages, this book is longer than it needs to be. I think if 50-75 pages had been trimmed, the pacing might have improved, keeping the plot more on track and letting momentum build. As is, I didn’t truly feel caught up or swept along by the story until the 2nd half, and that’s too bad, as there are elements of a great story here. As I said, I did really enjoy the (literal) world-building the author accomplishes in introducing us to the human society in this large and frightening world, and explaining how they find ways to improve their resources bit by bit, even while always protecting themselves from the dangers just outside their fences. I was a bit startled looking at the author’s Goodreads profile when I realized that some of the characters in Hella appear in his earlier works. This made me wonder how much I was missing and whether a familiarity with other books would enhance the reading experience. Hella has a conclusion that ties up the major action of the story, but there’s certainly room for more storytelling about the colony, its people, and its politics — plus, it would be fun to get to see what happens next for Kyle, his family, and his friends. I do recommend Hella, but wished that it was just a little tighter and faster overall. Still, it’s a fun and engaging story set in a really fascinating world, and I’m glad I read it. Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley. Full review at Bookshelf Fantasies.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Starshadow

    Got this as advance copy. I plunged into the story headlong, barely coming up for air. Written from first-person narrative (hard to maintain for most authors) , the protagonist is a teenager with unique problems- and skills. He was born on Hella, yet Earth is in his very genes. Hella has its own ecology, not just hostile to human life, but also different to human life and to Earth evolved organisms. If the colonists want to avoid the problems that made Earth untenable, they need to respect Hella Got this as advance copy. I plunged into the story headlong, barely coming up for air. Written from first-person narrative (hard to maintain for most authors) , the protagonist is a teenager with unique problems- and skills. He was born on Hella, yet Earth is in his very genes. Hella has its own ecology, not just hostile to human life, but also different to human life and to Earth evolved organisms. If the colonists want to avoid the problems that made Earth untenable, they need to respect Hella and its lifeforms. They had come to Hella prepared for the work that none of them would see finished. But there were factions which wanted to take an easy path, to gain riches and power, without regard for the future. And they were prepared to destroy anything-or anyone-who would stand in their way. Would they suceed in making Hella their own private kingdom, or would they avoid the mistakes which evidently destroyed Earth? And how would the arrival of the last colonists from Earth disrupt their plans? And how would Kyle keep them from destroying all he held dear? It's a gripping tale, which manages to ask hard questions about what it means to build an ethical human society when so many of us lack ethics, without being preachy or lectures. The best stories tell the adventure while leaving things to chew on. This is one of those.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Carlex

    Three and a half dinos. As I said in a previous review I am a big fan of monster movies. So when I knew that Hella was a planet with giant dinosaurs in it, I bought it the same day it was published. The fact is that I had a wrong (or rather uninformed) expectation of the novel. Hella is clearly a young adult book and this not the style of novel that I was expected. About this I must clarify that there are the good YA and the bad or poorly written ones, and fortunately Hella belongs to the former. Three and a half dinos. As I said in a previous review I am a big fan of monster movies. So when I knew that Hella was a planet with giant dinosaurs in it, I bought it the same day it was published. The fact is that I had a wrong (or rather uninformed) expectation of the novel. Hella is clearly a young adult book and this not the style of novel that I was expected. About this I must clarify that there are the good YA and the bad or poorly written ones, and fortunately Hella belongs to the former. As a first issue to consider, in a science fiction the worldbuilding is an important part of the fun, and more in this book in which the author delights the readers with detailed info-dumps about the planet and about how the colonist must have to adapt to it. For example, the day in Hella has 36 hours and the author manages an ingenious way to adapt to this cycle. They are a lot of details like this one and for me this is very good, Hella has a lot of things to offer and it is the main theme on which the first half of the novel is based. Thus, the reader can enjoy the awe of discovery, or in other words, the sense of wonder by the most straightforward route. Hella and the colony’s community are introduced and explained in first person by Kyle, the main character who has an Asperger-like syndrome. You know it is a resource frequently used in science fiction -for example Mr. Spock or the android Data in the Star Trek series-: “I don't understand humans (or adults) so I must learn how they works and explain it to the readers/audience”. By the way, to Kyle and his handicap this means a sort of coming of age, first knowing the planet’s ecology and then about the colony troubles. Unfortunately when we reach the middle of the read the things are turning ugly, both for Kyle but also for the reader, because the main plot becomes something else entirely different. It starts with the arrival of a new Earth’s starship, which brings an artificial intelligence along with a new group of settlers. From then on the argument evolves towards the internal problems of the colony and how Kyle and his friends deal with them, so bye bye to the fascinating ecology. In summary, mostly the great things of Hella are the planet itself and the colony-building, the new society that is being born according to Hella's ecology. About the main story, I can not consider it flawed but it is disappointing because as I said the book becomes quite a different thing. Also there is the young adult issue: with the good and bad people clearly defined, the exaltation of friendship and some typical teen plot twists. About the conflict that arises, I must say that the political positions that both sides represent are interesting, in a way Earth's problems are spreading to the new society they are trying to build. As you can see in this case my review is more subjective than usual so it is possible that it do not serve as a reference, so you must read more reviews. For example this one by Paul Di Filippo in Locus Magazine reviews it rather more favorably: https://locusmag.com/2020/07/paul-di-... There is also my review on the blog, please visit it!: http://girotix.blogspot.com/2020/07/h...

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mogsy (MMOGC)

    3 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2020/06/18/... It’s no secret that I love colonization sci-fi. There’s just something about the thrill and adventure of settling on an uncharted world that appeals to me, including the challenges of setting up a new governing system, learning about the planet’s environment, and discovering its native (and often dangerous) fauna and flora. I also adore survival stories in general, so naturally I find myself drawn to a book like Hella by D 3 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2020/06/18/... It’s no secret that I love colonization sci-fi. There’s just something about the thrill and adventure of settling on an uncharted world that appeals to me, including the challenges of setting up a new governing system, learning about the planet’s environment, and discovering its native (and often dangerous) fauna and flora. I also adore survival stories in general, so naturally I find myself drawn to a book like Hella by David Gerrold which focuses on a group of colonists trying to carve a life for themselves on an unfamiliar world fraught perils and unknowns. This story, which takes place in the far future on the newly established human colony of Hella, is told through the eyes of Kyle, a very unique protagonist as he was born with a syndrome whose effects are very similar to that of autism. To help him manage his emotions, Kyle was implanted with a chip at a young age connecting him to the colony’s computer network, in theory allowing him to regulate the information load to his brain as well as to improve his communication with his family. But this real-time connection to the system also gave Kyle access to all the data at his fingertips, making him one extremely smart boy. Obsessed with details and facts, he is also something of a walking encyclopedia, becoming a highly sought out person for his knowledge and logical thinking skills, though socially he remains a misunderstood outsider. As the book opens, Hella is preparing for its next scheduled arrival of colonists. Even though the planet has been settled for more than a hundred years and thousands now call it home, the colony is still woefully unprepared for the influx of newcomers—especially when none of them will be prepared for the hardships that await them. To help the new colonists understand what they’re up against, Kyle has been tasked to make a series of informational videos to send up to the incoming ship, a job he is determined to take deadly seriously. Leaving out none of the dangers or challenges, he proceeds to paint the most realistic picture of life on Hella as he can, but is flummoxed when he discovers that not all of his audience is happy with his portrayal. Some of the colonists, both on Hella and on the ship, are upset that Kyle is making it all look too harsh, while others are glad he’s making it clear that life on Hella is no free lunch. Whatever the case, it’s causing dissent within the colony, and there are certain factions on the planet who will take advantage of this unrest to further their own agenda. In the end, I finished this novel with mixed feelings. I was reminded of two sci-fi novels that I read in recent years, Outpost by W. Michael Gear and Semiosis by Sue Burke, both of which feature strong themes of colonization and survival, though the former contained more action and space operatic elements while the latter emphasized the science. Hella, bless its heart, tried to do both. As such, I found its lack of a focal point to be one of its main weaknesses, followed by a difficulty to connect with the characters. Regarding the first point, I felt the plot was all over the place. The opening chapters were intriguing enough, as the story begins with Kyle and his mom and brother preparing for their annual migration to Winterland Outpost to escape the cold weather. But once Kyle receives his task of video documenting Hellan life, that interest went downhill fast as readers are inundated with description, both important and trivial. Sparing no detail, Kyle describes everything the incoming colonists need to know, everything from what they will eat to where they will sleep. To be fair, not all of it was the dry, technical stuff. In fact, I loved the level of world-building Kyle’s perspective provided, especially the descriptions of the planet’s wildlife. Hella’s gravity is much lower that Earth’s, allowing its creatures to grow to gargantuan proportions. Huge dinosaur-like animals roam the its surface, while its trees can reach over a mile high. These were the details that fascinated me in Kyle’s archives, as well as facts about the world’s harsh weather patterns, like the extreme seasonal changes which force the colonists to move back and forth between winter and summer outposts. Of course, I would have preferred all this to be presented in a more engaging manner, but since we were seeing through Kyle’s eyes, I understood why the delivery had to be more clear-cut, pragmatic, and to the point. While it was good to have a perspective from a “neuro-atypical” and “emotionally challenged” character, and Gerrold certainly went all in with the characterization, having Kyle as our protagonist actually ended up being a double-edged sword because it made the narrative feel a little stiff and bland. Still, I did mention earlier that there was an action-thriller side to Hella, which came through near the end when the focus of the story shifts towards its political conspiracy plotline. Kyle’s character arc also became more personal. I’ll be honest, this felt like a breath of fresh air and a nice change of pace after all the info dumping and reams of pedantic societal commentary that we had to slog through to reach this point. It’s just a shame that the excitement came a little too late. All in all, I guess you could say Hella was a somewhat frustrating read. There were probably as many ups as there were downs, but it did end on a high note, which was a plus. I’m also happy that I got to listen to this book in audio, because I have a feeling the print experience would have been a struggle. As the audiobook’s narrator, Travis Baldree’s voicework gave Kyle’s matter-of-fact words some life and personality, at least. Overall, he did a great job and delivered a strong performance.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nooilforpacifists

