Who controls the future, controls it all…
Ten “Doc” Low is a medic with a dark past, riding the wastes of the desert moon Factus, dispensing medicine to the needy and death to those who cross the laws of the mysterious Seekers. Cursed by otherworldly forces, she stays alone to keep herself safe, and to keep others safe from her…
But when she experiences a terrifying vision of conflict, and the deaths of those she once called friends, she must drag herself back to the land of the living to stop a war before it begins.
With a rebellion brewing, the Accord’s grip on the Outer Moons weakening, and a sinister tycoon buying up all the land in sight, Ten must find allies where she can and face the past, in order to save the future. Even if the cost might be greater than she could ever have imagined…
What’s your favourite sequel? The Empire Strikes Back? The Godfather Part 2? T2: Judgement Day? The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly?
One thing that all those classic sequels hold in common is this: they don’t just add to what happens after the events of the original story — they add to what came before.
And this is what puts Hel’s Eight right up there with the best sequels — why it’s reminiscent of all of them. You don’t just get more of the same. You don’t just get everything you loved about the first one repeated at a more intense level. You get a snapshot of Factus before Ten Low — the curtain peeled back on all the “whys” and “whats” of the first book. And it’s absolutely brilliant.
Hel’s Eight picks up right where Ten Low left off in terms of intensity, grit, and violence. Years have passed, and the moon is changing, but Low is still trying to save people — a medic in exile, always hoping to account for the tally of lives she’s taken.
When a familiar figure from her past turns up at her door and asks for her help, she’ll be forced to choose a road that she’s put off for so long. It’s a road that’ll take her closer to becoming all that she fears.
Where the first book explored loyalty and redemption, this one delves deep into the nature of choice, and whether we have any control over the path we walk. The speculative elements are a lot clearer cut this time around — sharper — as if Stark Holborn has been polishing her blade just for this. It feels like all the things that were cool about the first book are given purpose here in a more incisive and deliberate way.
Interspersing the main narrative of Low (and her journey to save Factus from the unwelcome attention of the off-world Xoon Company) is the historic account of Ma’ Pec Esterhazy, who makes a brief but unforgettable appearance in book one. She was among the first to land on Factus, and to encounter the truth of what The Ifs really are, and understand what they could be. The way her tale weaves into the main story is nothing short of inspired.
The back and forth between Low’s story and Ma’ Esterhazy’s account adds so much to the pacing of the book. It allows for breathing room between the action to happen off the page so as not to slow it down. There’s an immediacy about the story this time around which is really refreshing and impressive, and makes the whole atmosphere of the book more visceral somehow.
And if you’re wondering whether to skim the Ma’ Esterhazy flashbacks because you’re not sure if they’re really necessary or if they’re going to be relevant to the story later on — then all I can say is this: don’t! The payoff is quite simply awesome. And that’s what this book feels like — a kind of payoff, which makes it very satisfying to read.
There’s still the same otherworldly, abstract prose that made Ten Low so unique. Still the same reality-hopping future-dodging set-pieces. Still the same glorious spaghetti-western vibe that makes you feel like Sergio Leone should really have tried his hand at sci-fi. But the balance between these elements is richer somehow. Even when it comes to new characters versus familiar faces, there’s a finely tuned balance struck here which glues the whole thing together.
If you’re hoping for another round of Mad Max meets John Wick in space, then you won’t be disappointed. But this is so much more than just cool action and clever standoffs. Like its protagonist, the book is deeper, dirtier, and more dangerous the second time around.
If you loved Ten Low, you’ll love Hel’s Eight even more. It’s bigger in scope and broader in heart, and if you flip the coin and take a chance on this sequel, you definitely won’t regret it.
Hel’s Eight will be released on 21st March, 2023.
Published by Titan Books.