Hell Holes: What Lurks Beneath by Donald Firesmith

Hell Holes: What Lurks Beneath by Donald Firesmith
Publisher: Magical Wand Imprint
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (156 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

It’s August in Alaska, and geology professor Jack Oswald prepares for the new school year. But when hundreds of huge holes mysteriously appear overnight in the frozen tundra north of the Arctic Circle, Jack receives an unexpected phone call. An oil company exec hires Jack to investigate, and he picks his climatologist wife and two of their graduate students as his team. Uncharacteristically, Jack also lets Aileen O’Shannon, a bewitchingly beautiful young photojournalist, talk him into coming along as their photographer. When they arrive in the remote oil town of Deadhorse, the exec and a biologist to protect them from wild animals join the team. Their task: to assess the risk of more holes opening under the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and the wells and pipelines that feed it. But they discover a far worse danger lurks below. When it emerges, it threatens to shatter Jack’s unshakable faith in science. And destroy us all…

There are some things that science still can’t explain.

One of my favorite parts of this story was how intelligently the characters behaved in a crisis. Every single one of them kept their cool and made rational decisions regardless of how surprised and horrified they were by what was going on around them. They worked together as a team, too, to figure out what to do next. These aren’t things that happen all that regularly in this genre, so it makes me pretty happy when I do see them.

The pacing was the only thing holding this book back from a much higher rating. Roughly the first 50 pages were spent introducing everyone and setting up the scene. It took even longer for the characters to finally realize that something was seriously wrong on their expedition. As beautiful as the writing itself was, I found myself growing restless as I waited for the horror, paranormal, and science fictions elements of the plot to reveal themselves.

Mr. Firesmith has an eye for detail. His descriptions of the tundra were deliciously spooky even before the characters or the audience had any idea what was happening in that remote corner of the world. I also liked seeing how much attention he paid to what his characters looked like and how their personalities would affect how they reacted to something frightening happening. That made it easy for me to grow attached to them before the plot picked up speed.

Hell Holes: What Lurks Beneath should be read by anyone who enjoys slow-burning horror.


  1. Thank you for taking the time and investing the effort of post an honest thoughtful review. I greatly appreciate all such reviews.

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