    This is one Hella of a bad book. Avert your eyes. David Gerrold may be the victim of his stunningly early success, winning a Hugo nomination for his first ever work: the script for ST-TOS’s “The Trouble With Tribbles,”* then getting re-write credit on the ST-TOS episode about the cloud dwellers and the troglodytes, then publishing the best peak under the tent in his non-fiction “The Making of Star Trek.” I believe he did that all before he was 24 years old. ___________________ */ He lost the Hugo f This is one Hella of a bad book. Avert your eyes. David Gerrold may be the victim of his stunningly early success, winning a Hugo nomination for his first ever work: the script for ST-TOS’s “The Trouble With Tribbles,”* then getting re-write credit on the ST-TOS episode about the cloud dwellers and the troglodytes, then publishing the best peak under the tent in his non-fiction “The Making of Star Trek.” I believe he did that all before he was 24 years old. ___________________ */ He lost the Hugo for best SF TV script to ST-TOS’s “The City on the Edge of Forever,” inarguably the best episode of that series. No shame to Gerrold there. Anyway, Gerrold went on writing SF (rather than HAL, his computer brain was H.A.R.L.I.E., spelled with those ponderous periods). I’ve never much cared for his work—I should review some of what I’ve read. As near as I can tell, he’s gone downhill with every release. Yet he’s a nice MAN. We met at a Star Trek(!) convention (I was a teenager), and carried on some correspondence on some subject I’ve totally forgotten. That must have been years later (it wasn’t fan-boy communication; it was some scientific inquiry) after Al Gore invented the Internet. He seemed to think I’d raised a good point, because he sent me—unbidden—a signed copy of his book “The Man Who Folded Himself.” But to “Hella.” It’s being marketed as SF/YA. In fact it is a hella long, ponderous book, with cartoonish villains whose acts have little to do with Gerrold’s imagined worldscape. At times, it seemed more like a Jimmy Stewart movie. The title refers to an Earth colony planet where everything is huge: each day is 36 hours; each year 651 days. The planet has a 30° axial tilt, making the equatorial zone uninhabitable year round, forcing a yearly migration from Summerstation (in the North) to Winterstation (in the South). Hella’s flora are weird huge tree-like things producing brightly colored (pink, purple, orange) depending—because each clump is tied to a single root system 2 miles square (that’s 17.4 square decaliters for my metric friends ;)>). The fauna are, of course, dinosaurs. (This IS YA.). Well, a limited number of them. A T-Rex, a “catasaursus,” a Raptor, and several others—all dangerous to humans, if only because Hella’s lower gravity makes T-Rexs’ (and the rest) as large as if on steroids. And despite their small brains, these reptiles, too, must make the same biannual migration—the humans must avoid these reptiles at their peril. Hella’s first person narrator is a 13 1/2 year old boy named Kyle. But he is “on the spectrum.” He had some kind of chip installed in his head when he was two to “regularize” him. The chip gives him access to the local Internet, making closed book exams a snap. Most important, in “regularizing” Kyle, the chip drains his emotions—he can’t recognize jokes and doesn’t like to be touched. So Kyle is taunted (for being irregular and flat) and hated (for being smart). And, BTW, his father died saving the colony from a Dino attack, so all he has is a workaholic mom and one half-brother who understands and helps Kyle. That covers the first ten pages of the novel. The rest of the first half of “Hella” is seen though Kyle’s unique, but dimmed vision. And NOTHING OF CONSEQUENCE HAPPENS. Three days of reading to get anywhere. The second half is stuffed to the gills with plot. Cardboard plot—any John Ford western had more “nuance” than this. Indeed, Gerrold uses that word more then John Kerry did in his failed 2004 campaign for the Presidency. Speaking of John (“Holidays in Cambodia”) Kerry, Gerrold tosses in a few liberal tropes so unnecessary to the plot that they should have been blue-penciled long before publication. Such as avoiding use of fossil fuel, because it invariably runs out. Is Gerrold the last believer in “Peak Oil?” I’m 60+ years old, and we’ve always had a 20-year reserve. Some of the quotes are in my (few) highlights. Harking back to “The Making of Star Trek,” Gerrold tells the story of his own “Tribbles” script, first written on his personal IBM Selectric (those born after 1975: look it up). But his Selectric used a 10 pitch font, so Gerrold turned in a first draft meeting the 60 page requirement. But the Studio used 12 pitch font. Suddenly, Gerrold had to cut 18 or so percent of his script. He was lucky: the reductions forced not only shorter scenes, but required Gerrold to tie actions to motivations of characters that remained—that’s where the “Tribbles don’t like Klingons or Romulans” idea developed: out of necessity. Too bad there was no pitch confusion here. No one is editing Gerrold now, and it shows. If I was bored out of my mind, how long is some 13 1/2 year old going to stick with it? Not long, I fear. Nice guy; bad book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay

    Hella is a human colony planet that's had many waves of colonists over generations, fleeing a troubled Earth. But life on Hella isn't easy. It's a lighter gravity world than Earth, and this everything is giant-sized, from mile-high trees, to roaming herds of enormous dinosaur-like creatures that shape the entire ecosystem. Weather and climate are also problems, forcing much of the wildlife and the colonists themselves to be migratory with the hellish seasons. Just as difficult as the challenges o Hella is a human colony planet that's had many waves of colonists over generations, fleeing a troubled Earth. But life on Hella isn't easy. It's a lighter gravity world than Earth, and this everything is giant-sized, from mile-high trees, to roaming herds of enormous dinosaur-like creatures that shape the entire ecosystem. Weather and climate are also problems, forcing much of the wildlife and the colonists themselves to be migratory with the hellish seasons. Just as difficult as the challenges of the alien ecosystem and dangerous planet are the societal stresses that come with a growing population that includes regular influxes of immigrants and the political discussions those stresses cause. Caught in the middle of the new politics is an unlikely catalyst, neuro-atypical Kyle, whose brain implant means that his emotional difficulties also come with savant-level encyclopedic intelligence. Kyle and his small family get caught up in events when he's used as a pawn by both sides of the argument that initially sees him in a useful role as educator to the latest ship of new arrivals. This is a very old style of SF that's being told with a much newer appreciation of where futuristic technology might be if and when interstellar colonization is possible. Having Kyle be autistic (that word isn't used in the book, but it's probably the closest description of his neurological condition, albeit with differences because of his implant) allows the author to endlessly infodump on his extremely well-thought out world-building. In fact, I think it's a fair criticism of the book that this is actually over-used and turns into a mechanism to put as much of the author's research/design onto the page as possible, self-indulgently so. As a result, the first two thirds of this book is very slow, and your experience of it is probably going to hang largely on how much of this style of story-telling you can take. That being said, when the story gets going, it gets quite action-packed towards the end and really stretches Kyle's character particularly around his limitations. Beware though, the crux of the conflict in this is a fight between socialism/collectivism and capitalism, and at this time in the world, I expect a lot of people aren't going to want to read a fiction version of what's happening on the news every night.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sydney S

