Hell Divers by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

Hell Divers by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic Fiction
Available: Now

Hell Divers is a post-apocalyptic story of humanity’s desperate attempts at survival, aboard two giant nuclear-powered airships which float above the surface of the earth. The eponymous hell divers are an elite corps of brave men and women who quite literally dive into the nuclear wasteland which is now the surface of the earth, referred to as Hades. While the airships themselves provide the survivors with enough food and general supplies to keep them alive, the Divers must make regular trips to the surface to locate and retrieve power cells to keep the nuclear reactors running.

Thematically this book instantly reminded me of the movie Snowpiercer, with a broken world outside as a result of a nuclear war between the nations – although this is not particularly well-explained in the books. The airships are run by a quasi-military, which is not always to the satisfaction of the ordinary people who live below decks, who are struggling just to survive.

Xavier (also known as X) is the main character, and leader of one of the Hell Diver teams. He is set to make a dive into Hades when the ship is struck by an electrical storm, which interferes with the jump, and results in the death of most of his team. During this jump he also discovers that the world below is now populated by some sort of mutated creatures, which he names ‘Sirens’ who will soon prove to the main antagonists of the story. There are a motley cast of characters – from Ash the captain of the airship – through to Tin, a small boy that X takes into his care after his father is killed in a jump. The human antagonists on the airship are a little less well-defined, and serve only to add somewhat artificial tension to the situation as they don’t particularly do anything.

In a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction, I find that while the authors do a good job of world building, where they fall down is when it comes to building the logic of how they arrived at the situation described in the book. With Hell Divers, while I enjoyed the atmosphere, I wanted to know more about how they decided that airships were the way to go, why they seem to be burning through fuel cells so quickly… or why there seems to be such a convenient distribution of fuel cells in a post-apocalyptic world. It almost felt a bit video-game like, where the characters were run through a series of levels, each with an end boss or challenge to overcome.

If you can switch your brain off and just enjoy the ride, Hell Divers is an action-filled, tension-filled dive into a world where there really is very little hope for survival, but the people are doing their damnedest to stave off the inevitable for as long as they can. It’s not the greatest example of the genre, but it is different enough to stand out.

4 stars

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