Hell Ship by Philip Palmer [Book Review]

Alien Cultures Clash

Philip Palmer is new to me but he comes highly recommended so I had high expectations. Hell ship lived up to my expectations for the most part.

A mysterious vessel travels the universes and destroys all life in them. One survivor from each race is taken to the observation deck to watch their world destroyed before being made a slave forever. The slaves live in an artificial world inside the ship. This is the story of Sharrock who just saw his home world explode. He swears vengeance like all the survivors. Trouble is that Sai-Sai the ruler among the slaves is all for happiness and live the day. So she tries to convert him to acceptance and her way of life. Their struggles are the heart in the story. This is where Palmer does a good job of characterization.

The third point of view character is Jak an Explorer and former trader. He sees the ship from outside as he strives to destroy it. The social life of Jak and his fellow aliens are amusing and might hold a few pointers for real life.

You know characters are important to me so another part that I liked was the flashbacks into the pasts of the main characters which made them make sense. Sai-Sai’s makes one of those inner journeys that are at the center of good tales. Jak does too but to a lesser extent. For him it is more about equality.

The hard sciences are not important here. Palmer writes about the characters and the story they create. He does a great job at it. This makes it so sad in the end when he jumps over major resolutions in bylines and implications. The whole book was well written up until the ending and would have been five out of five if it wasn’t for a rushed ending.

Bottom line I liked Hell Ship. It was an engaging read about aliens, clashing cultures, secrets revealed and the fight for freedom. But it has, in my opinion, a weak ending, though not a catastrophic one. Hell Ship has a lot of things going for it so I would recommend you to read it but don’t expect too much.

Book Information

Hell Ship by Philip Palmer (Orbit 2011) – Amazon US | UK

The Hell Ship hurtles through space. Inside the ship are thousands of slaves, each the last of their race. The Hell Ship and its infernal crew destroyed their homes, slaughtered their families and imprisoned them forever. One champion refuses to succumb. Sharrock, reduced from hero to captive in one blow, has sworn vengeance. Although Sai-as, head of the alien slave horde, will ruthlessly enforce the status quo. But help is close. Jak has followed the Ship for years and their battles have left Jak broken, a mind in a starship’s body, focussed only on destroying the Ship. Together, can hunter and slave end this interstellar nightmare?