    “These are the people who screwed up Earth and then ran away. They’ll do the same here.” 4.5 stars. A lot of interesting ideas and a very unique narrative perspective. It’s pretty hard sci-fi, which is usually hit or miss for holding my attention. Fortunately, I really connected with the characters and the story, and especially the world, which was so bizarre that it kept me enthralled throughout, even during the super detailed world building parts that probably could be viewed by some as info “These are the people who screwed up Earth and then ran away. They’ll do the same here.” 4.5 stars. A lot of interesting ideas and a very unique narrative perspective. It’s pretty hard sci-fi, which is usually hit or miss for holding my attention. Fortunately, I really connected with the characters and the story, and especially the world, which was so bizarre that it kept me enthralled throughout, even during the super detailed world building parts that probably could be viewed by some as info dumps. I think the success has a lot to do with our narrator, Kyle, a boy who is “emotionally challenged” in a way similar to autism. “That’s one of the things about my syndrome. I don’t think about other people enough.” Gerrold does such a good job with this narrator’s unique voice. I love Kyle! Really, I love most of the characters. Jamie and the Captain and Dora and Jubilee, they’re all great. This is a very smart, well thought out story, world, and character development. Gerrold thought of everything. Hella is a fully developed and wildly complex world and I was fascinated from the start (although it did take me about 30 pages to be at the “can’t put the book down” stage). There are some pretty controversial ideas that are dealt with very thoughtfully. For example, the politics can be intense. There’s a proposal for a Genetic Protection Resolution that would basically cull anyone without perfect genes (which means anyone born like our narrator would be aborted, although it probably would never get to that point because DNA would be very carefully selected to weed out certain undesirable traits). Welfare type issues, capitalism, environmental conservation, and classism are also brought up. It was all so well done and handled in a way that parallels our modern struggles and failures in a very accurate and ugly reflection. “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.” Hella has a very strong LGBT presence. Switching genders is normal for people and you can go back and forth presumably as many times as you want. Our main character was born female and switched when he was about 7 Earth years old (almost 3 Hella years old, and don’t worry, there’s a time conversion chart in the back of the book). His mom was born male and switched to female so she could have children (although most babies aren’t born naturally anymore, she just wanted to experience it). There are poly couples too. It was all so organically written and Gerrold did a great job with this. The representation is awesome, especially how well he did writing from the perspective of an emotionally challenged boy. “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 everyone else?” I read an uncorrected version, so I’m not sure if this is something that might change, but in my copy, there aren’t any chapter breaks. The entire book is like one very long chapter. I thought I would hate it but it didn’t end up bothering me because I got sucked into the story so thoroughly, and it all just flowed together so smoothly. The narrative voice worked well with this kind of format and writing style. The dialogue was one of my favorite things about this book because Kyle is such a unique character. He’s funny without trying to be, serious 100% of the time, and has a very special understanding (or lack of understanding) of humans. Well, of everything, really. Kyle is fascinating, and the way David Gerrold plugged into his characters’ mindsets is even more fascinating. About halfway into Hella, everything changes. Like the whole tone changes, but also the pace, which speeds up big time. There’s a lot less of the super-detail-info type paragraphs and a lot more action and dialogue. After an AI character is introduced, the plot kind of changes too (or maybe it just becomes fully fleshed out). So yeah, once you get to the point I’m talking about, you’ll know. This story will take you for a ride. Prepare your emotions. My only complaints are kind of snobby ridiculous ones, so they won’t affect my rating. Firstly, I really don’t like the cover of this book. There are so many cool creatures on Hella and yet the one on the cover is just a giant version of a crocodile. I wish they’d put a leviathan (similar to a brachiosaurus) or carnosaur on the cover. Or a humungosaur! I really want to see what an artist rendering of these creatures would look like. Secondly, it would’ve been nice to have some sort of map for Hella, but I always say that about any book that doesn’t have a map, and maybe there will be one in the finished book. And lastly, there’s a slightly frustrating name similarity of two characters (Jamie and J’mee) and I basically had to change J’mee in my head to A’mee whenever I read it just to differentiate the two. Maybe it’s pronounced some crazy way that doesn’t sound like Jamie, but I don’t see how else it could sound and why the author would make two main characters have such similar sounding names. So, in conclusion, I loved this book. So much more than I thought I was going to. I really took my time with it, savoring the character development, the world, the plot, everything. I filled up so many notecards with things I wanted to remember and make note of. One whole notecard is just page numbers for quotes I wanted to keep and look back on. Very thankful I won this book. I read an uncorrected manuscript. All quotes are subject to change with the final published book. Thank you to DAW Books for this ARC! TW: Bullying. Also… there’s a semi confusing relationship that appears to be with a 14ish year old and a 25ish year old. I feel like I must be misunderstanding the age difference though, because it really doesn’t make sense. I know that the way people look and mature is definitely different in this distant future though. Still, the time difference of Earth and Hella is clearly explained. And the relationship itself didn’t make me uncomfortable unless I let myself consider the ages in present day. I wanted to mention it in case anyone is upset by the thought of that even in a different evolutionary spectrum. The relationship doesn’t seem to bother anyone in the story, the parent or friends or anyone. The age thing isn’t even mentioned. Again, I could be completely misunderstanding it anyway.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Octavia

    Great subject but hard to get into. I Love Sci-fi, so reading this book was a no brainer. As a member of Goodreads I was gifted the book and really wanted to like it. However, it was extremely hard for me to get into. Kyle narrates the story for us and at times it was painful. I felt like I was listening to a monotone lecturer trying my best to stay awake. Once I got into the story about a hundred pages I realized that Kyle was Autistic. So, the story was written from his perspective and in his v Great subject but hard to get into. I Love Sci-fi, so reading this book was a no brainer. As a member of Goodreads I was gifted the book and really wanted to like it. However, it was extremely hard for me to get into. Kyle narrates the story for us and at times it was painful. I felt like I was listening to a monotone lecturer trying my best to stay awake. Once I got into the story about a hundred pages I realized that Kyle was Autistic. So, the story was written from his perspective and in his voice. I figured out the plot twist early on but I wanted to see how the writer would use it. I enjoyed the characters in the story and loved the world that is Hella. This is a good book, but it isn't a great book. I'm torn because it was the narration that killed the read for me. This may not bother you. I understand why it was done, but it just didn't work for me.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tammy

