(I am aware that there could be some mistakes in this review. I’m trying to improve my English, thanks)
As I said in a previous review I love 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.
|Great cover art by Leo Nickolls|
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 & friends 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-filippo-reviews-hella-by-david-gerrold/