    I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The nitty-gritty: Big ideas, big dinos and lots of thoughtful commentary, Hella was an odd combination of quick thrills, fascinating facts and very uneven pacing. I had high hopes for Hella, and although it started off with lots of promise, halfway through the book I realized that there were several problematic elements that would ultimately ad I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The nitty-gritty: Big ideas, big dinos and lots of thoughtful commentary, Hella was an odd combination of quick thrills, fascinating facts and very uneven pacing. I had high hopes for Hella, and although it started off with lots of promise, halfway through the book I realized that there were several problematic elements that would ultimately add up to a middle-of-the-road book. Which is a shame, because just look at that cover! I loved the idea of a group of colonists living on a planet where everything is huge , and at first, Gerrold does a great job of setting the stage and presenting a cool idea with plenty of opportunities to evolve into a fantastic plot. And he succeeded at times, but sadly this book ended up being a mixed bag for me. First let me set the stage. The planet of Hella was colonized 106 years ago and over 7000 colonists now call the planet home. Hella is home to gigantic dinosaur-like creatures and humongous trees, extreme weather conditions and desolate landscapes, but the colonists have developed ways to stay safe in this harsh environment over the years. One of their strategies is to relocate to a different outpost during the summer and winter seasons to avoid the worst of the bad weather. When the story begins, the colony is packing up for the trek to Winterland Outpost, where they go every year to escape the freezing winters. At the same time, a pilgrimage ship called the Cascade is nearing Hellan orbit and will land in a matter of months with a new crop of refugees. Kyle is a young autistic teen who was born on Hella and lives with his beloved older brother Jamie and their mother.  Kyle has an implant he calls “the noise,” a chip that gives him access to an internet-like pool of knowledge and that also allows him to better communicate with his friends and family. Kyle is tasked with creating informational videos to beam up to the refugees on the Cascade while they are waiting to land, videos that show not only the beauty of Hella, but warn of the extreme dangers as well. While Kyle’s intentions are good—giving the new colonists a true picture of what life on Hella is like—not everyone on board is happy to learn about the hard work that will be expected of them once they land. Life on Hella isn't easy, you see. Everyone does their part to make the colony run smoothly, from working on the farms and helping with food production, to clearing out tunnels to build underground housing and much more. For some colonists, the lure of relocating to a new planet was supposed to mean freedom: freedom to stake out their own territory and make their own rules. When a political clash between the leader of the Cascade and the governing body of Hella seems imminent, Kyle and his friends must try to protect their peaceful way of life at all costs. By far my favorite thing about Hella was the planet itself and the unique animal life that lives there. And by “animal life” I mean HUGE dinosaurs! The colony has been living and thriving on Hella for over a hundred years, so by now they have figured out the best survival tactics and how to deal with the herds of beasts that migrate each year. My favorite dino was the leviathan, which I’m picturing in my head as a brontosaurus. Leviathans are described as being 500 times as big as a Rollagon, the all terrain vehicle used to get around, which is five or six stories tall, so you can imagine a whole herd of them making their way across the plains of Hella and how the colonists strategically placed their outposts according to these migration paths. We do get a couple of exciting Jurassic Park -like scenes involving leviathans and bigmouths (tyrannosaurus rex), as they hunt and kill each other for food, and there are some delightfully gory parts that gave me hope for the rest of the story. But once we hit the midpoint, the dinos mysteriously vanish from the picture. This lack of dino action was perhaps my biggest disappointment. I love that Gerrold included an autistic main character, and although the word “autistic” is never mentioned, it wasn’t hard to guess based on Kyle’s characteristics. The entire story is told from Kyle’s point of view, and his dry, concise manner of speaking does get a bit old after a while, I’m not going to lie. Kyle is extremely smart and obsessed with details and facts, and much of his narrative in the first half consists of page after page of detailed information about the wildlife on Hella, the social organization of the colony, and the logistics of getting from place to place. Luckily, I found all of this information fascinating, from the eating and migration patterns of the leviathans and bigmouths to the descriptions of the gigantic trucks called Rollagons that enable the colony to safely traverse the planet. But I quickly grew tired of his textbook-like voice and simply wanted the plot to take over. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen until the very end of the story. As for the characters, I found it difficult to connect with any of them, although I did have a soft spot for Kyle and his social challenges, and I did like the close relationship between Kyle and his brother Jamie. One of the strangest things for me was that the kids and adults all felt exactly the same. Kyle and Jamie, as well as two kids from the Cascade, J’Mee and Charles, all spoke like adults, and their dialog at times actually made me cringe. Kyle befriends an outcast on Hella named Jeremy, and they quickly decide to become boyfriends, despite the fact that Kyle doesn’t like to be touched. The dialog swings wildly from Kyle and Jeremy calling each other “sweetheart” (which just didn't fit with their age—they are supposed to be around fifteen years old) to making a “stinky promise” to each other by linking fingers. (Seriously, if I ever have to read the words “stinky promise” again…) It was such an odd mix of adult language and baby talk, which made it hard to relate to them. I also want to mention the role of sex and gender in Hella , as I found it interesting and a little disturbing at the same time. In this future, people are able to change their physical sex at will. For example, Kyle was born female, but when she was about three, she was jealous of Jamie’s ability to pee standing up, so she decided to become male. Likewise, Kyle’s mother was born male and changed so that she could experience childbirth. And once you change, you can change back if you want to. Oddly, there is never any discussion about how the physical transformations take place. I was also surprised to find that it’s common for the colonists to take showers together. Gerrold had his characters randomly jumping into the shower in groups of two or three, I suppose to show how open everyone is about sex and seeing each other naked, but I have to admit it was a bit shocking and weird for me, especially when those showers involve young adults who don't even know each other that well. The plot abruptly switches from a potentially exciting survival story to a confusing political plot, complete with lots of social commentary about genetics and whether or not all members of society are important, even if they’re “different.” And I haven’t even mentioned HARLIE, the AI from the Cascade who adds a philosophical layer to the story—as if this story needs anything else added! The big twist near the end wasn’t surprising in the least—I had it figured out early on—and it felt like Gerrold was trying to shoehorn in a bunch of action in those final scenes in order to make up for the slower parts of his story. Hella had a lot of potential, and I applaud Gerrold for including a marginalized main character and using Kyle's condition to shine a light on autism, but with so much going on, it was hard to love all its parts. Lots of readers have rated this five stars on Goodreads, which puzzles me a bit, but hey, you never know! If this sounds like your kind of story, then definitely give it a try. Big thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy.  This review originally appeared on Books, Bones & Buffy

  12. 5 out of 5

    Bint Arab

    I received an ARC of this book through the Goodreads giveaway program. Not recommended. This book was a huge disappointment, the first book by David Gerrold that I've read and probably my last. There isn't much of a story: the book is part biology textbook and part political treatise. As such, it consists of one lecture after another, making for stilted, awkward conversational interactions between characters and long passages that contribute nothing to the story. The writing is poor (dangling mod I received an ARC of this book through the Goodreads giveaway program. Not recommended. This book was a huge disappointment, the first book by David Gerrold that I've read and probably my last. There isn't much of a story: the book is part biology textbook and part political treatise. As such, it consists of one lecture after another, making for stilted, awkward conversational interactions between characters and long passages that contribute nothing to the story. The writing is poor (dangling modifiers abound, but maybe the editors will clean that up before the book is finally released). There are illogical plot points that I might have been willing to overlook for a good story, which this is not. There's lots of telling with sparse showing. Characters are so flat and dimensionless that I didn't care at all what happened to any of them, not even the narrator, Kyle Martin. Kyle is supposed to be neurodiverse, but the author has not done enough research into "neurodiversity" to depict a convincing character; apparently Gerrold believes that a "neurodiverse" child is distinguished only by temper tantrums and an aversion to being touched. This is not just a lost opportunity, it is insulting -- the author could have made the story truly outstanding if only he had delved deeper into Kyle's character, including exploring how his atypical mind works. But in the end, it turns out Kyle is just a prop for the plot because Gerrold needed a character with a computer chip in his brain in order for his staged plot resolution to work. This book fails the The Fries Test on disability representation in literature, a critique based on the stereotypes and ways that authors have depicted and used disabled characters in the past. It is problematic that (view spoiler)[the main character is "cured" of his disability by the end of the book; it turns out that Kyle is not really neurodiverse because he has either grown out of it or been "fixed" by the computer chip implant. (hide spoiler)] Who is the intended audience for this book? Kyle is supposed to be 13 yrs old, but I doubt any middle grade reader would have the patience to slog through this book. Adult readers? They would have more patience, but would likely give up before the end because there is so little story to reward that patience. Lovers of biology/ecology studies/conservationism? They would get much more out of a textbook than a description of this invented planet. Sci-fi fans? There are much better books out there, ones worth your investment of time. People interested in gender fluidity? Although the characters in this book can change genders completely and easily (to the point where a trans-woman can bear children in her own womb), there's no sense of gender identity. For example, a little girl decides to become a boy so she can have a penis like her brother -- it's not that she felt like she was a boy or that she felt that a boy's body would be truer to her self. Another missed opportunity and disappointing dismissal of so many real people's truths. I could go on, but I've made my point. This book is not worth reading. ~bint

  13. 4 out of 5

    Peter Tillman

    Tom Shippey at the WSJ liked this, calling it a "Robert Heinlein-esque Bildungsroman set on a dinosaur-dominated planet.": https://www.wsj.com/articles/science-... "Sci-fi has a strong tradition of “deathworld” planets. David Gerrold’s Hella is one of them, on steroids. Everything on it is “Hella-bigger and Hella-meaner and Hella-more ferocious.” The herbivorous dinosaurs weigh hundreds of tons and migrate in earth-flattening herds; the carnosaurs that prey on them are outsize to match. The human Tom Shippey at the WSJ liked this, calling it a "Robert Heinlein-esque Bildungsroman set on a dinosaur-dominated planet.": https://www.wsj.com/articles/science-... "Sci-fi has a strong tradition of “deathworld” planets. David Gerrold’s Hella is one of them, on steroids. Everything on it is “Hella-bigger and Hella-meaner and Hella-more ferocious.” The herbivorous dinosaurs weigh hundreds of tons and migrate in earth-flattening herds; the carnosaurs that prey on them are outsize to match. The humans have lost a lot of colonists: a few to the ’saurs, more to infection, but most to stupidity. In “Hella” (Daw, 441 pages, $26), Mr. Gerrold’s teenage hero, Kyle, has to learn deep lessons of survival. But as his forerunners, the heroes of Robert Heinlein’s “juveniles,” always found out, dealing with people and politics is a part of survival as well. Kyle needs to deal with dinosaurs but also navigate the power struggles of the colonists, who deviously pack committees and dominate meetings. This element of the story raises “Hella” above the level of a Young Adult adventure story. In everyday life we don’t cope with dinosaurs, but we do cope with bureaucrats and finaglers. Mr. Gerrold makes it plain that there’s as much drama and danger in office politics as there is in dealing with wild beasts. It’s just that in a survival scenario, the stakes are higher, and losers find they’re collected much more promptly." TBR. My kind of book!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Hella by David Gerrold 3 Stars Hella is an interesting story set sometime in the future of an earth colony living on a distant planet where everything is really big. But while the story is entertaining and the writing is good, it just didn’t grab me. It’s clearly a young adult book but isn’t billed that way at all that I can see. And there are some aspects of the book that I found particularly troubling. One other reviewer described Hella as having a “social structure that has evolved past where we Hella by David Gerrold 3 Stars Hella is an interesting story set sometime in the future of an earth colony living on a distant planet where everything is really big. But while the story is entertaining and the writing is good, it just didn’t grab me. It’s clearly a young adult book but isn’t billed that way at all that I can see. And there are some aspects of the book that I found particularly troubling. One other reviewer described Hella as having a “social structure that has evolved past where we are now in terms of gender and sexuality.” I’m not sure evolved is the word I would use though. In this world, people are able to change their gender back and forth at will, and they often do so when they are very young children. It seems to me that issues of gender identity are far deeper than wanting to be like an older sibling or wanting to pee standing up (which were the reasons for a very early-life gender change for the book’s hero). And by the end of the book the 13-year-old hero has moved in to live with his boyfriend. I’m troubled by that not by the fact that it’s his boyfriend but by the fact that he’s 13 years old and is engaged in a live-in sexual relationship. 3 very generous stars.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Tomislav

    Hella is American science fiction screenwriter and novelist David Gerrold’s latest YA novel. It is set in a community on one of the first human colony worlds, a colony that struggles to survive in a harsh environment with giant and ferocious life. The first-person narrator, Kyle, is almost 5 Hella years old (about 13 Earth years), and Gerrold’s target reader seems to be about the same age. Interestingly, Kyle is somewhere on the autism spectrum and has great difficulty communicating and understa Hella is American science fiction screenwriter and novelist David Gerrold’s latest YA novel. It is set in a community on one of the first human colony worlds, a colony that struggles to survive in a harsh environment with giant and ferocious life. The first-person narrator, Kyle, is almost 5 Hella years old (about 13 Earth years), and Gerrold’s target reader seems to be about the same age. Interestingly, Kyle is somewhere on the autism spectrum and has great difficulty communicating and understanding the emotional nuances of other people. This complicates Gerrold’s exposition of the world of Hella to the reader, so Kyle is frequently repeating explanations he heard from his Mom or older brother or other figures. Kyle seems to bear a resemblance to Gerrold’s actual son, as described in his semi-autobiographical 1994 novel The Martian Child: A Novel About a Single Father Adopting a Son (subsequently adapted for film in 2007). In another reference to a prior work, Hella has a precocious artificial intelligence named HARLIE, named after a major character in his 1972 novel When HARLIE Was One. These are not related plotwise. There is a difference between building a consistent and scientifically believable world, as in Mars of Kim Stanley Robinson for example, and creating a pretend world with a lot of cool features that doesn’t bear too much thinking about. Unfortunately, Hella is mostly pretend world. The planet Hella is simplistic, repetitive, and cinematic - featuring battles of gigantic dinosaurs, and an abundance of giant reconfigurable machinery. Would you believe that shuttle flights are programmed in assembly code, and that the pilot/captain personally reviews it for bugs before taking off? Gender change is commonplace, whimsically simple, and almost magical. The interpersonal conflict is good-guy vs. bad-guy. Hiding behind a limited first-person perspective does not fix these things. The novel is suitable perhaps for the younger end of YA. In any case, that was not what I was expecting or hoping for.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ardis

    There’s this general feeling in the Hella Colony that we’ll never conquer the planet if we hide behind the fences of Summerland Station. So we have to go out ourselves, smell the air and taste the world. We have to feel the dirt between our fingers. If we are ever going to make this planet ours, we have to give up our fear of it and get into a genuinely courageous relationship. That’s what Captain Skyler says. But that doesn’t mean we have to be foolish about it. David Gerrold is an accomplished a There’s this general feeling in the Hella Colony that we’ll never conquer the planet if we hide behind the fences of Summerland Station. So we have to go out ourselves, smell the air and taste the world. We have to feel the dirt between our fingers. If we are ever going to make this planet ours, we have to give up our fear of it and get into a genuinely courageous relationship. That’s what Captain Skyler says. But that doesn’t mean we have to be foolish about it. David Gerrold is an accomplished author with undeniable scifi credentials, publishing dozens of scifi novels and writing a handful of episodes of Star Trek (including “The Trouble With Tribbles” in 1967). But when I first saw his new book announced I completely missed the connection to this author who I’ve read before – I was completely taken in by the premise, and only realized whose work I was reading much later. Encountering new scifi from an acclaimed author is always a thrill, but Hella proves that Gerrold has always understood what makes scifi (and Star Trek) so great: fantastic scifi stories and real-world explorations of what it means to be human go hand-in-hand. On Hella, scientists, explorers, and refugee settlers are trying (and succeeding) to survive on a hostile world full of hella big threats. Due to Hella’s low gravity and high oxygen saturation, everything on Hella grows to enormous proportions, but the truly epic fauna is only the beginning of what troubles the colonies of Hella – and our young narrator, Kyle. Gerrold gets everything right, as far as I’m concerned, and he has not set himself to a simple task. Instantly, you get a taste of how large these animals must be but Gerrold waits to give you a true sense of their enormity until he can get Kyle (and the readers) up close and personal, and he marries the true sense of their size, physics implications of that size, and character-driven narration to create scene after scene of hard-hitting action and emotional moments that instantly suck the reader straight into Hella’s colony. We headed in closer. I climbed up into an empty turret to get a better view. Even from a half-klick away, the animals were scary-huge. It’s one thing to know that Hella’s lighter gravity and oxygen-rich atmosphere allow for everything to grow to enormous proportions, but until you can see an actual meat mountain in motion, up close and thundering, you can’t really understand what it means. One of the most obvious tells that this isn’t Gerrold’s first scifi rodeo is his efficient world building. He doesn’t waste time interrupting the narrative to delve into the biology, the history, the motivations, the cast of characters because he doesn’t have to. Gerrold knows exactly how to deliver all of the exposition, the background, the setting, the reader needs to be grounded and immersed with as little work as possible – and the result is gripping. At the same time, Hella’s pace is reliably varied. One of my favorite techniques he employs is allowing Kyle (the autistic narrator) to focus on the details of specific procedures as a way to hone the reader’s focus and subtly shift the tone to set up a scene, all the while smuggling in a ton of thoughtful world building. “Thoughtful” kept popping up in my notes while reading Hella, because it’s so clear that Gerrold put careful thought into every aspect of this story. Kyle is a lovingly-written narrator, and after reading this part of me will always love him. Ultimately this story is about Kyle, and the ways in which the unique way he interacts with the world can be viewed or interpreted by others – and the extent to which others’ choices help or hurt him. Kyle’s syndrome is a major part of the book, not just because it so clearly colors the world we see through Kyle’s eyes but also in the theme of insidious ableism that grows throughout the story. An appreciable number of scifi stories with autistic main characters in the past few years, and if I’m being honest my experience with some of them caused me to hesitate to even read Hella. Have no fear. Gerrold knows exactly what he’s doing. Kyle is lovingly written, and his unique experience is an intrinsic part of the story Gerrold tells instead of a new trope to exploit. It’s clear right away that the author is familiar with neurodivergent experiences and writes from an authentic and respectful perspective that neither sensationalizes or plays down Kyle’s experience AND the varying reactions his neurodivergent behaviors and needs inspire in the people around him. But of course, with Gerrold’s skill and economy of word and technique he’s never just doing one thing. And this story which truly is Kyle’s doesn’t just feature his neurodivergence, it’s shaped by it in intelligent and graceful ways. Gerrold is not shy about using Kyle’s wandering attention and hyper-focus to shape a scene or to play with what information he gives to or withholds from the reader. I couldn’t help but stop to appreciate (multiple times – seriously) how an author with this level of experience could write such a thoughtful, careful, modern story. Hella isn’t just a pleasure to read, it also redefines how high we can set the bar for stories that are truly inclusive – particularly in science fiction. Gerrold has single-handedly proven that it is not too much to ask to have a truly diverse cast of characters whose differences respectfully and realistically impact the narrative and enhance, rather than compromise, a rich, full, challenging, inspiring book. But it’s not all cultural commentary and world building and science (and giant dinosaurs?), because Gerrold has a wicked sense of humor and he really has fun in this book. He has obvious fun with the name Hella, from the direct wordplay But the lesser gravity and the greater oxygen levels make it possible for everything to grow a lot bigger. Hella bigger. to more elegant exercises of playful language Jamie says that calling a leviathan big is to stretch the word beyond its breaking point. He also goes wild with naming conventions in this book, blaming it all on Hella’s first settlers (and creating some absolutely perfect Hellan history at the same time). From places like Ugly Mountain and Bitch Canyon, to a family of carnosaurs lovingly named the Sackville Bagginses, Gerrold plays with irreverence and Earthly cultural references in a way that brightens the narrative and humanizes Hella’s inhabitants. It’s clear that Gerrold had fun with Hella. The result is an achingly human story that will stick with me for years to come.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Brandy {The Review Booth}

    The unique combination of a lighter gravity and increased oxygen density has allowed everything on Hella to grow into supersized proportions. The dinosaurs and their herds achieve monstrous sizes while the flora can reach over a mile high. The weather is even more harsh and unpredictable than Earth's which is why the colonists are forced to retreat twice a year. Once to Summerland to avoid the heat so intense it can cause raging wildfires, then to Winterland to avoid brutal winter storms with wi The unique combination of a lighter gravity and increased oxygen density has allowed everything on Hella to grow into supersized proportions. The dinosaurs and their herds achieve monstrous sizes while the flora can reach over a mile high. The weather is even more harsh and unpredictable than Earth's which is why the colonists are forced to retreat twice a year. Once to Summerland to avoid the heat so intense it can cause raging wildfires, then to Winterland to avoid brutal winter storms with winds that can be 300+ mph and snows that refuse to melt for months. Kyle Martin is a very unique young man who just happens to be neuro-atypical, struggles with emotion and has brain implant that allows him instant access to the network that runs the colonies. The star-ship Cascade arrives ahead of schedule and the occupants are forced to stay aboard the ship, Kyle is tasked with bridging the gap between the colonists and those seeking the refuge of Hella. The colony on Hella is still in its fledgling stages and barely able to perform at optimum. Will the addition of over a thousand new people break the tenuous balance the colony has been able to build? Kyle finds himself unwittingly in the center of the storm and in possession of a perilous secret. A political conspiracy threatens to entangle him and his once subdued emotions might win over his logical nature but he is hoping that he can utilize the uniqueness the colony tormented him over to prevent their own downfall. 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. 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. 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.

  18. 5 out of 5

    deep

    PW Starred: "Hugo and Nebula Award–winner Gerrold (The Martian Child) showcases his powerful storytelling skills with this outstanding tale of interstellar intrigue. Hella is a planet of extremes, so named because its oxygen-rich atmosphere causes everything from the trees to the leviathans that inhabit it to grow “hella big.” The barely self-sufficient human colonists who call Hella home flee its blistering summers and harsh arctic winters in a biannual migration. Among these colonists is Kyle, PW Starred: "Hugo and Nebula Award–winner Gerrold (The Martian Child) showcases his powerful storytelling skills with this outstanding tale of interstellar intrigue. Hella is a planet of extremes, so named because its oxygen-rich atmosphere causes everything from the trees to the leviathans that inhabit it to grow “hella big.” The barely self-sufficient human colonists who call Hella home flee its blistering summers and harsh arctic winters in a biannual migration. Among these colonists is Kyle, a neuroatypical 13-year-old with a chip implant meant to regulate his emotions. This brain chip, which he calls “the noise,” allows him direct access to the colony’s vast computer database of information. As the colony prepares for a new crop of colonists to arrive from the ravaged remnants of Earth, Kyle’s outsider status and special access to the database lands him in the middle of a political conflict that threatens the future of the struggling colony. The worldbuilding is masterful, with hard scientific explanations for Hella’s many abnormalities and rich descriptions sure to keep the attention of even the most casual reader. The effortlessly diverse cast, complex political machinations, and heartfelt coming-of-age themes combine to create a fleshed-out vision of the future that is intense, emotional, and immersive while still maintaining a sense of rollicking fun. Sci-fi readers should snap this up. (June) "

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mike Siedschlag

    I won a print copy of Hella by David Gerrold in a Goodreads Giveaway. I was given an uncorrected manuscript. It goes on sale officially 6/16/20, aka tomorrow. The only difficulty in reading for me was, no chapters. When I take a break from reading, I like to use chapter breaks as convenient stopping point. Didn't have that option here. Worth it to get to read this story prior to release. I really enjoyed this book. Told from the point of view of a teenage (on Earth) boy who used to be a girl. Kyl I won a print copy of Hella by David Gerrold in a Goodreads Giveaway. I was given an uncorrected manuscript. It goes on sale officially 6/16/20, aka tomorrow. The only difficulty in reading for me was, no chapters. When I take a break from reading, I like to use chapter breaks as convenient stopping point. Didn't have that option here. Worth it to get to read this story prior to release. I really enjoyed this book. Told from the point of view of a teenage (on Earth) boy who used to be a girl. Kyle appears to have a disorder of some sort, perhaps autism or Asperger's or the like. He has an implant which helps him function more "normally", but some people are put off by his lack of emotion. Hella is an Earth colony on a planet that is larger than Earth, has a weaker gravitational pull and higher levels of oxygen in the atmosphere. Everything grows to incredible size; Hella-big. We follow Kyle as he navigates life in the colony. Aside from the inevitable political conflicts and machinations which are well developed and interestingly voiced, the author paints a vivid picture of the flora and fauna of the Hellan landscape. Because of the severe weather patterns of the planet, a major part of the story is the trek to Winterland, the site for colder weather living. We wind up with an interesting take on the Scooby Gang taking on the bad guys. Although many references to, shall we say alternative lifestyles and sexuality, there is no real sex. Gigantic animals, humongous plants, young love, more mature love, wicked politicians and technology that is at times very useful and at times stifling to actual societal growth. All on a planet that can be openly hostile to human occupation. Altogether a Hella-fun fantasy read. Enjoy!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Fredrick Danysh

    The colonist on Hella have to deal where everything is oversized except for its gravity. Humans cane change sex at will. Kyle is considered a freak because he can interface with the computer network. As he reaches adulthood a new group of colonists and all of the problems of Earth start to rear their heads.This science fiction/fantasy book was a free advance read through Goodreads.com.

  21. 4 out of 5

    J C

    Fantastic world building, interesting characters, bold themes that fit right into today's issues. One of the most immersive books I've read in a while.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Dane

    got bored at 10% dnf

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ellie

    I won an advance copy of this book in a goodreads giveaway (and proceeded to take way too long to read it, whoops). I was intrigued by the premise and many aspects of the plot of this sci-fi novel, which is about human colonists on a planet much larger than Earth, where all the flora & fauna are massive in size. We follow the unraveling of a political conflict and conspiracy among the leaders of the colony. However, I can't recommend it because of the very stereotypical and unrealistic portrayal I won an advance copy of this book in a goodreads giveaway (and proceeded to take way too long to read it, whoops). I was intrigued by the premise and many aspects of the plot of this sci-fi novel, which is about human colonists on a planet much larger than Earth, where all the flora & fauna are massive in size. We follow the unraveling of a political conflict and conspiracy among the leaders of the colony. However, I can't recommend it because of the very stereotypical and unrealistic portrayal of the main character, who is a neurodivergent teenager. Bizarrely, David Gerrold seems to posit a future world where (for example) there is no particular racial prejudice or sexism and people can switch gender/sex easily whenever they want, but societal understanding of neurodivergence has regressed, as nobody ever refers to Kyle's condition as autism or anything along those lines (even though that's clearly what it is) and it's treated as a problem to be cured. (Not that societal attitudes must always progress in a linear direction, but this made no sense to me in the worldbuilding.) In fact, his condition IS cured by the end of the book, a story trope which is very offensive and that I was shocked to see in a new release book; I thought most authors trying to be respectful would know by now that this harmful idea shouldn't be used. There were a lot of interesting ideas in Hella, but on the whole it's a failure as there are far too many problems with the writing of the main character, whose voice and development infuses the entire book. I felt on the whole as though I was reading a book from the 90s or early 00s, not 2020.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. 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 issu 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 is...eh, 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.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Heather Brock

    Hella is decent piece of sci-fi with some interesting ideas. The world-building is solid and fun. Everything is oversized-plants, animals, etc. It's an interesting mechanism to humble humans with since we tend to think we're at the apex of everything. Humans have had to adapt to Hella and learn to respect it. It's interesting to consider, since we as the human race can't even be stewards of our own planet. Would we be willing and able to respect the natural resources and organisms of another pla Hella is decent piece of sci-fi with some interesting ideas. The world-building is solid and fun. Everything is oversized-plants, animals, etc. It's an interesting mechanism to humble humans with since we tend to think we're at the apex of everything. Humans have had to adapt to Hella and learn to respect it. It's interesting to consider, since we as the human race can't even be stewards of our own planet. Would we be willing and able to respect the natural resources and organisms of another planet? I had a bit of difficulty with the narration. Using a neuro-atypical character to narrate is an important choice. I think the reader potentially having difficulty reading Kyle's POV possibly mirrors the difficulty neurodivergent individuals might feel with neurotypical folks at times. I applaud that, intentional or otherwise. I appreciated that this book caused me to consider and ruminate on so many different issues and aspects of life: Ethics and morality, environmental issues, politics, gender-fluidity, relationships of all kinds. Hella has a lot to say, but executes it in a fun way that doesn't feel oppressive. Thank you to DAW for providing a copy of this book for review.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tamara Harpster

    I finished the Book Hella and found it to be a good read. It is a hard science type of book, with an humans settling and adapting to a new world. The larger part of the story is the exploration of human themes of government and community. The placement of the story on a non-Earth planet allows the exploration of these themes in a simpler setting then found on a large population planet like our home world. Although the themes of profit before stewardship resonate with our times, the settlers show I finished the Book Hella and found it to be a good read. It is a hard science type of book, with an humans settling and adapting to a new world. The larger part of the story is the exploration of human themes of government and community. The placement of the story on a non-Earth planet allows the exploration of these themes in a simpler setting then found on a large population planet like our home world. Although the themes of profit before stewardship resonate with our times, the settlers show have the maturity and tools humans should have in the future for dealing with the problems that occur. (view spoiler)[ The story of Hella is about a planet settled by humans that is still in the early stages. The world has a higher oxygen level in the atmosphere which leads to larger plants and animals. This led to the world getting named Hella for how hella bigger everything grows. The main character of the story is Kyle, a young person who is almost a teenager by Earth years. He has a syndrome that causes problems with social interactions so he also has a computer implant, which provides him tips for dealing with other people. In spite of the implant, Kyle has problems with getting misunderstood or bullied, especially by Marley, the daughter of a councilor of the settlers. Captain Skyler, Kyle’s mom and his older brother Jamie all look out for him and in spite of not quite fitting in, he finds a place in the Hella. When a ship approaches with more settlers, Kyle becomes a guide for them before they land. He creates films that explain life on Hella, and shows the variety of animals, and plants they will find in their new home. He gains respects of the colonists on Hella and creates a job for himself in creating tutorials about Hella. However, not everyone has the same goals for how Hella. Most of the settlers feels that they should proceed slowly and work to avoid mistakes that occurred during the exploration and settlement of Earth. Others feel they should expand as quickly as possible and are willing to do whatever it takes, including murder, to achieve their goals of putting profit and power first. When a few of the new settlers land, they bring an advanced artificial intelligence Harley with them. Kyle makes friends with the young people from the ship and Harley. As Administrator Layton works to consolidate his power and eliminate his opposition, Kyle and his new friends work with others to oppose the power grab. Many interesting parallels in the story with current world events and written with a focus on young people finding out that they can act to change things when the adults aren’t always able to intervene in time. There is some discussion of gender that may make some uncomfortable at this point in time. However, there are young people that I suspect would appreciate the mention of gender fluidity and that they aren’t alone in their differences. Since the syndrome Kyle has is most likely based on autism, the gender fluidity fits in with that mindset, based on current reporting from many older people who are on the spectrum. On a personal note, I did feel discomfort with how Kyle is portrayed. The authors has reported that the character was based on autism but was not meant to be defined in only that way. However, since the outward symptoms mimic autism, there is a strong feel that Kyle is autistic. I have direct experience with autism and have done research on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The research has included reports from adults on the spectrum and their experiences in life. The portrayal of Kyle showed him fitting in with society due to a computer implant, which implies that the syndrome is viewed as a disability to be overcome by the individual. Researchers are finding there are differences in the brains of autistic people when compared to non-autistic people which cause communication issues. However, when autistic/neurodivergent people talk with other autistic people, the problems are not apparent. Since neurodivergent people are not the majority in our cultures, they are normally the person expected to compensate in communications. This can lead to issues with anxiety and depression, which do not appear to be present in Kyle. His demeanor appears to be one of comfort with his culture, yet, the reactions of others around him appear to point to expectations that he compensate to meet their communication expectations. Based on the time setting of the story I would hope that there would be a better understanding of these issues that would lead to others, outside of family, working to better interact with the neurodivergent. Something like viewing the communications like a American communicating with a Japanese person. They might share a language such as English but both would have a different background and viewpoint of the world that could lead to misunderstanding and miscommunication. I believe it is this disconnect that led to the portrayal feeling off for myself. Kyle is portrayed as a mostly healthy individual yet the people around him have behaviors that indicate they may treat him partly as broken. Based on personal experience it does not feel like the mental health and disability would be displayed in this way. One other point, based on the colony size and the current estimated of neurodivergent within a population, I would expect there to be more people with syndromes within the colony. Perhaps Mr. Gerrold will explore this in a future book so that Kyle has others like him and share in his type of experiences. All in all, I enjoyed the story and I suspect the portrayal of Kyle will slip past most people and appear as a sympathetic portrayal of autism. In the end Kyle is viewed as part of the community and those who bully him are finally dealt with so that he won’t be bullied by them again. With the current view point of autistic people, adding another positive portrayal can help others to understand that world a bit more. Thank you Mr. Gerrold for another good book. (hide spoiler)]

  27. 5 out of 5

    Stefani

    ***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 Tre ***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…..so 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. Reviewed for Written Among the Stars

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie McDaniel

    This book has a bit of an odd structure. There's a pivotal moment halfway through that changes its trajectory completely. Up till then, it's a dense, slow-moving exploration of the alien planet the author has created, with meticulous descriptions of the planetary ecology and biology. Now, for the most part, at least to me, this is all pretty interesting; David Gerrold has clearly thought long and hard about his setting and world, and his focus on ecological/biological minutiae is a quirk of long This book has a bit of an odd structure. There's a pivotal moment halfway through that changes its trajectory completely. Up till then, it's a dense, slow-moving exploration of the alien planet the author has created, with meticulous descriptions of the planetary ecology and biology. Now, for the most part, at least to me, this is all pretty interesting; David Gerrold has clearly thought long and hard about his setting and world, and his focus on ecological/biological minutiae is a quirk of long standing (see: The War Against the Chtorr). The way this is presented is also consistent with the main character's methodical, hyperfocused temperament. As a layperson I don't know if the science is plausible or a bunch of hooey, but it certainly sounds reasonable enough, and doesn't have the appearance of handwaving. However, for while there I wondered if I was reading a book with an actual story or an alien textbook/travelogue: Hella: Pleasures and Perils, by Kyle Martin (the protagonist). This would not have been entirely unreadable, I suppose, but it would have required a bit of slogging. But the aforementioned plot point hits with a literal bang, and the story skids to a frantic halt and takes off in an entirely new direction, morphing into a political thriller. Your mileage will definitely vary on this. For me, the mashup was a bit awkward, although the story mostly gets past it. However, the second half of the book doesn't really pick up the pace until the final chapters, because now that the conflicting factions have been set in motion, we have to have lengthy conversations about just what political worldviews are fighting each other here. (To be fair, this is due to the main character and narrator, Kyle, who is neurodivergent--he has some kind of "syndrome," perhaps autism, although it's not defined--never having paid attention to or understood politics until his friends and family are caught up in it.) Through Kyle's incomprehension and questioning, we learn what the themes of the book are: capitalism vs. socialism, selfish, greedy individualism vs. collectivism (one of the villains complains, "I came here to be rich, not a workhorse!"), corporations vs. community, and dominating/conquering vs. cooperation/coexistence. To be sure, the author--and the winning faction--comes down solidly on the latter half of all these opposing formulas. The settlers are attempting to live, and thrive, on a planet that's described thusly: Hella is nine percent bigger than Earth, but it doesn't have as big an iron-nickel core, so it only has ninety-one percent of Earth's gravity. That means the magnetic field is weaker too, so it can't deflect as much radiation from the primary star. But because the Goldilocks zone is a lot further out, about 250 million klicks, it sort of balances; and that's why Hella has an eighteen-month year. But the lesser gravity and the greater oxygen levels make it possible for everything to grow a lot bigger. Hella bigger. Even people. This leads to dinosaur-like creatures like walking mountains, with necks and tails longer than football fields, and their carnosaur-like predators with twelve-foot teeth. The Earth vegetables planted in the greenhouses grow tomatoes the size of basketballs. The planet generates winter storms with wind velocities of six hundred kilometers an hour, and winter snowfalls of between ten and thirty meters. And in describing the extreme challenge of living on this planet, I'm thinking: You idiots (meaning the dominance faction) want to conquer it and exploit its resources? Are you kidding me? This is the central conflict, and the author builds it well, although it's too bad we have to have pages upon pages of conversations to set it up. I would say this book is mainly concerned with its world and its ideas, not so much the plot and characters, although Kyle has a well-developed arc. He's on the young side--five Hella years, not quite fourteen Earth years--so this book has a definite YA feel to it. It's also a bit of an old-fashioned SF adventure story. I liked it, and I don't regret buying it...but I suspect if I had to choose between this book and Vol. 5 of The War Against the Chtorr (David Gerrold's famously unfinished thirty-five-year-old series) the ferocious fuzzy Chtorran worms would have Hella's lumbering leviathans for lunch.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Arthur Sellers

    You’ve encountered nothing like Hella! David Gerrold has single handedly built a large, inhabitable young planet. Somewhat like Earth but larger and less dense, where things grow to promethean size, and filled with known and unknown dangers. From the slightly different folded proteins of its chemistry, to its lighter gravity and hellish, savage weather changes. Humans have colonized it for barely a hundred years and still dare not go out without protective suits. Nearly everything is unexplored an You’ve encountered nothing like Hella! David Gerrold has single handedly built a large, inhabitable young planet. Somewhat like Earth but larger and less dense, where things grow to promethean size, and filled with known and unknown dangers. From the slightly different folded proteins of its chemistry, to its lighter gravity and hellish, savage weather changes. Humans have colonized it for barely a hundred years and still dare not go out without protective suits. Nearly everything is unexplored and possibly lethal, despite the intense beauty of the flora and fauna. Dinosaur-like creatures, some as large as small mountains, plod, preyed upon by carnosaurs monstrous enough to make T-Rex seem cute. This is an exhaustively complete world, and the research Gerrold has poured into it would impress a biophysicist. The story of the small number of colonists, barely staking a foothold on this breathtaking world is told from the perspective of Kyle, a gifted, differently abled young man (read on the autism spectrum) approximately 13 years old by Earth standards, though on Hella’s longer rotational year he is 5. But Kyle is whip smart and fast making his mark in the colony as a keen observer, uncluttered by our nuanced, conflicting, ever restless minds. He becomes an asset. As with all societies, there are those who wish to quickly remake this fresh planet in the mold of now almost uninhabitable Earth, where civilization’s unchecked advances and resource plundering has rendered it perhaps beyond salvage. Hence the migration to this pristine world. Kyle soon runs afoul of those who find his skills a threat to their goals of establishing power, wealth, private property and resource pillage, without regard to the consequences of possibly destroying this alien ecology—and themselves along with everyone else. I won’t go into the plot and story lines woven into the lives of all concerned. Suffice it to say it is peopled with fascinating characters you will cheer or cringe at, and Gerrold pops the surprises when least expected. Kyle soon takes charge of his own life and destiny (as if anyone or anything could stop him) and the more he does, the greater the dangers from those intent on eliminating him and his family. But here’s the thing: Hella is more than a tour de force novel. One expects that from master novelist Gerrold. This work is a primer for all Human civilization wishing to survive on any planet, especially Earth. He has exhaustively considered our built-in weaknesses and strengths as a species and individuals; our differing cultures and our absolute sameness. The constants our DNA insists upon. Passionate and compassionate, stern and forgiving, he has come to what the essentials are for Homo sapiens to co-exist within the ecology of the world(s) we on which we find ourselves. What we must do to cooperate and thrive, versus compete and fail. This is the spellbinding success of his novel. He’s woven an epic story into a lesson we already know but have forgotten and must recover before it’s too late for Earth. Before we are forced to the stars to find Hella, and begin again. You will be thinking differently by the last page. And that is an achievement few authors have the talent, determination and mindset to achieve. . 5 out of 5 stars

  30. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    So I read this thinking it would be interesting, humans leaving Earth to live on a new unknown planet where things are huge and gigantic. The book is mostly from the point of view of Kyle, a high-level autistic with an implant in his brain to help him function better. Make him think more. This part of the book is mentioned on the title and description, its not talked about until way later in the book. So what did I expect from this book, something like Jurassic park where humans had to fight off So I read this thinking it would be interesting, humans leaving Earth to live on a new unknown planet where things are huge and gigantic. The book is mostly from the point of view of Kyle, a high-level autistic with an implant in his brain to help him function better. Make him think more. This part of the book is mentioned on the title and description, its not talked about until way later in the book. So what did I expect from this book, something like Jurassic park where humans had to fight off the large dinosaur creatures in order to survive. Does that happen? Nope. What we got was mostly a government twist of how some humans should change the planet and terraform it in order to make it better for humans to live there. Then you got the others who just want to leave it alone, because they simply don't know anything about the planet they are living on. They don't know much about the creatures, they don't know much about the plants, the air they breath, germs, insects, etc etc. They talk about this a lot in the book about how much they don't know. It just left me confused, because how could you go to an alien world where you don't know about anything, wouldn't they have that information before hand that says this is what to expect when living here? Apparently not? >.> Another thing that bothered me about this book is how boring it is. Kyle talks about the noise, which is the implant in his head, he also takes a lot of showers and touches his dick a lot. He talks about it in the book, so yay >.> The other thing that made no sense is the gender swap abilities that humans suddenly are able to do whenever they feel like. For instance, Kyle's mom was a male who switched to being a female and able to give birth to children. Do they explain how this is possible? No, they don't and that's kind of annoying, they simply just can switch genders. So Kyle used to be Kylee and gender swapped when he was 3 Hella years (Hella year being their time line, which is also explained in great detail. So in Earth terms he's 8.) The only reason Kyle changed to a boy is because Jamie did so and he wanted to be like him. Jamie was also a girl at one time. So its mentioned they have to wait at least a year to change back and they can simply "grow" a penis. I wish we had more information on how that's possible, because it doesn't tell us how? I guess medical science is so advance that humans can change genders willingly. >.> After finishing the book I thought, god this was boring. Its not exciting or anything. I hated most of it and skipped a lot. I got to the end and that was it. It just kind of ended with Kyle moving in with his new boyfriend Jeremy (who was the brother of this girl bully who was a dick to Kyle) Also talking about if Kyle should be a girl again, because he can switch back if that's what Jeremy wants. So yea.. that's a thing that's annoying in the book. The whole time I was reading I kept thinking. "What the hell was that."

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